On a foggy foggy night, on the brink of the MOU, came what would likely be the FINAL game of this iteration of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Lockout version. Never before and perhaps never again would such talent grace the CT Shoreline, or the AHL in general.
Facing a quick, slightly chippy, quality Portland Pirates (bodes well for parent Phoenix Coyotes, if there is to be a Phoenix Coyotes, and given climate change, if there is to be a Phoenix...) team in the middle of a 3 in 3 sequence, the Sound Tigers played well, but in many ways provided a fitting crescendo to what has been a baffling, fascinating half season.
This Sound Tigers team isn't filled with players that will turned on your Red Light Roxanne. What they do have though is a long list of players ready to put on the skates for the Islanders when called, and lets review them one at a time, shall we.
Will try to do this in some semblance of order of readiness to contribute in the NHL/likelihood to be a quality contributor.
0 - Hamonic - he's been here as a technicality - it was clear (to me anyway) that during his first Bridgeport stint, he was a gem in the waiting - a big future awaits
1 - Casey Cizikas - this guy has such a heart & head for the sport - yes, he scored a very nice goal (he will score goals, and important ones in the NHL), but it was the little things - covering for Hamonic when he pinched, making the thoughtful pass - this guy is a star in the making - he may never be more than a 4th line Center, but there may never be a better one. If the Islanders don't call this guy up, they have no sense whatsoever. I will judge the Snow regime on whether they get this or not right now. Cizikas is now what Hamonic was before - a clear NHL player who needs to be brought up right now and he'll never look back.
2 - Brock Nelson - Brock continues to improve, and when someone keeps getting better, and plays with as much drive on Offense as Defense, you know you have something potentially special. I'd find a way to get him up to the NHL as quickly as possible. Perhaps not now, but very soon. Nelson's two way game would make him an excellent 3rd line Center - you have to wonder if Strome gets time as the RW for JT, Nielsen & Nelson as Centers 2 & 3 are in many ways perfect - Cizikas as 4, and who will have better Centers than we will soon, Islander Face permitting?
3 - Johan Sundstrom - this guys's game is so 2-way solid, I think he's better than Ullstrom, and he's one of a number of Sound Tigers who's D should translate very well to the NHL - again, they may not have room for him quite yet, but they should make some - Reasoner for example has no business being in this guy's way. The other thing to say, is once a player like Nelson or Sundstrom shows they belong in the AHL, they really don't have much more to learn. The AHL is the AHL, its nowhere near the NHL, and so to some degree, you need to burn a season in the bigs to let talented players figure it out in person. Problem - see just above, we have no more room at the Inn for Centers - what to do?
4 - Nino Niederreiter - interestingly, they played Nino at LW tonight - 4 LWs perhaps, in order =
Moulson, Grabner, Nino, Martin
Why do I have Nino in 4? I am a bit concerned about his D - but you have the sense that he is what he is, and its likely time to see what he has, and not on the 4th line
5 - Matt Donovan - his poise and speed make him a likely 5 this year, and he has great potential - he's not the biggest guy, but with some Mayfield's (looked very solid last night v UNO on TV) and Reinhart's coming, Donovan will have some great friends helping become what he can be.
6 - Aaron Ness - I really think Ness is right behind Donovan - Ness is a very good passer of the puck - he's very Jack Hillenesque - his only problem is we already have Streit & Donovan & Amac ahead of him - Ness & Hamonic have made a very good combo when paired - find a way to make it so.
7 - Colin McDonald - it is so clear that McDonald is ready to be a very good 4th line RW - they have been playing Zeeker with him, and they work well together - again, find a way to make it happen - he's a solid hitter with some upside
Martin-Cizikas-McDonald will put fear into the opposition - make it happen
8 - Jon Landry - I have this vision of Streit-Landry as a combination. Call me crazy, but many have been calling for this guy to get a chance - and who do we have on the right side anyway? He may just get the chance at some point, perhaps not quite now. His poise stands out, he has speed, he can score - this is the kind of player we need to at least give a try
9 - David Ullstrom - nothing wrong with David, its just how insanely deep this team is - he may well not be going full guns, knowing that his time is coming - would imagine he'll be very solid - will he be better than decent, we'll see
10 - Kevin Poulin - okay, I now understand why they aren't calling up a goalie for camp - Poulin was after a decent 1st period, totally out to lunch in period 2 - bad decisions, out of place, Montoya like handling of the puck, really baffling, and in a game like this where you'd think the bigwigs were watching - I don't get it, but neither perhaps will Kevin get called up right now. He needs to stand on his head a bit more - is he healthy? Yikes
11 - John Persson - playing a decent AHL quality game is good to see - will it be enough at some point? We'll see, you have to doubt he'll make the Islanders opening night roster a week from now
12 - Ty Wishart - Ty is Ty, he can be a 6, not more. He has strengths & weaknesses - he has a nice shot - he doesn't hit enough for his size. It might be time, we'll see - he is Milan Jurcina right now
13 - Matt Watkins - fiesty, scoring goals, may get 4th line time at some point - love how they keep bringing in talented kids out of nowhere
14 - Scott Campbell - ditto Campbell, a free agent signing out of the ECHL - and he has some game - they have some very good scouts earning their money scouting the ECHL & similar - keep an eye on this guy
15 - Brandon de Fazio - seemed a bit off tonight - it happens, he's been very solid
16 - Blair Riley - does a nice job here, very unlikely to go further, but hey, that's not the point
17 - Brett Gallant - had an epic fight with Rechlicz - seek it out
18 - Dallas Jackson - a bit slow, wasn't great, but he could be a useful part for the Tigers going forward, now that the level of play in this league is about to go way down
Didn't play - expect a lot more of going forward - Nilsson, Hill, McIver, Combs, Costello, Backman, Halmo, MacKay, Maggio, Fast, - still injured - Cantin, Kabanov, de Haan
Off many of these guys will go tomorrow afternoon to Atlantic City (why?) to play the mini Devils - a preview of sorts of next week, but perhaps none of the soon to be Islanders & Devils will remain now that we have an MOU
This was probably the end of the line for this bunch - on to bigger & better things