Incoming... - Mike Stobe
The old grey lady of hockey publications still rates the New York Islanders prospects high in its 2013 "Future Watch" issue.
This has become something of an annual rite during the New York Islanders rebuild, so here goes: The Hockey News' annual Future Watch 2013 issue ranks the Islanders prospect pool 10th in the NHL, with Ryan Strome (13), Griffin Reinhart (23) and Brock Nelson (59) earning individual ranks in their top 75.
THN creates its Top 75 based on a panel of 15 scouts and GMs, the mix of which is not declared (nor, obviously, is the identity of the participants, though they say "one scout from each team was invited to be part of the process").
To put the organizational rankings in perspective -- based on a "report card" issued to each team's prospect pool -- THN ranked the Isles system 8th in 2012, but Nino Niederreiter and Casey Cizikas are now considered having graduated and outside the criteria. (For comparison, Edmonton rookies Justin Schultz (2) and Nail Yakupov (5) are still part of the ratings, since this is their first NHL season.)
While the aforementioned Isles prospects made the Top 75, the magazine also issues a top 10 for each team, which appears to be based on the beat (or former beat) writer assigned to that team. So the Islanders section written by Peter Botte ranks the rest of the Isles top 10 after Nelson like so:
A little leaguewide context: Players from the 2011 NHL Draft first round who did not make that top 75 list include Duncan Siemens (Colorado, 11th overall) and Toronto's two picks, Tyler Biggs (22nd) and Stuart Percy (25th).
The top rank goes to St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who got off to a hot start in his rookie year but is currently sidelined with a concussion from a head shot that the NHL supplementary discipline department viewed as just fine.
For the Islanders, next year could potentially see both Strome and Nelson graduating to the big club as the rebuild matures. The time is getting nearer where the big prospect challenge will be finding gems without the benefit of a top-end lottery pick.
P.S.: I don't treat THN's ranking as authoritative, but it's a good barometer of prospect thought in the industry and it's something that comes up in Isles forums each spring. For further context, Cory Pronman of Hockey Prospectus -- who watches prospects and also talks to a lot of scouts -- ranked the Isles system 2nd overall last summer. Again, it's silly to take any one ranking as the end-all, be-all (and indeed, prospect monitoring itself is only slightly more stable than the weather), but if you sample a few you start to get a sense of things.
I occasionally hear the odd critique of, "But who rates the Isles prospects other than Isles fans?" which is an amnesiac question if you've paid attention over the last few seasons. So there are a few reports from outside observers. I cannot promise you that the Islanders will make the right decisions with their assets as they mature, but I can tell you the assets they've accumulated are well regarded around the league.