Islanders Prospect Mitch Vande Sompel Is Finding His Game Again In Bridgeport

Bridgeport Islanders

Mitch Vande Sompel was cruising up the ladder in the Islanders organization with a brilliant 2018-19 season at Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.  The left-handed shooting defenseman had ten goals and 21 assists for 31 points with a +4 rating in 70 games that season playing for the Sound Tigers (now Bridgeport Islanders) and he was named an AHL All-Star.  The following season, Vande Sompel suffered an arm injury at New York Islanders training camp and he missed the entire 2019-20 season.

It was certainly a setback for the Islanders’ third round pick (82nd overall) in 2015 and he struggled making his return during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season with no goals and five assists with a -19 rating in twenty games.  This season, the 24-year-old Vande Sompel is getting his game back on track with eight assists through 17 games for the Bridgeport Islanders.

“It’s starting to feel like that, said Vande Sompel.  “When you miss that much time, you take it for granted what it’s like to play and what it’s like being in a season.  I really found that out over that year I sat out.  It’s probably the worst thing that any player can do is missing and watching.  This season, so far, has felt good and my body feels good.  Things are starting to feel normal and I’m starting to `get confidence back.”

Vande Sompel and the Bridgeport Islanders get ready for a pair of home games this weekend at Webster Bank Arena against Toronto Saturday night at 7pm and against Belleville Sunday afternoon at 3pm.   Last season, there were no fans allowed at games because of the COVID-19 restrictions and the teams played a shorter schedule with limited travel.  This season has been a return to normalcy with fans back in the building letting the players know that they’re there.

“It has felt normal,” said Vande Sompel.  “Those fans make such a big difference at games with energy levels and momentum swings.  You really forget how much fans mean to the games and you see that this year and we’re really happy to have them back.”

(Photo of Mitch Vande Sompel courtesy of Bridgeport Islanders)

Vande Sompel enjoyed a stellar junior career playing four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.  Playing for the Oshawa Generals, Vande Sompel earned first team All-Rookie honors for the 2013-14 season and would go on to help Oshawa win the 2015 OHL championship.  A three-time OHL all-star, Vande Sompel was traded to his hometown London Knights midway through the 2016-17 campaign.  That season, he totaled 20 goals, the second most among OHL defensemen.

While he’s known as an offensive defenseman, Vande Sompel has been working hard to get better in his own end.

“It wasn’t where it needed to be the first few years,” said Vande Sompel of his defensive game.  “Over the years, I think it’s come a long way for me.  I’m not the biggest d-man back there.  You have to use what you have and the tools you’re given and obviously mine are skating and my hockey sense.”

The New York Islanders may be looking to get younger on their blueline next season.  They have some age on the back end with Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara so it’s possible that a Mitch Vande Sompel could get a look next season in training camp.  The Islanders have a recent history of making a commitment to young players when Devon Toews was traded to make room for Noah Dobson.  They also made long term commitments to Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock who both began their pro careers in Bridgeport.

And this season when the Islanders were going through a COVID-19 outbreak, Sebastian Aho was inserted into the lineup while Robin Sale and Grand Hutton were recalled from Bridgeport.  Vande Sompel feels like he made an impression during New York Islanders training camp and he could be in line for a callup at some point if there’s an opportunity.

(Photo of Mitch Vande Sompel courtesy of Bridgeport Islanders)

“The mentality has always been next man up here,” said the 5-10 190-pound Vande Sompel.  “You gotta be ready for that whenever that opportunity comes.  I feel like I had a good camp this year.  I came in and changed my weight a little bit and came in in good shape.  I was moving better and was feeling good so I thought it was good.  Everyday you’re looking forward to that.  You’re not thinking about those things but you just want to get better every day and progress.”

While he waits for the call up to Long Island, Vande Sompel continues to make strides with the Bridgeport Islanders and get his game back to where it was a few seasons ago.  And while he’s focused on the task at hand in the AHL, he’s also paying attention to how the parent team is doing on Long Island.

“You consider us all one big family,” said Vande Sompel.  “We’re one organization and everyone is pulling the same rope for the same goal. We pay attention to that and we watch the games at home.”

The Islanders have a number of players to pay attention to in Bridgeport and Mitch Vande Sompel is certainly one of them.  It’s worth the drive up to Webster Bank Arena to see a game because it’s a terrific venue for hockey, but it’s also an opportunity to see a player like Vande Sompel in the AHL before he gets the call to the NHL.  He would follow a long line of players who began their pro careers in Bridgeport before making the jump to the New York Islanders.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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