Sunday, June 10, 2012

World of confusion

(Courtesy NY Islanders)
If there was ever a group of fans that had every right to be angry at the status of their franchise, it is the New York Islanders fans. If you look at it from a purely hockey business point of view then the Islanders are a mess.

On the prospect front in North America, the Islanders started with 13 prospects but 10 really had meaningful seasons. At least on the prospect end the Islanders can't be fully blamed.

Unlike the Rangers, the way I did this year in review was to list players by how good a season I thought they had. I think I made clear which prospects I feel offer the Islanders a chance to get the franchise turned around and which I did not.

Pretty sure Islander fans reading this will claim that I was unfair and lacked objectivity. They would be wrong as I do want to see the Islanders turn things around. It is good for the NHL and in my eyes the Islanders will always be the true real rivals of the Rangers.

There is nothing more exciting that the Rangers and Islanders facing each other in the playoffs with something on the line.

Brock Nelson (2010 1st)- in my book, Brock Nelson is the best young prospect, the Islanders have entering the system. You are looking at a big man (6'4 205) with small man skills who had a major breakthrough season for North Dakota last year.

Where to begin? At 28-19-47, Nelson improved by 20 goals over his freshman season; 6 game-winning goals, 10 power-play goals, North Dakota's leading scorer, the MVP of the 2012 WCHA Final Five when he had two game-winning goals and a game-tying goal and he helped them to a spot in the regional finals. Right now I do say that Brock Nelson right now has a way better upside then Nino Niederreiter or Ryan Strome.

Nelson when North Dakota needed him showed up with big games at the biggest times. You can't play him physically, he is as good a skater as anyone else, can create his own offense and is the immovable object in the slot. I would not be shocked if Nelson makes the Islanders at training camp.

(NY Islanders)
Scott Mayfield (2011 2nd)- I have to admit that I was very disappointed that the Islanders selected Ryan Strome rather than his teammate Dougie Hamilton. Mayfield wasn't a bad second prize as his play in the second half of last season for Denver was outstanding.

Not even going to mention his numbers because they don't tell the story about how Mayfield grew as a player last year. In the first half, yes he struggled big-time, even was a healthy scratch but what you love about the player is how he responds to such a situation.

Mayfield was like turning a switch on as from that point on, you can see a player improving with each and every passing game. His ability to read plays, to anticipate, to disrupt and to use his body all were 100% better by the end of the season.

With the young defenseman you want to watch to see if he is coachable and Scott Mayfield was very coachable. Playing in Denver in the WCHA is the perfect place for him to learn his craft.

It's going to be fun watching next year as I really believe Mayfield is going to break out bigger than he did in the second half of the season.

Next season, will want to see more offense from Mayfield which I believe he is capable of and hopefully during the off-season to improve his footwork.

(Kirill Kabanov)
Kirill Kabanov (2010 3rd)- first thing stop listening to rumors, Kabanov wants to play for the New York Islanders and New York Islander fans will enjoy watching Kabanov play for them. He might not be another Malkin but what Kabanov can be is a big game performer.

Kabanov does have world class talent but if I am Garth Snow then I seriously consider bringing in a veteran European to help mentor Kabanov. More than anything, Kabanov needs someone to guide him into becoming the best player possible.

Kabanov there is no question at all has all the tools to be a star player but what he needs the most is someone who will set the example for him. Kabanov is 6 weeks from turning 20 and right now he needs a adult role model so he can see for himself what he needs to from proper training methods to diet to conducting himself in public.

Kabanov is coachable and despite what you've heard; Kabanov does play defense and Kabanov will go down to block a shot. This is no soft player but rather a really raw talent that needs to be shaped and formed.

Kabanov we forget is a teenager and will make the immature mistakes that teenagers tend to do. The one thing I learned over the last couple years is a Kabanov wants to please people, he really wants to be liked and there are times when he needs somebody to say this is right and this is wrong.

Guide Kabanov right and you will have a big game player who can help turn the Islanders into a real contender.

(Niagara IceDogs)
Ryan Strome (2011 1st)- I really had to fight myself here as I am no fan of Ryan Strome as I mentioned earlier I wanted the Islanders select Dougie Hamilton his teammate on the Niagara IceDogs. Yes, Ryan Strome has a lot of talent but my biggest issue with Ryan Strome is two straight years when his team needed him the most; he wasn't there.

While Kabanov and Nelson are the key players, I can't say the same thing about Ryan Strome. Odds are pretty good that Islander fans won't like this but go look at the numbers they don't lie.

Yes Strome had a 7-16-23 playoff run but take a closer look at those numbers; 10 of those points (5-5-10) came in the first round but only 2 goals after that with none in the OHL finals (0-2-2 in 5 games). In the 2011 playoffs, it was the same story, plenty of points in the early rounds but nothing when Niagara needed him the most.

I just don't see Ryan Strome as an important piece of the Islander puzzle down the road. I would send my most physical defender against him and tell him every chance he gets to make sure he gets a hit on Strome. That is how Mississauga stopped him in 2011 and how London did it this year.

Until Strome shows he can come through in the biggest games then I don't see him as big time performer.

(Spokane Chiefs)
Brendan Kitchton (2011 5th)- led the WHL defensemen as well as his Spokane Chiefs in scoring (17-57-74) and unfortunately saw his the off-season end in his first playoff game after a freak accident led to his jaw being broken.

If Kitchton can get stronger all over then the Islanders might have themselves a serious power play quarterback. First rate passing skills, an excellent ability to read the ice to see how the play is unfolding in front of him and a willingness to take a hit if it means making a play.

While I really would've liked to seen was more goals out of him, especially down the stretch of the regular season; it's kind of hard to get mad at someone who has 5 multi point games in his last 8 games.

If fully recovered from, his surgery then I would not be surprised to see him in Bridgeport this fall.

(Red Deer Rebels)
John Persson (2011 5th)- Persson and his Red Deer Rebels had two seasons during last year; before everybody on the Rebels got hurt or suspended then nobody was able to stop them. By December 1, Persson was 11-18-29 and 4th in the WHL in scoring but when it caved in on the Rebels, it was an avalanche.

Persson I know played hurt for part of the season because Red Deer could not replace him. A class act, never allowed anything to be used as an excuse but despite being out manned, Persson and his teammates never quit.

Persson is 6'2 202, a nice left wing with good hands, a nice skill set that you can use in any situation at anytime. Not a fighter but will drop the gloves to protect a teammate. He will however need to work on adapting to the faster decision making process in the pro leagues.

Not super fast so could use some work on his first step too. Persson rightfully earned the contract he signed with his hard work.

Andrey Pedan (2011 3rd)- Without a doubt the most frustrating Islander prospect to watch this past season as the best way to describe Pedan is a "nuclear loose cannon." There is no question that Pedan is a very talented two-way defenseman but he did more damage with his reckless play to his own team than the opposition.

In the juniors they don't include 10 minute misconduct penalties in your totals otherwise Pedan would be close to 250 rather than the 152 PIMs he had. Pedan took 66 minor penalties during the season.

If somehow Pedan gets his head on straight, then you have a rugged physical defender who has good mobility and an a decent offensive upside. This is one of those prospects who you really would hate to see his talent go to waste.

But as in the case of several prospects; the biggest obstacle to them having an NHL career is themselves. The Islanders need Pedan's skills but not his headaches.

This would not be the Islanders fault if Pedan doesn't make it.

Anders Lee (2009 6th)-One season ago, Lee could do no wrong as the power forward with the linebackers body was running all over the NCAAs physically, while putting the pucks in the net with his really soft hands.

Lee started out on fire with 10 goals in his 1st seven games but when the sophomore slump hit him it hit him hard. He went 9 games without a goal, scored 2 then when went goal less in 14 games before before scoring again.

From sure thing power forward to huge question mark entering his junior season at Notre Dame. If Lee can find the touch again then the rest of college hockey is in trouble because Lee 6'3 220 is a monster body that is almost impossible to move out of the slot area.

It wasn't just Lee who stopped scoring last season as Notre Dame as a team struggled to score which is why I still believe Lee has a serious upside to his future.

Robbie Russo (2011 4th)- Lee's teammate at Notre Dame was perhaps the nicest surprise to come out of the Islander 2011 draft class. Nice offensive weapon to have from the point but like Lee got off to fast start (3-9-12) only to die off in second half (1-2-3).

He needs to hit the gym big time as a smallish 5'11 but rail thin. Add weight and strength and Russo should be fine. Good hockey sense, doesn't trap himself on defense but has speed to get back if caught up ice.

Could be a nice offensive weapon if he can put on the weight but he has 3 years to do it so we can wait and see.

Mitchell Theoret (2011 7th)- every team should have a Theoret on their roster as he is the ideal utility player who fits in when you need a game or two replacement.

NHL regular no not really but a good gamble with a 7th round pick. Niagara is going to lose a bunch of players to the NHL this year so Theoret has a chance to become "that late bloomer". Needs work everywhere but he will make the effort.

His heart is there even if the talent may not be.

Islanders had 2 other prospects who really did not do anything last season. Jason Clark (2010 3rd) gets a pass because he was coming back from double hip surgery. That tends to take over a year to fully recover from.

Cody Rosen (2010 7th) is a goalie who plays for Clarkson and the junior played all of 27 minutes last season giving up 4 goals on 19 shots. Islanders have plenty of depth at goal but who knows?

Then sadly was the case of Corey Trivino (2008 2nd) who found himself kicked off the Boston University hockey team after being arrested on charges of sexual assault. He was kicked out of school but the sexual assault charges were dropped in March (other charges of assault and battery remain pending).

Trivino has had a history of problems with alcohol had been previously been disciplined by Boston University coach Jack Parker. The Islanders would take a major PR hit if they sign Trivino on just the alcohol issues alone so it is not expected that they will sign him.

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