The big question for the future of the Islanders is where will John Tavares sign his next NHL contract?
If the answer is back with the Islanders, then the prospect pool becomes more of a support system to build around him. The team will be looking for immediate support to surround Tavares during the height of his powers as an elite player and try to build a Cup contender around him.
However, if Tavares leaves as a free agent, it will trigger a full rebuild as the team will look to build in another direction and look within the prospect pipeline for answers.
The Islanders have a potential Calder winner on the roster in Mathew Barzal and other roster building blocks in place in Anthony Beauvillier and Ryan Pulock.
The strength in their prospect pool lies between the pipes as Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom, both have starting goalie upside in their future, and on defense as they boast a number of promising prospects.
2017-18 Top Ten New York Islanders Prospects
1. Josh Ho-Sang, RW – Bridgeport (AHL)
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by New York
Many pegged the Islander top Calder candidate for the 2017-18 season to be Ho-Sang after his rookie pro season was a success. He post 50 AHL points and ten more points in an impressive 21 game NHL debut. Ho-Sang has had his off-ice issues in the past and may be maturing both on and off the ice as a player which also lent to the optimism towards the current season. While it has not been a disaster, he is far from a Calder candidate. Ho-Sang has split the season between the NHL and the AHL and posted consistent numbers at both levels. His skill and creativity and skating can bring fans out of their seats at times, but something is still missing from his game as he is not quite refined yet.
2. Kieffer Bellows, LW – Portland (WHL)
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by New York
The son of former NHL star Brian Bellows has had a curious career path. Drafted by Portland in the seventh round in the WHL Bantam Draft, Bellows opted to play in the USHL instead, and then for USA on the U-18 team. That decision was to support his NCAA career path where he played his D+1 year with the Boston Terriers. But after his freshman year, he chose to leave the NCAA for junior hockey and is currently playing with the Portland Winterhawks. The move seems to be paying off as he is having a breakout season. He’s scoring well over a point per game and was dominant for USA at the World Junior scoring nine goals to break a USA WJC goal scoring record set by Jeremy Roenick. Bellows will change teams again next year as he embarks on his pro career and will push for a roster spot in the NHL.
3. Ilya Sorokin, G – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Drafted: 78th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by New York
Sorokin is in his fourth KHL season already and has been simply outstanding. His GAA is below 2.00 this season and the past two while playing in no less than 28 games, and was named the KHL Best Goalie in the 2015-16 season. Sorokin is no stranger to international play as he has represented Russia at the World Junior, two times at the World Championship and is currently backstopping Russia at the 2018 Winter Olympics. With Jaroslav Halak’s contract expiring after this year, Sorokin would be more than capable of competing for the starting job, but he is under contract in the KHL through the 2020 season, so the Islanders will need to be patient.
4. Linus Soderstrom, G – HV71 (SHL)
Drafted: 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by New York
Soderstrom had a breakout rookie SHL season playing in 22 games, posting a 1.34 GAA (best in the SHL) and winning a Championship with HV71. Soderstrom attended the Islanders rookie and training camps and was impressive enough to sign his three year ELC. But was ultimately loaned back to his SHL club for more playing time and development. His sophomore season was going well, until a shoulder injury forced him to need surgery and may have ended his year. Look for the big Swedish goalie to make the jump to North America next year and compete to replace Halak as the starting goalie on Long Island.
5. Devon Toews, D – Bridgeport (AHL)
Drafted: 108th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by New York
Arguably the next defenseman that is most NHL ready. Toews had a strong rookie season last year in the AHL, scoring most points by a rookie (41) and named to the All-Rookie Team. He continues to develop in the AHL, but will not be long for the NHL given his skill set and ability to create offense from the back end. Toews is also a strong skater, winning the fastest skater competition at the AHL All-Star game. It would not be a surprise to see Toews get a NHL look before the season ends and then compete for a roster spot to begin the following season.
6. Sebastian Aho, D – Bridgeport (AHL)
Drafted: 139th overall in the fifth round of the 2017 draft by New York
Drafted as a 21-year-old after passing through the draft several times previously, Aho is a late blooming prospect. His breakout 2016-17 SHL season caught the Islanders attention and after an impressive NHL camp he signed his ELC. He has had a very impressive North American debut scoring 20 points in his first 30 AHL games and was recalled to the NHL making his debut and playing in 17 games with two points. While undersized, he is a smart player with good offensive vision. Given the fact Aho is already 22-years-old and has years of pro experience and his adaptation to North America has been so smooth. Aho is a strong bet to play on the Islanders blue line next season.
7. Michael Dal Colle, LW – Bridgeport (AHL)
Drafted: 5th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by New York
After a terrific OHL career which featured two 90+ point seasons, and a Memorial Cup Championship, his pro career has got off to a slow start. His rookie season was not bad, 15 goals and 41 points in 75 games, but his development has stalled and concerns with his skating ability. Dal Colle did make his NHL debut earlier this season playing in four games in January averaging just over 13 minute of ice time. Dal Colle has a high skill level, excellent shot and the draft pedigree to ensure he gets plenty of opportunity to develop, but the clock has started ticking.
8. David Quenneville, D – Medicine Hat (WHL)
Drafted: 200th overall in the seventh round of the 2016 draft by New York
The Islanders rolled the dice on the undersized offensive defenseman from the WHL. Quenneville is a having his third consecutive 50+ point season in the WHL and second with over 20 goals. He currently is well above the point per game pace with 64 points in 57 games and finished last year in the playoffs with 13 points in 11 games. Size is the only concern in his game as he is more than an offensive defenseman. He is a strong skater, has a high compete level and excels at transition offence, which is a top priority for today’s NHL defenseman. Look for Quenneville to make the transition in the AHL in the following season as he is currently trending in the right direction.
9. Anatoli Golyshev, LW/RW – Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (KHL)
Drafted: 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2016 draft by New York
Another over age prospect the Islander drafted after a stellar third year in the KHL where he posted 25 goals and 44 points in 56 games. Golyshev took a step back the following season however, seeing his point totals plummet to just 17 points in 49 games, and was even sent to the VHL for four games. Golyshev is back in fine forum again this year in the KHL with 17 goals and 30 points in his first 38 games. His game is all about offense as he is a highly skilled and undersized winger. If he isn’t producing points, he brings little else.
10. Mitch Vande Sompel, D – Bridgeport (AHL)
Drafted: 82nd overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by New York
Yet another undersized offensive defenseman in the Islanders system, Vande Sompel is an excellent skater and puck moving defenseman. In his rookie pro year in the AHL he has adjusted quite well, playing 42 games so far with 22 points and 26 penalty minutes. While he may be less than six feet, he still plays a physical game and can throw a hit. He also has been known to play with an edge and can get under the other teams skin at times as well. Vande Sompel had an impressive junior career playing in several big games including an OHL and Memorial Cup Championship, and a Gold Medal with Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Vande Sompel could use another year or two of development in the AHL but is trending in the right direction.