It's a Long Road to NHL for 2011 Islanders Draftees

A commentator on the LHH Facebook mentioned that they used to watch all the local kids including Robbie Russo play at the end of their Cul-De-Sac. It's been a long road from neighborhood street hockey to 4th round draftee, but the path to the NHL only gets tougher.

There's been a lot of discussion about who's going to end up where when it comes to the Islanders opening night lineup. As much fun as it's been, I think some of it is missing Garth Snow's overall plan of taking it slowly with prospects.

Only Josh Bailey (due to lack of talent on the team) and John Tavares (future superstar) have been thrown immediately into the fire of NHL play. For the rest of the prospects who have been drafted under Snow, the NHL was anywhere from one to three stops away.

Play in the AHL is as close as it gets to the NHL level. Playing in the AHL gives youngsters the time to pick up all the ins and outs it takes to survive on the NHL level. For example, many coaches at the Islanders prospect camp last year mentioned that Justin DeBenedetto was night and day better in comparison to his play the year before. Nino Neiderreiter, who was barely old enough to be drafted last year, certainly looks more ready for the NHL following a 70 point year in the WHL and 28 points in 21 playoff games.

After the jump, we take a look at what it took for some of the current Islanders to get to where they are and what it means for the current batch of prospects.


Andrew MacDonald

#47 / Defenseman / New York Islanders

6-1

201

Sep 07, 1986


Andrew MacDonald was drafted in the 6th round in 2006. At the time he was with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL and played one more season with them as an overager. He was given a short (3 game) stint with Bridgeport following Moncton being eliminated from the playoffs in 2007. He started the following season in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies before being promoted to Bridgeport. In 08-09 he had his best AHL season with 32 points in 69 games and a +7 along with a short stint in the NHL.

Despite a strong camp in 09-10 he started the season again in the AHL. Following an injury to Mark Katic in the AHL and Brendan Witt in the NHL, MacDonald was the next one called up and hasn't been back to BP since.

Leagues since drafted: 3
Years from Draft to NHL appearance: 3 (06-09)


Jesse Joensuu

#58 / Right Wing / New York Islanders

6-4

209

Oct 05, 1987


Jesse Joensuu was playing in SM-liiga when he was drafted in the second round of 2006. He played two more seasons for Assat Port before getting his first taste of the AHL in 07-08. Joensuu has been relatively successful since coming over to Bridgeport, getting two shorter stints (7 and 11 games) in the NHL while being one of the Sound Tigers major point contributors.This past season he got his first long term stint with the Islanders, splitting most of the season between BPT (36 games) and NHL (42 games).

Leagues since Drafted: 2
Years from Draft to NHL Appearance: 2


Travis Hamonic

#36 / Defenseman / New York Islanders

6-2

208

Aug 16, 1990


Travis Hamonic was playing in the WHL for the Moose Jaw Warriors when he was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. He was traded during his overage year to help the Brandon Wheat Kings in their playoff run. He had a strong camp with the Islanders, and was going to be one of the key parts of this past year's Bridgeport defense. This plan lasted for all of 19 games, until a rash of injuries to every other defenseman left only Hamonic and Anton Klemetyev as possible NHL callups.

Hamonic then proceeded to play well enough not only to beat out Dylan Reese, but freed the Islanders to trade James Wisniewski. While it was a feel good story on the year, it certainly wasn't the plan for the season with the Islanders beginning the season with 8 defenseman and at least 3 prospects (Mark Katic, Dustin Kohn and Dylan Reese) in front of him.

Leagues since Drafted: 2
Years from Draft to NHL Appearance: 3


Matt Martin

#17 / Left Wing / New York Islanders

6-3

210

Mar 08, 1989


Matt Martin was drafted in the fifth round of 2008. He was one of two players the Islanders drafted from a Steve Stamkos-powered Sarnia Sting OHL team. Martin turned heads during his overage (and Stamkos-less) season, nearly doubling his point total from the previous year. He was an immediate success the following season in Bridgeport, putting up 31 points in 71 games. This included a short callup along with Joensuu to try and shake the team out of a slump it was in at the time.

Martin was going to make the team out of camp this past season until a foot injury caused him to miss most of camp and the beginning of the NHL season. He played a few games in Bridgeport before getting the full time callup to the NHL.

Leagues since Drafted: 2
Years from Draft to NHL Appearance: 2


Justin Dibenedetto

#81 / Center / New York Islanders

5-11

194

Aug 25, 1988


I wanted to finish with Dibo because I thought he was the best example of both the Islanders' patience when it comes to youngsters, and their willingness to use the NHL as a carrot for good play.

Justin DiBenedetto was drafted in the 6th round of the 2008 draft. While his Junior numbers were huge, they were discounted due to playing with Stamkos. The season following being drafted, he proceeded to put up the same point total in a Stamkos-less season for the Sarnia Sting. While promising, DiBo quickly dropped off in his first season at BP in 09-10. His point total was even with enforcer Micheal Haley and defenseman Mark Katic.

This season was more of the same until late Janurary when he exploded with goals. He was rewarded with a short stint in the NHL, annoying everyone he met.

Leagues since Drafted: 2
Years from Draft to NHL Appearance: 3

The Big Picture

In general, other then bluechip prospects, the plan seems to be to give players as much time as they need in JRs/College/Foreign Leagues and then at least one season in the AHL. As we've seen with Rhett Rakhshani, Matt Martin, Jesse Joensuu and Justin DiBenedetto, outstanding play in the AHL is usually rewarded with NHL games.

While we might see Casey Cizikas, Ryan Strome or Kirill Kabanov break into the league with a great camp, the slow but steady pace Snow has taken points to most of the team's prospects being in either the AHL or returned to their Junior teams. Even if Josh Bailey ends up as a bust, Snow and the team have seemed to learn a lesson from his ordeal. Give the kids time.

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