New York Islanders: August 30 in 30

by Peter Harling on August 19, 2016
NYI

The Islanders continue to boast one of the best prospect pools in the league. The talent they have up front is unparalleled, with the possible exception of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The impressive part about the Islanders is that they have, for the most part, been able to accumulate this talent using mid to late first round picks. Garth Snow and his staff look like they had another strong draft in 2016, securing Kieffer Bellows early and then taking gambles on high upside players like Anatoli Golyshev and David Quenneville in the later rounds.

All that being said, it was not a banner year for Islanders’ prospects in 2015-16. With a few notable exceptions, the prospects in the system produced generally mixed results. Michael Dal Colle, for example, had a lethargic start in his 20 year old OHL season before exploding after a trade to Kingston. Ryan Pulock finally cracked the Islanders’ roster and showed strong possession numbers in his 15 NHL games, but saw his AHL goal totals fall from 17 in 2014-15 to just seven in 2015-16. Linus Soderstrom had strong numbers in the second division of Swedish hockey, but saw limited ice in a back-up role. These are not necessarily reasons to panic, but it wouldn’t be accurate to declare the year an unbridled success either.

Depth Chart

Rank

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

 

Left Defence

Right Defence

Goalie

1

Kieffer Bellows

Anthony Beauvillier

Joshua Ho-Sang

Adam Pelech

Ryan Pulock

Ilya Sorokin

2

Michael Dal Colle

Mathew Barzal

Taylor Cammarata

Parker Wotherspoon

David Quenneville

Jean-Francois Berube

3

Anatoli Golyshev

Carter Verhaeghe

Kirill Petrov

Mitchell Vande Sompel

Scott Mayfield

Linus Soderstrom

4

Shane Prince

Kyle Schempp

 

Devon Toews

Jesse Graham

Christopher Gibson

5

Alan Quine

Victor Crus Rydberg

 

Matt Finn

Kyle Burroughs

Stephon Williams

6

Otto Koivula

 

 

Jake Bischoff

Loic Leduc

Eamon McAdam

7

Collin Adams

 

 

Doyle Somerby

 

 

8

Nick Pastujov

 

 

Petter Hansson

 

 

9

Ross Johnston

 

 

Andong Song

 

 

 

Risers

Ilya Sorokin – Ilya Sorokin was the Islanders’ prospect of the year for 2015-16 – and it wasn’t particularly close. At the age of 20, Sorokin put up video game numbers with CSKA Moskva in the KHL, with a 1.06 GAA and a .953 SV% in 28 regular season games. He carried that form into the Gagarin Cup Playoffs, where he posted a 1.32 GAA and a .945 SV% before falling in Game 7 of the final. These numbers were a marked improvement over his previous two KHL seasons with Metallurg Novokuznetsk. He capped the year off by appearing for Russia in the World Championships, and did not allow a goal in three appearances. Predicting the development path of goaltenders is a notoriously difficult thing to do, but Sorokin is showing early signs that he is an elite net minder in the making.

Devon Toews – Devon Toews had a great junior season for Quinnipiac University in the NCAA. The graduation of Justin Agosta, who led the Bobcats’ back end in scoring during the 2014-15 campaign, opened up an opportunity for Toews to get more minutes at even strength and on the power play. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native made the most of his extra ice time and increased his point total by ten over his sophomore year. He proved to be a very capable quarterback on the PP. Toews decided to forego his senior year in the NCAA to sign with the Islanders. There is plenty of opportunity for him to establish himself on a blue line in Bridgeport that is sorely lacking in offensive defensemen.

Anthony Beauvillier - Photo Courtesy of theqnews.net

Anthony BeauvillierIt seems strange to describe Anthony Beauvillier as a riser. Yes, he had a remarkable campaign, posting 55 goals in 68 total games and making Team Canada as an 18 year old. However, that is more or less what is expected out of a first round draft pick and top prospect. If they are going to thrive at the NHL level, these players need to exhibit dominance when playing amongst their age group. Beauvillier did just that, and that qualifies as a successful season.  I certainly would have liked to highlight one of the Islanders’ lesser known prospects in this slot, but, as mentioned above, there is really no one else who had a uniformly positive campaign in 2015-16.

Fallers

Joshua Ho-Sang – There is reason to be concerned about Joshua Ho-Sang. He did post an 82 point season, but this was during his 20 year old campaign.  Despite being two years older, he was not able to match his production from his draft year, which is not what you would want to see from a first round pick. Most concerning is that his goals per game rate declined in every season since his draft year. He did not top 20 goals in either of his last two years. At this point, there is no real evidence to suggest Ho-Sang has the scoring ability necessary to thrive in the NHL. Islanders’ fans will hope that he will be reinvigorated by the challenge of moving up to the AHL.

Mitchell Vande Sompel – After showing as one of the top offensive defensemen in his draft class, Vande Sompel generated only eight primary points at even strength during an injury-marred 2015-16. While some of that can be explained by the decrease in talent surrounding him in Oshawa, those numbers are still not encouraging. Vande Sompel was invited to Team Canada’s summer evaluation camp, but figures to be a long shot to make the team even with only one defenseman returning. Vande Sompel will look to rebound in his final OHL campaign. He needs to stay healthy for the full season in order to get his development back on track.

Stephon Williams – Stephon Williams, much hyped coming out of Minnesota State University, Mankato of the ­NCAA, struggled in his first professional season. He posted a save percentage under .900, which had him ranked near the bottom of all goaltenders in the AHL. However, he was not alone, with first year pros such as Matt O’Connor and Zane McIntyre struggling to adapt to the step up in competition. Williams spent a bit of time in the ECHL last season, and there is certainly a possibility that he may spend even more time there during the upcoming season. Even if the Islanders carry three goalies including J.F. Berube, Williams will be competing with Christopher Gibson and Eamon McAdam for playing time in Bridgeport. The edge would have to go to Gibson for the starter’s job, so if Williams does not show improvement quickly, McAdam may be called upon to take his spot. 

Top 10 Prospects

1. Anthony Beauvillier – The title of top Islanders’ prospect is a two man race between Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, and yet I feel the need to defend my choice. Simply put, Beauvillier had a demonstrably better season than Barzal. Only two prospects in the entire CHL (Christian Dvorak and Andrew Mangiapane) can say they scored goals at a rate better than Beauvillier’s 0.851 per game. Further, Beauvillier outscored Barzal in every facet of the game:

 

Player

Even Strength Primary Points Per Game

Power Play Primary Points Per Game

Short Handed Primary Points Per Game

 

Mathew Barzal

 

 

0.621

 

0.466

 

0.000

 

Anthony Beauvillier

 

 

0.638

 

0.532

 

0.106

 

The consensus supporting Barzal as the Islanders top prospect likely comes from his performances while wearing the Maple Leaf. He played for Team Canada at the U18 Championships twice, and was one of the tournament’s top players in his draft year. Similarly, he was a star at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in 2014. Beauvillier failed to make an impact at either tournament. Barzal also earned a larger role than Beauvillier at last year’s World Juniors. So, if you were to focus only on their international resumes, the edge would go to Barzal. However, the vast majority of games played by these two prospects in the past 24 months have been at the major junior level. Those samples cannot be ignored when assessing prospects. As shown above, Beauvillier was clearly the more productive player in 2015-16.

Beauvillier exhibits a very rare combination of tenacity and skill. His effort level is infectious and he makes those around him better. It is certainly debatable as to whether he has a higher offensive ceiling than Barzal, given that the latter has shown signs of being an elite playmaker. It comes down to ceiling versus likelihood to reach potential. Barzal could be a number one center, whereas I am confident in saying Beauvillier will be a reliable second line player who can play in all situations. On the strength of that, I’ll take Beauvillier over Barzal in dynasty leagues.

MathewBarzal

2. Mathew Barzal – Barzal has remarkable vision and, as referenced above, has shown that he can be relied on when the games matter most. Would be the top prospect on 15-20 other teams.

3. Kieffer Bellows – It is going to be fun to watch the damage he and Clayton Keller do at Boston University and the World Juniors next season.

4. Michael Dal Colle – This year, we will find out a lot about what kind of player Michael Dal Colle really is.

5. Joshua Ho-Sang – See Number 4.  

6. Ilya Sorokin – Islanders’ fans will be watching closely to see if Sorokin can repeat his unbelievable numbers from the KHL.  And when I say unbelievable, I mean it in the most literal sense of the word – I had to check CSKA’s game logs to make sure there wasn’t some kind of typo or mathematical error. If Sorokin can come close to those stats in 2016-17, fans will be clamoring for him to come to North America as soon as possible.

7. Anatoli Golyshev – Scoring 25 goals in the second best league in the world as a 21 year old is something to get excited about. He did ride an elevated shooting percentage though, so expect to see his goal total dip a bit.

8. Ryan Pulock – As mentioned before, he looked good in his 15 game stint with the Islanders. He will battle with Scott Mayfield for a spot in the Islanders’ top six. Hopefully for his fantasy owners, he finds his goal scoring touch from his first AHL season.

9. Shane Prince – He showed flashes of real ability with Ottawa, but often found himself in Dave Cameron’s doghouse for his defensive lapses. The potential is there, but the ice time may not be quite yet.

10. Alan Quine – Quine will be battling Prince for a roster spot. Quine may have the edge because of last year’s playoff performance and his versatility, but his scoring rates in the AHL are slightly lower than Prince’s.

Feel free to send your questions or comments to me on Twitter (@brent_craswell). I imagine I might hear from one or two Seattle Thunderbirds fans.