We’ve examined the roster, the coaches and the front office. Now we’ll take a look at the Islanders’ prospects from the past few drafts, plus any other promising youngsters kicking around the organization.
Statistics courtesy the various amateur team sites and contract status, where available, from General Fanager.
— Mathew Barzal was just a good draft-eligible player in the Isles’ eyes this time last year, but a little draft-floor dealing by Garth Snow allowed the Islanders to move up to grab Barzal with the 16th pick after the Bruins passed on the young center with three straight selections.
Barzal very nearly won a job last training camp and took his return to Seattle of the Western League hard. He finished his season with 27 goals and 61 assists, plus 5-21-26 in 18 playoff games as Seattle reached the WHL final.
Barzal turns 19 on Thursday, so it’s either make the Isles out of camp or head back to Seattle once more.
As we outlined here last week, Snow’s biggest challenge is finding upgrades/replacements at the forward position. Barzal still figures to be the team’s best internal upgrade, but the catch is he’s a center and it doesn’t appear the Isles want to try him at the wing just yet.
That could change once the draft and free agency pass by and the veterans are set for camp. But if Barzal is strictly a center and has a chance to outplay some people for a job, would Snow change his thinking about having teenagers on the roster? The Nino Niederreiter debacle is still relatively fresh from three seasons ago. Josh Bailey was rushed as an 18-year-old and never quite reached the potential the team has had for him.
Much depends on where the Isles are down the middle after free agency. If Frans Nielsen is back, then it’s John Tavares-Nielsen-Brock Nelson-Casey Cizikas at center, the Isles’ strongest position up front. If Barzal can win a spot, that means Nelson becomes a wing full-time, which may not be a bad thing — he started last season on Tavares’ wing, so perhaps playing the left side would allow Nelson not to tail off as he has the past two seasons.
— In last year’s draft, Snow packaged the other pick, No. 33 overall, that he got from the Oilers on the draft floor for Griffin Reinhart, plus the Isles’ own second-rounder to move to No. 28 and pick Anthony Beauvillier, whose stature in the organization has only grown since they picked him.
Beauvillier, like Barzal, had an outstanding season, with 40 goals and 39 assists, plus 15-15-30 in 21 playoff games for Shawinigan of the Quebec League, which reached the league final.
The two Isles picks roomed together at the World Junior Championships in Finland, even though Canada went out in the quarterfinals.
Beauvillier has truly impressed the Isles with the edge he has in his game. He’s only 5-foot-11 but plays bigger, showing even in his few preseason games last fall he’s unafraid to battle with the bigger boys. He plays like a more skilled Cizikas, though Beauvillier needs (like all teenaged prospects) to bulk up a bit.
It’s unlikely he’ll have a chance to make the team this coming September. But the Isles like what they have in Beauvillier quite a bit.
— The Isles selected Mitchell Vande Sompel in the third round last June and the skilled defenseman posted 10-28-38 in 46 games for Oshawa this past season, missing time with an injury and a six-game suspension for an illegal hit. Oshawa suffered a very down year after winning the 2015 Memorial Cup but Vande Sompel had decent numbers. He’s still a ways away, though his scoring skills from the back end are high level.
— Parker Wotherspoon, the Isles’ fourth-round pick in June, is on the upswing. He doesn’t turn 19 until late August but the team likes the strides he’s taken, filling out a bit physically as he had 11-45-56 for Tri-City of the WHL. Wotherspoon played six regular-season and two playoff games for Bridgeport after his junior season ended and the coaches there came away impressed.
After another junior year he should head to the front of the class of defense prospects.
— Michael Dal Colle’s second year in the Isles organization had quite a few ups and downs, starting when Joshua Ho-Sang, his training camp roommate, overslept on the first day of full camp and was sent home. Dal Colle was a bit rattled by that incident and, perhaps coincidentally, simply never looked at ease on the ice with the veterans.
Once he went back to Oshawa, things didn’t improve until he was dealt to Kingston midway through the OHL season. He was 8-17-25 in 30 games before the trade, then had 27-28-55 in 30 games after the deal, plus 6-12-18 in nine playoff games before Kingston was ousted by Ho-Sang’s Niagara squad.
Dal Colle is a pro now and his first season begins in early July with prospect camp. His goal when the veterans arrive in September is to prove he belongs with the big boys this season because the organization doesn’t see it that way just yet.
— Ho-Sang, of course, has the most to show the Islanders as he joins the pro ranks full-time. He took the right steps in his final amateur year after the embarrassment of his day-one dismissal from camp, posting 19-63-82 in the regular season and 6-20-26 in the OHL playoffs for Niagara.
Now, in addition to becoming a bit more dedicated to things like off-ice workouts and strength training, Ho-Sang has to come in this summer with a spotless attitude. Fair or not, he’s viewed as selfish before he’s even played a game for the Isles or Bridgeport; it could be a very long road back for him this season. If he has the patience and the dedication, there’s still a spot for him with the Isles eventually.
— Devon Toews (fourth round, 2014) and Kyle Schempp (sixth round, 2014) both signed on with the Isles after finishing their college careers this spring and should add to the AHL depth right away. Toews helped Quinnipiac to the NCAA title game, with 7-23-30 in 40 games as a junior. He’ll get plenty of work on defense for the Sound Tigers this coming season.
Schempp, a forward, had two assists in six games with Bridgeport after his junior year at Ferris State ended. He’ll add to what will be a very different, very young forward group in the AHL.
— Eamon McAdam (third round, 2013) and Stephon Williams (fourth round) were drafted a round apart in 2013 and the two goaltenders will be fighting it out for one spot with Bridgeport, with the other likely headed to Missouri in the ECHL. Williams had a decent first pro season, posting an .899 save percentage with Bridgeport; McAdam finished his junior year at Penn State, so he may be a bit behind his friend in pro development.
— Ilya Sorokin (third round, 2014) and Linus Soderstrom (fourth round, 2014) could be the two most promising names in this entire piece, but both still have contracts in Russia and Sweden so it’s hard to know exactly where they stand. Sorokin was the top goaltender in the KHL this season at just 20 years old, posting an insane .953 save percentage for CSKA Moscow in 28 appearances and then leading his club to Game 7 of the Gagarin Cup final.
He’s reportedly got one more year left on his deal, but as with all European draft picks, the guaranteed money from the pro leagues at home can dwarf the two-way, entry-level money from the NHL. So we’ll see what happens in the coming years.
Soderstrom turns 20 in August and was among the standouts at the World Junior tournament for Sweden. He’s reportedly got two years left on his deal with Vita Hasten of the SHL.
— Doyle Somerby (fifth round, 2012) and Taylor Cammarata (third round, 2013) are unsigned college players, which usually means they’re not coming to the team. Somerby, a 6-5 defenseman, has a chance to be captain of Boston University’s team next season, so he may still sign after his senior year. Cammarata, a 5-7 forward, seems unlikely to join the Isles after a couple of mediocre years at Minnesota.
— Kirill Petrov (third round, 2008) gave North America a shot this past season, coming over on a one-year, entry-level deal after seven KHL seasons. The big wing showed some promise in training camp but, like most players on two-way, waiver-exempt deals, was the last cut. He didn’t thrive in Bridgeport, not knowing much English; he didn’t help himself when he lost six weeks to a broken foot, suffered in a pregame soccer warmup with teammates.
Petrov went back to Russia in December and hooked on with CSKA, where he played well. It seems highly unlikely he’ll come back.