New York Islanders among top U23 NHLers

Travis Hamonic watches prospect evaluation camp, wondering, "Who here's gonna join me?" - Bruce Bennett

The Islanders have two members on this top 50 list. Will they soon have more?

The Top 50 Under 23 list from Corey Pronman at Hockey Prospectus garnered some discussion yesterday. It's worth considering where the New York Islanders on the list rank -- and whether they'll be joined by others in the near future.

(Pronman is not the one who left Tavares off last year's top 25 under 25, so do not unseal your house-bound agoraphobe quips here. He is a scribe fairly high on Ryan Strome and Kirill Kabanov, as discussed and linked here.)

The criteria for this list is at the top of Pronman's column: Candidates need at least 25 NHL games last season or 50 NHL games overall, which helps eliminate "prospects" and limit the list to players who have right to consider themselves NHLers at this point, lockout be damned.

2. John Tavares

No argument at this point that Tavares is behind Steven Stamkos, and in fact Pronman puts Tavares in a pack that are clearly behind Stamkos but very close to each other (Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall). The lesson: It sure is nice to pick first overall. It's been a while since a franchise swung and missed with that pick.

If you still pay attention to this, he has Matt Duchene at 18, though injuries are partly to blame.

20. Travis Hamonic

Hamonic is the 10th defenseman on the list, which at first might alarm you but it's a pretty impressive collection of U23's. Several of Hamonic's 2008 classmates are on the list, with Zach Bogosian behind him at 23.

Honorable Mention: Nino Niederreiter

Niederreiter is of course an interesting one to follow, given his ups and downs and general limbo the past two seasons. He's off to a good start in Brideport, which is both to be expected and yet still a guardedly good sign. He needs minutes and reps at the pro level, to learn how he'll get goals at this level and learn a two-way game.

In terms of his progress, I like to compare Nino to fellow 2010 draft picks Ryan Johansen (drafted one slot ahead) and Brett Connolly (one slot behind), who also struggled in 2011-12 though nowhere near to his degree. Pronman puts Johansen at 31 and Connolly at 36.

As for Islanders players eligible for the list, that's it outside of Josh Bailey (who turned 23 after the cutoff). Bailey rightly doesn't belong.

The question is, as you look down the pipeline, who else would you expect to be on it next year (or the year following, given lockout conditions)?

Ryan Strome better be on it one day or something has gone wrong. Niederreiter too should jump up from honorable mentions or else his career will be going the wrong way.

If Kirill Kabanov makes this list before turning 23, then the Islanders' risk-free gamble there will have paid off. And I'd give an outside shot to Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas, who don't have the draft pedigree of most of the current top 50 but could end up being worthy NHLers before they hit this age.

Finally, the Islanders have plenty more prospects on defense -- with a lot of depth and wild-card options but nothing that makes you scream "Pietrangelo" (though several that could make you think "Bogosian? Cowen? Sure."). Will Griffin Reinhart or Scott Mayfield make the NHL soon enough, and be good enough, to put their names in this virtual ink?

P.S. Hope you're dry and with power soon. A huge portion of our readership community was in Sandy's path.

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