A look at the New York Islanders top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.
The Islanders dynasty days are a long distant memory. The franchise has floundered near the bottom of the league for decades with a few first round playoff defeats sprinkled in amongst a lot of losing.
After having a top five pick five times in the past seven drafts, the Islanders are finally beginning to turn a corner after decades of poor drafting and developing. Having received the first overall pick in 2009 and selecting John Tavares has helped return this once proud franchise back into a respectable team.
1. Michael Dal Colle: Left Wing – 6’3” / 184 lbs
Drafted: 5th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by the New York Islanders
Dal Colle had some hits and misses throughout the season. He was hopeful to make the Islanders out of camp, but it was not a huge surprise that he was returned to junior to physically develop some more. It was a huge surprise that he was cut from the Canadian WJC team and missed out on a chance to win Gold in his own back yard in Toronto. It was no surprise that he dominated in junior posting career best in goals with 42 and points per game despite being limited to just 56 games due to injury. Dal Colle lead a power house Oshawa Generals to an OHL Championship scoring 25 points in 16 playoff games and then another five points in four Memorial Cup games leading the Generals to a Memorial Cup Championship. The question going forward for Dal Colle is where will he play this year? If he fails to make the Islanders he is too young still to play in the AHL. Will he have anything to gain from another season in the OHL?
Very good straight ahead speed. Good acceleration and can reach for extra gear as needed. Dal Colle’s wrist shot is a fantastic weapon, with a deceptive release that adds to its allure. Very skilled at using opposing defenders as a screen to hide his release. Has a reasonable slap shot as well, but aims to shoot from in close enough that his wrister is generally his best bet. Has the confidence and skill to skate with the puck into traffic. Dal Colle is a very creative passer, and has been known to fake a shot to set up a teammate with a goalmouth feed on occasion. Dal Colle’s hockey smarts are mostly seen in the offensive zone and in transition. He is a very passive player in his own zone, frequently floating near the point, waiting for a teammate to corral the puck so that he can break forward for a long pass. In the offensive end, he is a dynamo with incredible vision, patience and instincts. Dal Colle has a large frame, although he tends to shy away from the dirty areas. Very infrequently engages in physical play. He will battle if he gets caught in a jam, but generally is successful at avoiding those jams in the first place. The rangy winger will also take a hit to make a play is he feels that is the best option. – Hockey Prospectus
2. Ryan Pulock: Defence – 6’2” / 212 lbs
Drafted: 15th overall I the first round of the 2013 draft by the New York Islanders
Pulock may have made the Islanders out of junior to start last season, but a groin injury in training camp derailed that and he started his pro career in the AHL. In the end, it may have been the best thing for him as he gained valuable experience and confidence in the AHL playing in 54 games and scoring 17 goals and 29 assists. He has good size and has a deadly shot, which he unleashes on the power play, something that would help the Islanders right away. He needs to shore up some defensive liabilities still, but is a strong candidate to start the year in Brooklyn.
“He had a great season last year as a 20-year-old,” Snow said. “We were very fortunate in regards to his birth date that he was able to play in the AHL. He had a little bit of a speed bump on the injury front, but he was obviously an elite player at the AHL level and he’s a player that can change the dynamic on the power play just with his shot alone. We’re interested to see how he performs in September.” – Garth Snow, NHL.com
3. Matthew Barzal: Centre – 5’11” / 175 lbs
Drafted: 16th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by the New York Islanders
Barzal had been projected as a top ten pick, but a combination of size and injury likely caused him to fall down to 16 where the Islanders traded up to select him. Barzal started the year strong, earning a spot on Team Canada at the U-18 where he won bronze. He missed two months with an injury limiting him to 44 games for Seattle in the WHL. He still was able to score 12 goals and record 57 points. He had a strong finish to the season scoring 39 points in the last 24 games. He will return to Seattle for another year looking to bulk up and possibly play for Team Canada at the WJC.
A smart, creative player with a wide, strong, fluid stride…plays a 200-foot game…makes good decisions with the puck…has decent strength, and looks bigger than listed…shows flashes of dominating offensive skills, but need to do so with more consistency…not overly physical, but will engage in contact for the puck…shows his creativity, vision and playmaking ability on the power play…finds seams and open ice with his impressive senses…really doing well in his rookie WHL season…has high-end offensive NHL upside. – Future Considerations
4. Anthony Beauvillier: Left Wing/Centre – 5’10” / 173 lbs
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft
Beauvillier had a breakout season in his draft year, seeing his point totals jump from 33 in his rookie season, to 94 in his sophomore year. He may be small, but has plenty of skill and is an exciting player to watch. Words that have been used to describe him include dynamic, ultracompetitive, and relentless. He has drawn comparisons to players such as Robby Fabbri and Nick Merkley. He needs more time in the QMJHL and perhaps some seasoning in the AHL, placing him a few years away, but he will make an impact when he arrives.
Anthony is a player who can play in multiple spots in your forward group, perhaps 11 of the 12, with No. 1 centre excluded. He’s smart, adaptable and reads plays everywhere on the ice in all situations extremely well. He is quick in his head, hands and feet and he competes. Can complement so many different players and that is very valuable. – Craig Button, TSN
5. Josh Ho-Sang: Right Wing – 6’0” / 166 lbs
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by the New York Islanders
Ho-Sang is a highly contentious player. There are few who doubt his skill level, vision and skating ability, but there are many who doubt his maturity, attitude, and defensive and teamwork abilities. After only 11 games in Windsor, where he scored 19 points, he was traded to Niagara where he joined Carter Verhaeghe and Brendan Perlini to form one of the best lines in the OHL. In his 49 regular season games, he produced 62 points and in 11 playoff games he produced 16 points. Despite his offensive prowess and ability to score highlight reel goals, he was not able to crack Team Canada for the WJC. He was not even invited to try out for team Canada last summer, but this summer he was. It will be very interesting to see if he is out of Team Canada’s dog house and has earned a roster spot. That decision will be very telling for projecting his future and if this very talented young man has begun to mature. He will be back in Niagara this year for his fourth year in junior and the Islanders and Team Canada will be keeping a close eye.
Josh Ho-Sang is immensely skilled. He is a lightning fast skater with incredible agility and edgework. Ho-Sang has a great first step and outstanding acceleration as well. This helps him to get to loose pucks and dart through openings in the offensive zone. He could stand to use this great speed more, taking defenders wide and cutting to the net more often would add another aspect to his game off the rush. Improved strength would help him to have better balance and be stronger on the puck. – Last Word On Sports
6. Adam Pelech: Defence – 6’3” / 220 lbs
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2012 draft by the New York Islanders
The next three players on this list are all defencemen, but different types. The two-way (Pelech), the defensive (Mayfield), and the offensive (Vande Sompel). All are equally interchangeable depending on what greater value you place on the different styles. Pelech has NHL size and has proved in junior to be a competent offensive option and is reliable defensively. He may not have the highest ceiling of the defensive prospects, but I believe he is a sure-fire NHL player as a depth defenceman. Another year of development in the AHL and he should be ready.
What stands out immediately about the 6-2/210 pound defenseman is his size — something surprising for a player drafted by Garth Snow. In Bridgeport, he didn’t exactly light up the statsheet, but he did do what’s expected of a big-bodied DMan: finish checks, get to know the penalty box, log big minutes. He needs to work on his consistency and needs to improve his defensive-zone coverage in order to one day make an impact at the NHL level, however, he possesses solid all-around upside and can contribute on O, making him an intriguing prospect. – Believe in Naussa
7. Mitch Vande Sompel: Defence – 5’10” / 182 lbs
Drafted: 82nd overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by the New York Islanders
Vande Sompel saw his draft stock rise all season long while playing on the power house and Memorial Cup Champions, Oshawa Generals. He may be undersized and has been labeled a defensive liability, but his performance last year silenced his defensive critics. At only 18 years old, he has hopefully not finished growing. A few years away from the NHL as he needs time in junior to bulk up and a transition period in the AHL before he sees the NHL where he hopes to have a Dan Boyle like career.
If any scouts were on the fence about Vande Sompel going into the Memorial Cup, I think he did his best to sway them. He had an absolutely fantastic tournament, showcasing his natural offensive ability, but also the improvements that he’s made defensively. His engagement in his own end was very promising. He did a terrific job of using his outstanding mobility to separate forwards from the puck down low. Scouts like winners and all it takes is one team to be sold on the fact that size won’t hurt him from being a 5 on 5 contributor. – Brock Otten, OHL Prospects Blog
8. Scott Mayfield: Defence – 6’5” / 218 lbs
Drafted: 34th overall in the second round of the 2011 draft by the New York Islanders
The Islanders best defensive defenceman prospect is big Mayfield, who at 22 years old already has two years of AHL development under his belt. Mayfield perhaps the most NHL ready defense prospect in the system. He is a big, rugged, stay at home bottom pairing player who will police the blueline and protect his teammates. Mayfield made his NHL debut in the playoffs last year, getting into two games and will compete for a roster spot out of training camp.
Mayfield is very much a prototypical NHL defenseman — a big man who is a strong skater and possesses a natural feel for the ice and the puck. A free-wheeling defenseman in junior hockey, he still has a willingness to join the play but has a physical bite to his game. Offensively, he has a booming point shot and underrated hands when getting in closer to the net. One of the more consistent and durable defensemen in the Islanders’ system, Mayfield does not have the flash and sizzle of some of the other young defensemen but appears equally capable of being a reliable blueliner at the NHL level one day. Hockey’s Future
9. Kirill Petrov: Right Wing – 6’3” / 198 lbs
Drafted: 73rd overall in the third round of the 2008 draft by the New York Islanders
Drafted way back in ’08, Petrov now 25 years old just qualifies for this list as he has signed with the Islanders and will finally leave the KHL. Petrov has a limited skill set, but should be able to crack the Islanders bottom six as a depth forward. He plays a crash and bang game and drives hard to the net which should play well in the NHL. With Michael Grabner being moved, it may open a roster spot for Petrov.
Petrov has size, speed and skill. He is hard to knock off the puck and can deliver an impressive physical presence, if properly motivated. In regards to his speed, Petrov is a very strong skater with impressive quickness. He is a capable puck handler and capable of making the most with very little room. Beyond his soft touch, Petrov sees the ice well, though his offensive instincts are limited. A steady, veteran forward in the KHL, his direct to the net approach may lead to more opportunities in North America. Petrov offers an impressive and tempting package of physical presence, skating ability and soft hands but needs to further improve his defensive play and his decision making. – Hockey’s Future
10. Parker Wotherspoon: Defence – 6’0” / 170 lbs
Drafted: 112th overall in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the New York Islanders
Wotherspoon is a long term investment for the Islanders who projects as a reliable, middle pairing defenceman. He is good all-around defenceman, but does not excel at anything.
A composed, two-way defender…a high-end skater…good acceleration to his stride and excellent top-end speed…uses his skating to create offence…handles the puck well and makes simple but effective outlet passes…possesses a hard shot with a quick release…defensively he is very smart and composed…excellent gap work and a great stick when defending both off the cycle and off the rush…not overly physical at all but does use his frame to protect pucks against the forecheck…nothings seems to faze this kid. – Future Considerations
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Recent Roster Graduations:
Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Calvin De Haan
Sebastian Collberg, Alan Quine, Carter Verhaeghe, Matt Finn, Taylor Beck, Ilya Sorokin, Linus Soderstrom, Ryan Pilon, Tom Nilsson, Christopher Gibson.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling