Friedman: Islanders Are Loaded With Top Prospects, But Few Are Ready For NHL
By Daniel Friedman
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As we enter the offseason, the Islanders have plenty of questions to answer -- some of which pertain to their prospect pool.
There are quite a few who are either on the cusp of challenging for a roster spot or already doing so. What's next for these players and when can you expect to see them in Brooklyn? Provided the Isles don't trade any of their assets away for talent to help them win now, a lot will depend on how things go in training camp for some. Let's take a closer look into the future:
Petrov is an interesting case, because he's talented but hasn't had particularly impressive numbers during his time in the KHL. His career high is 29 points, a number he's reached twice in five full seasons. He's amassed a total of 113 points in 262 KHL games.
He's also been spending a lot of his time outside AK Bars' top-six forward group, which is perplexing given his skill level.
Is it because Petrov just lacks the necessary work ethic to be effective at the pro level? Is it due to a weak signal in the connection between player and coach? I asked my pal Igor Eronko, who covers the KHL, NHL and other pro international hockey leagues for Sports.ru, for some much-needed clarification:
"He was totally misused," Eronko said. "About half of Ak Bars' players had nightmare seasons after (Zinetula) Bilyaletdinov returned as head coach."
"I'd say he's the best Russian player in terms of playing along the boards, and there's enough skill to be effective in the NHL. The rink is narrow, the net is closer to the boards, less steps needed, so he could benefit from that."
As for his skating, which has received mixed reviews, Eronko's impression was mainly positive.
"He's a good skater," he explained, "but with all the mass he's gained to get stronger, he's lost some speed."
Even if Petrov has the tools to adapt to the North American game, which appears to be the case, that transition generally takes time. I would be very surprised if he made the team right out of training camp, so I'd say it's best to keep expectations tempered.
He's probably closer than some of the Islanders' other offensive prospects, just because he's been playing pro hockey for about half a decade now and, at age 25, is at a point where he's probably peaked as far as physical maturation is concerned.
I would say that the timing of Petrov's arrival works in his favor, as most of the team's young offensive talent has either graduated to the Islanders (Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome) or isn't yet eligible to play in the AHL (Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang).
What this means is, assuming Petrov starts out in Bridgeport (which is probably a good bet), he'll have an opportunity to take on a bigger role and shouldn't have trouble getting an ample amount of ice time. That, too, could potentially expedite his development and adaptation to the NHL's style of play.
Still, it's a matter of getting the hang of the different nuances that are found in the brand of hockey played on this side of the pond and even under the best of circumstances that can be a fairly lengthy process. There's also little to no room for Petrov in the Islanders' lineup right now, so he won't crack it until he's really proven himself.
Be patient. Let's see if he pans out, and how long it takes for him to adjust. I wouldn't be too quick to judge him either way.
OUTLOOK: Bridgeport (AHL), possible emergency call-up this season. NHL regular by 2016-17 season.
Michael Dal Colle
As is the case with any of the forwards on this list, Dal Colle faces an uphill battle as far as trying to make the cut next season.
There's just too much depth on the roster right now, and you have to think the Islanders will try and add a winger who can play a support-scoring role, perhaps on one of the top two lines.
If he were in the Buffalo Sabres organization, Dal Colle would probably be in the lineup on opening night. However, the Isles are stacked on offense, so if he were to be sent back to Oshawa, that would in no way be indicative of his future potential. Unfortunately, Dal Colle is still ineligible to play in the AHL because of his age (he will be 19 on June 20), so his options are limited.
Now, is it at all possible that he comes into training camp and blows everyone out of the water? Sure. He might even tempt the coaching staff to give him a nine-game look at the NHL level. But at the end of the day, unless he stars from the get-go, he'll be playing another year in Canadian Juniors. That's not necessarily a bad thing, either for it would give him an opportunity to bulk up and fine-tune his game.
OUTLOOK: Another year in Oshawa (OHL), gets first real shot at a roster spot in '16-'17 and makes the team. If he doesn't stay up with the big club, NHL regular by '17-'18.
Ho-Sang's skill level is absolutely off the charts, and he followed up a successful draft year with another strong season, posting 81 points in 60 games for Windsor and Niagara (OHL).
Questions regarding his attitude still linger, but the reality is that he's 19 years old. Having gotten to know him quite a bit, he's a very smart kid and I definitely get the sense that he'll find a way to grow up -- as most teenagers do. If you're dealing with someone 10 years older, that's a case where it's a major concern.
Many scouts believe he's more of a project than someone like Dal Colle. Personally, I don't see it that way. I think they're both on very similar (though perhaps not identical) trajectories in terms of career advancement.
OUTLOOK: Goes back to Niagara (OHL), gets first real shot at a roster spot in '16-'17. NHL regular by '18-'19.
Reinhart's his stock appears to have dropped – largely because his skating is his biggest flaw right now.
The way I see it, his potential isn't any different. I think he's still going to develop into a strong NHL defenseman and that, at only 21, there's plenty of time for him to improve his skating and awareness. It might just take him a bit longer to graduate than was previously anticipated, which, for a defensive prospect, is quite common.
Defensemen are different breeds. It's much tougher for them to make the leap, largely because the position comes with more responsibility and has less built-in support than a center or winger might get. This is also one of the reasons why goaltenders can take a while to develop.
The tools are there, but Reinhart still needs some work before he's ready to make a dent at the NHL level.
OUTLOOK: Bridgeport (AHL), possible midseason call-up. NHL regular by '16-'17.
He might be closer than Reinhart in terms of making the team, but Pulock is also a different type of defenseman. He can make an impact on offense, which makes him a valuable asset right away, and perhaps offsets other aspects of his game that aren't as polished yet.
That comes with time, and as long as you bring something else to the table, you'll get that time in the NHL. Pulock does, and that's why I think he'll be an Islander this season.
OUTLOOK: Makes the team out of training camp. If he doesn't stick, he'll be an NHL regular by next season.
A physical presence with very solid positioning, Mayfield is probably good enough at what he does to be the Isles' seventh defenseman.
The question is, do you want a prospect like him sitting around as a seventh defenseman? I think that would be unwise, and that time could be better spent in Bridgeport, where he could play every day. I think he tops-out as a No. 4 or 5 d-man on the Islanders, but he's not there yet.
OUTLOOK: Bridgeport (AHL), possible mid-season call-up. NHL regular by '16-'17.
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