Without giving too much away (our best kept secrets!) in our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 countdown, the question arising with the next man on our countdown has to do with the future at a position that the Islanders definitely need to strengthen: Is Kevin Poulin or Anders Nilsson the better prospect?
Since Nilsson checks in first on our countdown at an average ranking of 21, our panel gave the nod to Poulin. But it's hardly unanimous and definitely too close to call.
The conditions are familiar: Both took their star turn during Bridgeport's massive spring run to the 2012 AHL playoffs, each winning an AHL Goalie of the Month nod. Each have had health issues interrupt their development, Poulin with the dislocated knee cap two seasons ago and Nilsson with the mysterious but finally diagnosed vitamin B12 deficiency that slowed so much of his 2012-13.
Nilsson spent months on the shelf and then a stretch as Poulin's (and later, Rick DiPietro's) backup in the AHL after his elusive fatigue-inducing condition was diagnosed. He didn't appear in a game between late January and late April, and several of his appearances before that must be viewed with the hindsight
All told, Nilsson still appeared in more AHL games (21) than DiPietro (18) or Kenny Reiter (12), and his numbers (.899, 2.98 GAA) were basically as tepid as Poulin's (.904, 3.22). The simplest summation of both of their games is that sometimes they look fantastic and sometimes they look something much less.
Finding consistency is either the key to improvement, or else the reason neither is the answer.
For my money, since I was one who placed Nilsson slightly ahead of Poulin, I like his raw skills, calmness in net, and of course his size. It's probably also a product of hope for the unknown (Nilsson's health issue provided some cover for a mostly lost year) versus seeing more of Poulin and having concerns whether he'll put it together.
From prospect watchers, I've heard some good if guarded things about Nilsson's game and potential, but the end result is always a couched version of the same: It depends.
Ultimately, they are goalies, which means they are generally unpredictable until they've built up a much longer record, and the Islanders certainly don't have any sure thing prospects in net. Here's how our panel voted:
A sampling of our "well maybe" comments:
Screw goalies. I give up.
He's only this high because I'm assuming his bizarre illness affected his play in recent months.
By the time Nilsson figured out his health situation, which had affected his workouts and caused him to sleep for 10 to 12 hours at times, it was too late to really salvage this season. So before that, when the time came to demote DiPietro, it was Poulin who got the call to the NHL. (Ironically, Poulin got as much work as Nilsson down the stretch.)
Hopefully 2013-14 provides answers and Nilsson gets a long run of starts in the AHL again.
As with all of our 25U25 posts, feel free to quibble, add your own ranking of this player, and offer your own insights in comments as we countdown before a new slate of young assets are added at the NHL draft at the end of this month.