Admittedly, I’m not a whiz with our farm system. However, there were definitely some stand-outs from Bridgeport that need addressing, so what better time to address them than now? Let’s get on with it. (I suck at intros, so bear with me.)
Anyway, the biggest standouts in my eyes on the skaters’ side were Micheal Haley and Casey Cizikas. Haley is a no-brainer. His playing style is go-go-go from one whistle to the next. He’ll hit and fight anything that moves, and when he’s in the lineup, there’s an extra edge to this Isles team. His 57 PIM in 14 games attest to this. I only wish he’d played more games than that — it’s nice to see this team just a bit nasty. Grade: A-
Cizikas, meanwhile, had four assists and was a +1 in 15 games. Nothing overly spectacular, but he was certainly efficient. His faceoff numbers could use a bit more stability, but that comes with being a 21-year-old in the NHL. Hockey’s Future calls him a very versatile player and says that if he’s paired with the right players, he can become a legitimate threat. Who knows who exactly the “right players” are — he got paired a lot with Michael Grabner, who as we all know had a lackluster season, and overall he didn’t log that many minutes. But for what he was, he was decent. Grade: B
- Rhett Rakhshani played a handful of games, but what I remember most was his willingness to get to the front of the net and try to make things happen. No points in his stint on the Island, but certainly some energy. The Isles had higher hopes for him early on, but six years later, there isn’t much to show for it. Hockey’s Future calls him “unlikely to reach potential.”
- Matt Donovan joined the Isles late in the season, and when he did, he brought some physicality and some backbone to the D. Definitely something we need. I’ll be interested to see how he develops in the near future (and if he’s good enough during training camp to make the team, which I think he may be… either way, we need a solid blueline).
- Aaron Ness also provided some good defensive play in nine games played, as well as disciplined play (two PIM altogether, on a blueline featuring Steve Staios and Travis Hamonic, no less).
- Trevor Gillies… eh.
- Calvin de Haan and Ty Wishart played only one game apiece, so that’s not much of a fair assessment.
Now, on to the goalies. Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin each had their tough matches, but they managed to play decently despite those hiccups. Nilsson pulled a .911% and a 2.75 GAA in three games started, while Poulin started six and posted a .907% and a 3.04. (stats here toward the bottom) Each goalie still has a ways to go before challenging for a top position, though Poulin arguably has an inside track (and Nilsson started in a blowout of the Devils, in which he didn’t face many tough shots). Interesting note: HF ranks Nilsson above Poulin in the Isles’ prospect hierarchy, though they each have the same grade. I personally find Nilsson’s size more favorable, but Poulin’s athleticism can’t be discounted. Grades- Nilsson: B; Poulin: B+
Overall, the Isles are said to have stockpiled a talented group of prospects; with the Islanders mired in the bottom five in the league for a number of years now, homegrown talent is important, and the organization at least understands that. However, without the right veterans to help develop these guys — and that has been a problem for ages — it’ll be hard to transform this into a winning team. The bright side is that players who have been in the league for two or three years (such as John Tavares, among others) are maturing well, and can perhaps help guide this team in the right direction. Then again, the best players in the league have playoff experience, and… well, it leads right back to the need for a balance of savvy vets and young upstarts to take this team to the next level. Chicken or egg? You decide.
Until next time.