THE ISLANDERS’ TOP TEN PROSPECTS
Presenting our end-of-season scouts’ poll
With less than eight weeks to go before the draft – and with a pair of key kids still playing in the Canadian junior playoffs – the Point Blank 2010-11 Final Prospect Rankings have been completed.
The process was the same as our end-of-2010 rankings.
Polled: Eight NHL scouts not affiliated with the Islanders.
Criteria: All levels of hockey, limited to 20 games or fewer played in the NHL.
Upside: Included after each ranking is the player’s maximum upside should he reach the NHL. Repeat: maximum upside in the NHL.
Since our last rankings, Travis Hamonic and Jesse Joensuu have graduated and low-ranked Robin Figren appears to be heading back home to Sweden for at least one season. Ty Wishart, acquired for Dwayne Roloson, has now played 25 NHL games and is ineligible for this list. Without further adieu…
1. Nino Niederreiter
, Portland (WHL) - first line wing. After scoring 41 goals in 55 regular season games, El Nino has been superb in the playoffs. Thanks in large part to Nino’s heroics, Portland will play Kootenay in the WHL Final. Since his only options next season are junior hockey or the NHL, Niederreiter will be an Islander in 2011-12.
2. Kevin Poulin
, Bridgeport (AHL) – No. 1 goaltender. He was outstanding in his one game a week in Bridgeport, and even better in the bulk of his ten games with the Islanders. Will likely start the season in the AHL, perfectly fine considering he is coming back from the second kneecap injury of his career.
3. Calvin de Haan
, Oshawa (OHL) – top-pair defenseman. Even his junior coach knows de Haan will be a pro next season.
The talented puck-mover belongs in Bridgeport for at least the first half of next season, but will almost certainly see some action with the Islanders depending on the health of the team.
4. Kirill Kabanov
, Lewiston (QMJHL) – second line wing. After a very inconsistent regular season, Kabanov lit it up in the QMJHL playoffs (12-8-20 in 15 games)
. With the Maineiacs, Kabanov is becoming a man. Both the kid and his coaches deserve a lot of credit. This is an extremely positive development for the Islanders.
5. Matt Donovan
, Denver (NCAA) – second pair defenseman. He left Denver feeling like he had nothing else to prove at the collegiate level, but the flashy Donovan needs to upgrade his play in his own end and his strength. Proper development in Bridgeport is crucial for Donovan to become an impact NHLer in a few years.
6. Brock Nelson
, North Dakota (NCAA) - second line center. Needs another two years with the Fighting Sioux,
for whom he’ll play big minutes after a solid freshman season. Despite suffering a serious, um, lower-body injury in the NCAA tournament, the Islanders’ 2010 first round pick is doing well and is on schedule.
7. Casey Cizikas
, Mississaugua-St. Michael’s (OHL) - third line center. While Niederreiter and Kabanov have deservedly received some Islanders-connected press for their strong playoffs, Cizikas – curiously – has gotten little while leading St. Mike’s in the OHL playoffs
. Could it be because he has yet to be signed? Naaaah. More curiously, Team Canada’s versatile center at the WJC didn’t even rate a top-ten mention in The Hockey News’ list of Islanders prospects. (It’s a conspiracy!) Cizikas, who will play in the Memorial Cup with host St. Mike’s, may not have Nelson’s upside, but he’s more of a sure bet to play in the NHL
. He’ll be signed after the Memorial Cup.
8. Kirill Petrov
, Yugra (KHL) – second line wing. If just one of the third-round Kirills hits his potential someday down the road in the NHL, consider it a bonus for the slow and steady rebuild. If both do, it’s a friggin’ bonanza. The 6-3 Petrov was a bleh 8-11-19 in 47 games this season after his trade to Yugra. A source told Point Blank that if Petrov plays the fourth and final year of his contract in the KHL, it could be back with Kazan. He should be at Islanders Prospect Camp again this summer.
9. Mikko Koskinen
, Bridgeport (AHL) – No. 1 goaltender. As Al Montoya has demonstrated, goaltenders – in this case, a European facing a whole different game in North America – can often take time to develop. The 6-6 Koskinen played impressively in the final month of the season in Bridgeport.
10. Rhett Rakhshani
, Bridgeport (AHL) - third line forward. Enjoyed a terrific first season of pro with 24-38-62 in 68 games in Bridgeport
. Size (5-10 190) could be a hurdle. Speed and smarts are his assets.
Also receiving consideration:
, Lulea (Sweden) – No. 2 goaltender (still unsigned, still untested in North America).
, Bridgeport (AHL), Anders Lee, Notre Dame (NCAA), Jason Gregoire, North Dakota (NCAA) - third line forwards.
, Bridgeport (AHL), Blake Kessel, New Hampshire (NCAA), Aaron Ness, Minnesota (NCAA) – third pair defensemen.
By this point, it should probably go without saying that several key current Islanders roster members (Tavares, Hamonic, etc.) were drafted in 2006 or much more recently, so the Islanders possess an exciting combination of prospects and young NHLers. But we said it anyway. Garth Snow has also unearthed a pair of gems – Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner – that have not even reached NHL middle age.
Perhaps best of all for the Country, the Islanders’ fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft in June is not on this list.
You could probably slot him right now in the No. 2 spot and move everyone else back down a notch. With the new 18-year-old, the Islanders’ prospect depth chart will rank safely among the top-third in the 30-team NHL.
Now it’s on the Islanders organization to develop its talented youngsters and surround them with the right teammates. The odds remain the same: there’s a good chance at least half of the Point Blank Top 10 will not have standout NHL careers. Over the last four seasons, the Islanders have not come close to making the playoffs. A consistent contender is not built on draft picks and prayers.