But which pro? That's the question. We've
talked idly speculated about Blake Kessel here for a while now, as the UNH would-be senior was testing the waters last month about leaving college, but the Islanders organizational depth chart isn't exactly teeming with openings. Matt Donovan -- a much more important prospect -- and Aaron Ness were the early birds who grabbed (and/or were handed) the worm, even getting some brief playing time in the AHL before the Sound Tigers season ended.
So where does that leave Kessel? In Jason Gregoire territory? There are 11 defensemen on NHL deals (some of them two-way) for next season, with RFAs Jack Hillen and Ty Wishart likely adding two more (perhaps Bruno is a third). Plus Bridgeport captain Mark Wotton signaled intentions to come back (Wotton's always on AHL deals, but he uses a spot down there).
Like Gregoire, Kessel was drafted in 2007 (6th round), which means this is his fourth June 1st after that draft, which means the same rule or loophole that Gregoire used applies to him if he leaves college early, which he's now doing. So on June 1, he could be an unrestricted free agent.
Privately, I've always wondered if Kessel, a not-prime prospect, might take the chance to join his brother in Toronto's organization, which is one that isn't shy about using the college aftermarket to replenish after years of JFJ plundering. That's pure speculation on my part though -- it was said Kessel The Younger chose UNH precisely to get out from his star bro's shadow, so who knows what's on his mind now.
It's a fine line between building depth and letting good assets get away. (Is this development a concern, or a good sign that the Islanders' prospect pipeline is getting deep enough they can afford such potential losses?) On that note, also about to expire from the college prospect list: Brian Day and Shane Sims, one of last month's ATO 55s.
Kessel's buddies and UNH fans talk on the Twitters a lot, so if you're dying for late-breaking developments and rumors on this front, that's not a bad place to feed your hunger. Nothing from the Isles at the moment -- they did post a transaction update when Gregoire left UND. But the Isles are kinda busy with the bigger picture at the moment.