Recent articles in other publications have expressed gloom and doom regarding the coming Islanders’ 2016-17 season. Several of these prognosticators have even stated that the Isles have moved backwards and predicted that the team will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013. We here at NY Sports Day disagree with this assessment (as our soon-to-be published season preview will reveal) and find much for fans to be excited about for the coming season.
We are, however, part of the general consensus that the Islanders have one of the best prospect corps in the league. And we feel that, with this much talent, some of which is ready to graduate to the NHL, it is hard to believe that this team is going anywhere but up.
Since the 2009 arrival of John Tavares, the franchise’s centerpiece, the Islanders have made excellent first (and later) round draft selections. With the average age of 25 among its defensive corps (Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield will still be rookies) and several prospects battling for roster spots this season (eg, Mathew Barzal and Matthew Finn), this is an exciting time.
From Barzal and Bellows to Pulock and Sorokin, the organization has some excellent players. There are some caveats, though, and the quality of the list begins to fall off toward the second half, but without more of an introduction, let’s take a look.
- Ilya Sorokin, G
- Mathew Barzal, C
- Ryan Pulock, D
- Keifer Bellows, LW
- Anatoli Golyshev, LW
- Michael Dal Colle, LW
- Josh Ho-Sang, C
- Anthony Beauvillier, LW
- Adam Pelech, D
- Linus Soderstrom, G
- Scott Mayfield, D
- Chris Gibson, G
- Alan Quine, C
- Devon Toews, D
- Parker Wotherspoon, D
- Otto Koivula, LW
- Doyle Somerby, D
- Mitchell Vande Sompel, D
- Carter Verhaeghe, C
- David Quenneville, D
For an NHL team that has made the playoffs three out of the last four seasons to have this amount of talent within its organization is very unusual.
It is no secret that the big issue for the Islanders at present (and the recent past) has been in goal. Jasroslav Halak was signed after the 2013-2014 season to solve that problem, but he has not stayed healthy enough to give the Islanders confidence that he can see it through. In fact, the 31-year old Halak has never played more than 59 regular season games in an NHL season.
So, the first place to look among the prospect group is in goal, which is currently the greatest need for this franchise. There are two excellent and several very good prospects within the organization, including one that has the potential to be a franchise goalie.
This potential is why Ilya Sorokin is listed here as the Isles number one prospect. The 21-year old has played outstanding hockey between the pipes in the KHL last season (and was named KHL goalie of the year for it). He has excellent lateral movement, challenges the shooters really well, covers the net well both high and low and has an excellent glove.
The real questions is whether Sorokin, who has two more years on his KHL contract, will come and play in North America. He did give the Islanders a promising sign this summer, arriving and then impressing (with a shutout) at the Islanders’ mini-camp. It was even more encouraging when he announced (through a translator) that he definitely wants to play in the NHL.
Second on the list is Mathew Barzal, New York’s first round pick in 2015. Ranked first on almost everyone else’s list of Islanders’ prospects, Barzal is a playmaking center, who has first-line potential. On the Islanders, however, he will likely center the second line behind Tavares. He should get a very long look in training camp later this month, and is a good bet to join the NHL roster on a full time basis this season. Barzal is an excellent skater, with outstanding vision and puckhandling abilities; he may not be a franchise player, but he certainly is a potential all-star.
A little further down the ranking, but not too far (at number five), is Anatoli Golyshev. The 21-year old diminutive Russian winger was selected in the fourth round of this past summer’s entry draft. I know that this ranking is bound to raise some eyebrows, but he has amazing hands and can skate like the wind. Last year, Golyshev was one of the best players in the KHL, on a marginal offensive team. And lest you think that it was just a one season anomaly, Golyshev has begun the 2016-17 with five points (1G, 4A) in seven games. Yes, he is a high risk, high reward player and given his KHL contract runs until 2019, the Islanders may struggle to sign Golyshev. But his first line potential is undeniable. And that is why he is fifth overall on our list above Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang.
We do not see either Dal Colle or Ho-Sang as first line players on a Stanley Cup contending team. As far as Dal Colle goes, he appears to be a excellent top nine, two-way, talent. He will very likely spend his first professional season in Bridgeport. It is hoped that he is ready to move to Brooklyn after one season in the minors, but he may take a little longer to be ready for the “show.”
Ho-Sang is more of a top six offensive player, and should begin his career in the AHL this season too. Almost a pure playmaker, Ho-Sang has excellent hands and vision. Whether his offense first style will translate to the pro game remains to be seen.
Further down is goaltending prospect Linus Soderstrom, listed at number ten. Soderstrom is an portential number one netminder, who has excelled at every level thus far. He looked good at the mini-camp, with good size and an excellent glove. It is common knowledge that he has struggled with some social challenges, but that should not stop his hockey career. Soderstrom has one year left on his contract in the SHL. Drafted in 2014, the Islanders have two more years to sign Soderstrom, and he will likely take at least that long to develop in Sweden. Do not count him out though; Soderstrom has all the tools to become at least a journeyman NHL netminder.
Finally, eight of the prospects on our top 20 (including six of the last ten) are defensemen. Of the eight, only Ryan Pulock has first pairing potential. However, all of the other seven could possibly play in a second pairing on an NHL team. It remains to be seen how they develop, but there is a plethora of talent on the blueline in this organization.
Without question, the Islanders have the strongest organizational depth of the three hockey teams in the New York area. So, when articles are written projecting bad things to come in Brooklyn, be sure to read it with a very big grain of salt.