Despite the many changes on the island in past years, the Islanders management actually made smart moves regarding the development of some of their prospects. Every one of their young players except for Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo has spent time in the AHL this season or were sent back to junior for additional development. In the past management had a history of bringing up players too soon and disrupting their development. They hit the mother load in terms of getting the depth of prospects needed for their farm system in the 2008 draft where the Islanders had seven picks in the top 73. The next two drafts are crucial to the organization if they wish to take the step into a playoff and Stanley Cup contending team five years from now.
The organization can claim they have talent and depth up front with the likes of Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Corey Trivino, David Toews, Rhett Rakhshani Robert Figren, Kirill Petrov, Jason Gregoire, Shea Guthrie, Jesse Joensuu, and Blake Comeau. The first three could play on the top two lines in the NHL and the next eight forwards might make the third or fourth lines one day, but do not expect any more than three of them to play at the NHL level. Other than Okposo, Bailey and Comeau the rest of the forwards are three to four years away from perhaps getting a shot at a roster spot. Both Bailey and Okposo have the skill and intangibles to lead the offense into the future and could become a dynamic duo if shown patience and guidance.
The closely watched quartet of Jeff Tambellini, Sean Bergenheim, Ben Walter and Jeremy Colliton whom have all graduated off the prospect list must begin to make an impact in the NHL. They all look to be on the verge of breaking out but none of them have been stick in the NHL for a variety of reasons. Perhaps Tambellini is the only one that has the talent to play on the top two lines but he has not shown it yet and Walter and Bergenheim could make up a part of a decent third line. The hard working and unheralded Colliton might develop into a fourth line checking center if given the opportunity and tutelage.
The loss of Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra and the first round pick in 2007 to Edmonton for Ryan Smyth in a deadline trade could come back to haunt the Islanders long term. The trade of another prospect Peter Nokelainen to Boston for Ben Walter needs to work out for the Islanders as well since they will have given up four first round picks in those two transactions.
One major weakness in the system was the lack of depth on defense with only Dustin Kohn and Mark Katic showing promise. Both Kohn and Katic are not projected to be anymore than a fifth to seventh defenseman at best, so talent and depth was a top priority going into the 2008 NHL Draft. With some savvy trades the Islanders accumulated multiple draft choices in 2008 and added some much needed depth and talent on the blueline. The addition of puck moving Aaron Ness along with the steady Travis Hamonic in the second round and the hard shooter Finn Jiri Niemi in the third certainly helped in replenishing the stocks. Although each of these defensemen has tools and undeveloped potential none of them is projected to anchor a defense so a potential number one or two defenseman is still needed, but it is a good start.
Even if the 15 year contract signing of Rick DiPietro with the Islanders works out they do not have any legitimate netminders to groom behind him. Not having any back up plan in net would become a disaster if DiPietro suffered a long term injury. This must be addressed in this year's NHL draft along with finding additional defenseman to protect them.
Joshua Bailey - Center, 19 (1st round 9th overall 2008)
Currently with New York Islanders (NHL)
The highly intelligent two-way center has the hockey sense to play at the NHL tempo and contribute offensively while still being mindful of the defensive zone. He moves the puck quickly and uses his options exceptionally well while rarely panicking if under pressure. Has excellent hands and can feather soft passes over sticks standing still or at full speed or receive them just as easily. His skating is above average overall and he possesses good agility, initial quickness off the mark, but he could use another gear in his foot speed. He displays a sneaky wrist shot which has accuracy and Bailey has a nifty backhand, he does a good job of getting his shots on net and he does not waste his opportunities. When entering the offensive zone with the puck he can slow the tempo to his liking and has a keen sense of when to shoot, pass or stickhandle.
He is perhaps arguably the best defensive forward from his draft class and has picked up the nuances and benefits of playing sound defense must faster than his peer group. When coming back into the defensive zone he consistently recognizes which player to pick up and does a great job limiting their options with body position. He is active defensively and anticipates the developing play instead just reacting and uses his stick well to intercept passes. He always hustles and supports his defense, just seems to know which angles to take to cut players off and when to plug the gaps. Not a physical player but he competes for loose pucks and makes an effort, but is better suited to a possession style team instead of dump and chase. Bailey does work hard along the boards and uses his feet and quick stick but can get pushed a round when he does not move his feet. He as the ability to log allot of ice time and could eventually matched up head to head against the other teams top lines while showing good discipline when someone gets in his face. He has the making of a good pro with coachability, desire and maturity as his strong suits.
Kyle Okposo - Right Wing- Age: 20 (1st round 7th overall 2006)
Currently with New York Islanders (NHL)
The highly skilled forward could be a potential power forward type with intriguing scoring ability and an impeccable work ethic that one day could be a force in the NHL. Okposo is naturally strong at 6 foot 0 and 200 pounds who most likely will play at 215 pounds when he finishes maturing. His willingness to get his nose dirty is infectious and he has the hockey sense and skating ability to be a consistent factor in the new NHL. He can skate really well and shows the initial quickness to beat defenders one on one and create some separation once he is in full flight. Has shown a quick heavy wrist and right handed slap shot that he can release in traffic and he looks comfortable playing in the tough areas. He must continue to work on this defense like most prospects but he is a smart player who picks things up quickly. Once he perfects some of the nuances of the defensive game and shows consistency when picking up players in the defensive zone and separating players form the puck it will create more opportunities. He made the jump from the University of Minnesota early after a year and half as he felt he needed a new challenge. In 58 games in college he had 51 points along with 40 penalty minutes. His transition from college to the NHL and AHL was smooth and he posted 5 points in 9 games in his first NHL stint while picking up 28 points in 35 games down on the farm in Bridgeport. Since he has not had the chance to develop slowly compared to other prospects, the Islanders will need to be patient and protect him with veteran players and good mentors. Once he hits 22 to 23 he should become a consistent top six forward who can play a solid two way game especially in the tough divisional and playoff games.
Corey Trivino - Center, 18 (2nd round 36th overall 2008)
Currently with Boston U (NCAA)
Although Trivino is a skinny kid at 6 foot 1 and 170 pounds that played in a less competitive junior A league in Ontario his skill set in undeniable. If he had played in the Ontario Hockey League and was perhaps 15-20 pounds heavier he would have been drafted in the first round. What stands out the most is his hockey sense and puck skills as he can process information quite quickly and anticipate the developing play while putting himself in a position to be effective. He displays very good puck skills, passing ability and uses his linemates well. He can also move the puck at top speed while placing the puck in tight places. His stickhandling ability allows him time and space whether on the rush or on the powerplay while showing poise and confidence. Although he does not have a lot of power on his wrist or slap shot he possesses a quick release along with accuracy that can fool goaltenders. His skating will improve once he has gained core strength and additional power to his frame, but he has good quickness and agility. Unfortunately at this time he can be pushed around physically and certainly is not as effective once plays within the dots or along the wall due to his lack of weight and strength but he does compete. Like all young forwards will need time to develop his game without the puck and he will get the coaching at Boston University on the finer details of play without the puck. He has the tools, desire and intelligence to be a solid defensive player so it is just a matter of time and patience. After producing 127 points in only 88 games in junior A, Trivino will have to adjust to a higher caliber of talent and higher paced game. Considering he is a freshman with a deep talent team at Boston University he has seemed to have adjusted fairly quickly and has picked up 2 points in 9 games thus far. Expect Trivino to play a three seasons in college before turning pro and getting a shot at a roster spot on the big club.
Aaron Ness - Defense, 18 (2nd round 40th overall 2008)
Currently with Minnesota (NCAA)
If you see Ness in street clothes you would think whose younger brother hanging is around the hockey rink. But once he hits the ice you understand why who he is and why he was so highly regarded coming into the 2008 NHL Draft. Ness has played very well as a freshman defenseman for a high power college program in Minnesota producing 6 points in 15 games thus far. A highly skilled offensive defenseman who shows he could quarterback a powerplay and move the puck in a high tempo puck possession system. Once the puck is on his stick he turns into another forward who moves the puck to any option quickly and displays the hockey sense to decipher developing plays and exploit defensives. His first pass out of the zone can eliminate a good forecheck and he rarely takes a solid hit as the puck is not on his stick for a second when under pressure. Has the poise and decision making ability with the puck to create time and space for his teammates which allows him to dictate the tempo. Unfortunately at this time his size at 5 foot 10 and 170 pounds is an issue as he lacks the power and strength to compete against larger opponents lacks sustained endurance and could be susceptible to injury. This affects his slap shot as well as his accuracy is good but it lacks the punch to be more effective. Away from the puck Ness is pretty solid despite his size when he keeps his feet moving, his head on a swivel and makes sure his stick gets into passing lanes. To his credit he shows some moxie and does not give up and just needs time and patience to garner the strength he needs to play at a professional level. Do not be too surprised he plays at least three seasons at Minnesota University and the Islanders will need to be patience as he matures physically.
Blake Comeau - Right Wing - Age: 22 (2nd round 47th overall 2004)
Currently with Bridgeport/New York Islanders (AHL/NHL) An underrated winger with good size and strength at 6 foot 1 and 205 pounds who loves to bang and crash his way through the opposition, he understands what it takes to be a winner. He does not possess elite level hockey sense or puck skills but he is solid and makes the most of his opportunities with hard work and tenacious play. He makes pretty good plays sometimes with the puck and has the ability to play in traffic and close quarters along the wall. He will never make that pretty individual play with the puck but he drives to the net and collects the garbage goals and creates space for his linemates. Has a wrist and slap hard shot but he does not have the accuracy and soft hands to post allot of goals at the NHL level. A decent skater overall but he lacks that extra gear to separate, but has enough agility to be effective down low. His leadership ability and his willingness to pay the price to win will put a letter on his chest one day. Has had a solid season and half in the AHL learning his trade and he picked up decent offensive numbers with 62 points in 92 games. His play earned him a call up to the Island where he had 15 points in 51 games and +1 rating on a non-playoff team. Comeau earned another call from the NHL again this season after posting 19 points in 19 games in the AHL and he should stick for the remainder of the season. Expect him to be third line winger consistently depending how his offensive skills and skating translate at the NHL level.
Jesse Joensuu - Right Wing - Age: 21 (2nd round 60th overall 2006)
Currently with Bridgeport (AHL) He is a big kid at 6 foot 4 and 205 pounds and is like a puppy that has grown too fast, but he has some raw tools to work with. He has shown flashes of good scoring ability in close with the hockey sense to contribute. It is a matter of how quickly that translates to a faster paced and the closer confines of the North American game. Shows good foot speed and agility for a big kid but he needs to continue to his acceleration to fully take advantage of his wingspan. Does not exude a physical game despite his size although he does not shy away either and will battle hard one on one for loose pucks. His defensive game is coming along and Joensuu will need to make minor adjustments to his angles and body position and is adjusting to the difference in ice dimensions. In his first season in the AHL he has shown a knack for setting up shop in front of the net and has scored 10 goals in 22 games as a rookie. He is a project but if the Islanders are patient it could be worthwhile and he should watch how Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Fransson play.
Travis Hamonic - Defense, 18 (2nd round 53rd overall 2008)
Currently with Moose Jaw (WHL)
A solid second round draft choice and good overall defenseman that does not do anything great but competes hard and has enough skills and hockey sense to play at a pro level. Has decent size at 6 foot and 195 pounds and will get stronger when he matures but despite that he displays toughness and an attitude. In terms of offensive ability he makes a solid passes out of his zone and is showing better poise and patience but do not expect him to produce that much offense at a pro level. As long as he does not take risks with the puck and uses his options and moves it quickly he could be effective. He is an above average skater and gets up and down the ice and does not show any major flaws and should have enough two step quickness and agility to keep most forwards at bay with gap control. Is a tough competitor and likes to mix it up physically while throwing good body checks and battles in front of the net and along the boards. He is admired by his teammates as he will fight to protect them and make a statement when the team needs a spark. He is learning all the nuances of the defensive game and when to hold off in making a hit and use better angles, solid gap control and understanding the value of body position with an active stick. It is hard not to like his game since he hustles, gives an honest effort and that along with patience should propel him into the AHL in a couple years.
Jiri Niemi - Defense - Age: 18 (3rd round 72nd overall 2008)
Currently with Saskatoon (WHL)
His adjustment on and off the ice after coming over from Finland looked pretty seamless and it showed his commitment in preparing for the next level. Considering he played on team that was below .500 last season and they did not make the playoffs, Niemi was only a -1 rating and second on the defense core in that regard. He is a solid consistent puck moving defenseman that shows decent decision making and poise with the puck under duress at the WHL level. Coming out of the zone Niemi reads the developing play fairly quickly and uses his options well enough and usually does not put the puck in dangerous areas. He shows soft hands at times and can handle bad passes and stickhandle well enough to keep the opposition honest. Niemi is a very good overall skater for a defenseman who has the ability to beat the forecheck with his quickness and agility. When he perfects his ability to jump into developing offensive plays it will make him dangerous especially in the transition game when a turnover occurs. He is getting better at leading the rush out of the defensive zone and can recover to help his defense partner after he has jumped into the play. The one thing that makes the hockey world stand up and take notice is his thunderous slap shot that has been clocked at over 100/mph, but it is the accuracy of that shot that makes it special. He does not telegraph his shot very often, but forwards are starting to figure him out so he needs to mix it up. He moves pretty well along the blueline to find the seams to get it through to the net. This alone will make him a regular on any powerplay unit.
In the defensive zone he is a hard working intelligent defender who does not take many risks and prefers to keep things simple. His hockey sense and awareness is decent and that allows him to break to right position and maintain good body position pretty consistently at the junior level. He does a decent job of getting his stick in lanes and using his wingspan to reduce the view of the shooter. Considering he played on a different sized ice surface in Finland he got much better at sensing the speed of the rushing forwards and taking the right angles by the end of last season. He is hard to play against because he works hard and will physically battles forwards along the boards and in front of the net. Once he gains some additional strength and power to his 6 foot 3 and 205 pound frame he will be able to better contain larger forwards. He shows moxie and will take hits to make plays and is not afraid to get his nose dirt and roll up his sleeves. Like the majority of young defenseman they fight inconsistency but he has the tools to be a dependable player in his own zone.
He does take too many bad penalties but can log allot of ice time on the specialty teams and five on five situations. His maturity on and off the ice and his desire will be a benefit long term and has the potential to become a NHL defenseman if the Islanders are patient with him.
Dustin Kohn - Defense - Age: 21 (2nd round 46th overall 2005)
Currently with Bridgeport (AHL)
A skilled blueliner 6 foot 1 and 195 pound with the potential to produce some offensive numbers but that has not translated to the pro game as of yet. In his 85 games in the AHL so far he has only posted 18 points which is a not at the level when he had 122 points in 201 games his last three seasons in the WHL. He is expected to begin to be more active offensively and Kohn is starting to show the puck poise and confidence he displayed in junior. He has enough hockey sense and puck skills as the talent is their and it is a matter of being consistent while handling a higher tempo and speed of decision making. He is a good skater and has the mobility to avoid most hits and rush the puck up the ice and recover defensively. His lack of strength is still an issue and Kohn must get physically stronger so he does not break down as the season gets tougher and the games pile up. His defensive awareness is improving and his overall smarts in understanding that sacrificing offensive numbers for winning is crucial. He will need some more time in the AHL before he will be ready to make the jump and get a shot at the NHL. The one thing he needs is patience and off-season work to see if his game can translate.
Rhett Rakhshani - Right Wing, 20 (4th round 100th overall 2006)
Currently with Denver (NCAA)
For an undersized forward at 5 foot 10 and 180 pounds he sure shows some jam and does not back down from anyone which is appreciated by his teammates. He is one of those team players that is willing to take on any role and makes sacrifices which is probably why he was named to the USA WJC U20 team last year. He had a great freshman season at Denver with 36 points in 40 games but suffered a sophomore slump offensively with 28 points in 37 games but he played well in the other areas. This season Rakhshani got right back on the horse and is on a point a game pace and will be over 50 penalty minutes again. Has above average to good hockey sense and puck skills and can play with elite players as he finds away for making himself useful. Shows the ability to make good passes in traffic and follows up with puck support once the puck leaves his stick. He can stickhandle pretty well and shows some niftiness at times. His shot is quick and released with out much hesitation and he gets it on net even though it lacks some power. Is quick agile skater that slides off and sneaks around defenders to find seams but his lack of core strength and power hurts is overall foot speed and that should come with maturation. The fact he hustles and works hard when playing defense will be the biggest reason he could be an effective pro player and his willingness to learn and improve will endear him to coaches. A potential role player with intangibles on a team who could can play an effective two-way game and chip in occasional offense.
Robin Figren - Left Wing, 20 (3rd round 70th overall 2006)
Currently with Djurgardens (SWE)
The import Swede had a blossoming season get cut short by injury last season as he played 35 games but picked up 31 points with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL. Not a big player at 5 foot 11 but he is getting stockier at 182 pounds. Has the hockey sense and vision to play at a pro level and thinks the game faster than most of his peers. He has puck skills that allow him time and space even when moving at high speed. His skating ability is his main weapon as he can turn guys inside out with his quickness and agility. A fairly dangerous right handed shooter who does not telegraph and the puck get off his stick quickly. Does not play a physical game but his willingness to be combative and competitive is improving but will need to be better. His defensive game has also seen some movement in a positive direction and he is beginning to understand if wants to be in the NHL he must be at least average defensively. A long term project for the next couple of years while he has the skills Figren must show consistency in all areas.
Mark Katic - Defense, 19 (3rd round 62nd overall 2007)
Currently with Sarnia (OHL)
A smaller defenseman at 5 foot 11 and 185 pounds that must use his speed and smarts to be competitive against larger opponents. In his third year in the OHL he missed some time and played 45 games but he picked up 31 points and overall he posted 105 points in 164 games. This season Katic is on pace for about 50 points in 68 games, but he always leaves you wanting more. He shows good enough hockey sense and vision to play pro in the AHL while passing the puck quickly usually without hesitation. Has the puck skills and ability to run a powerplay and maintains his poise for the most part under duress. Has a decent shot but it could use some more power and accuracy. Not a physical player and can get pushed around too easily so he must get stronger and play with more moxie. He could develop into a fine puck possession defenseman at the AHL level but he will have to perfect his gap control, body position, angles of pursuit while making sure he has an active stick. A long term project for the Islanders and they will have to be patient. It is uncertain whether he can project into a NHL defenseman even with the changes in the game.
New York Islanders - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)
When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.
The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.
Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.
||Forwards - Defenceman
||125-200 NHL Games required
||51-100 NHL Games Played
||100 NHL Games required
||25-50 NHL Games Played
|Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria
New York Islanders Prospects 1997-2003
||NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
||(G) Roberto Luongo (1/4)
(D) Eric Brewer (1/5)
||(RW) Mike Rupp (1/9)
||(C) Tim Connolly (1/5)
(LW) Taylor Pyatt (1/8)
(D) Branislav Mezei (1/10)
(RW) Mattias Weinhandl (3/78)
(RW) Juraj Kolnik (4/101)
(D) Radek Martinek (8/228)
||(G) Rick DiPietro (1/1)
(LW) Raffi Torres (1/5)
||(LW) Sean Bergenheim (1/22)
(C) Frans Nielsen (3/87)
||(RW) Robert Nilsson (1/15)
(D) Bruno Gervais (6/182)
(C) Jeremy Colliton (2/58)
Total: 7yrs - 67 draft picks - 14 NHL Players = 20.9 percent success rate
Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)
1st rnd Draft Choices: 11 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects: Kristian Kudroc
7yrs - 11 draft picks - 10 NHL Players = 91.1 percent success rate
2nd rnd Draft Choices: 4 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects - Dmitri Chernykh, Evgeni Tunik, Chris Nielson, Jeremy Colliton
7yrs 4 draft picks - 0 NHL Players = 0 percemt success rate
3rd rnd Choices: 5 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects - Brian Collins, Jarrett Smith, Robert Schnabel, Frans Nielson
7yrs - 5 draft picks - 1 NHL Players = 20.0 percent success rate
Total: 7yrs - 20 draft picks - 11 NHL Players = 55.0 percent success rate in first 3 rounds
First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (7) North American, (4) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (4) North American, (5) European
Success in the last six round (1997-2003)
4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 46 total picks
7yrs - 46 draft picks - 3 NHL Players = 6.5 percent success rate
Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.
Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.
This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.