Ranking the Islanders Top 5 Prospects

With the John Tavares injury striking the final blow in any chance the New York Islanders had in making the playoffs, Jack Capuano and the Islanders front office will look to evaluate some of the young talent the team possesses. The Captain’s partial MCL tear prompted the arrival of three forwards on emergency loan from Bridgeport, the team’s AHL affiliate. Center Ryan Strome was originally sent down to allow him to play during the Olympic Break, but was called up soon after roster freeze was lifted late Sunday night along with fellow line mates Anders Lee and Mike Halmo. Lee and Halmo combined for 39 goals and 88 points in 54 games played at the AHL level.

Fans will get a good look in the last 22 games of the year what kind of younger talent this team has, so it is a good time to evaluate the top prospects in the Islanders’ system, as well as their ceilings and possible landing spots among the four offensive lines and three defensive pairings with the team. In addition, the most likely season the player makes his debut is also listed. The rankings are based on how much value each of the players listed below will contribute to the team during their respective careers.

Note: A prospect denotes any player who has had less than one year of NHL service.

5. Ville Pokka

The name may not be familiar to the average New York Islanders fan, but the 19-year-old certainly has enough talent to warrant consideration for the Islanders next season. However, he is more likely in 2015-2016 due to his present playing situation in Finland. Pokka is playing in the country’s junior hockey league SM-Liiga, so the Finnish defenseman is not treated the same as a North American prospect. He barely edges out Ryan Pulock because of his stronger defensive capabilities and ability to play on the penalty kill, which the Islanders have serious issues on.

Selected 34th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, Pokka is regarded as quick on his skates and good hockey sense, not taking many penalties, and being a plus player. He was a key part of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship for Finland, was a +7 for the whole tournament and +2 in the golf medal game. There are not that many eyes on the Finnish Junior Hockey League, so we may have to see what Pokka’s talent level is when he faces NHL competition in a couple seasons.

Ceiling: Third-pairing defenseman at NHL level; on penalty kill

ETA: 2015-2016

Age: 19

4. Griffin Reinhart

The Islanders selected Griffin Reinhart 4th overall in the same draft that yielded Garth Snow defenseman Ville Pokka. Reinhart has played with the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings since 2009, but was on the Islanders’ roster for a few games at the beginning of this NHL season. In addition, the left-handed defenseman was selected to Team Canada’s World Junior Hockey Championship roster for the second straight time; the roster also featured top NHL prospects Connor McDavid, Jonathan Drouin, and top prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart, making for an impressive group of players.

Reinhart has a great build (6 ft. 4 in., 212 pounds) to go along with no big weaknesses, and often looks like the biggest player on the ice. He is a player that can eat up minutes, who is a primarily defensive defenseman with some offensive potential. He always seems to be in the right position on the ice and it will be hard to find him out of position (cue Travis Hamonic) in odd-man rushes and other situations. Reinhart doesn’t throw his body around leaving himself out of position (cue Matt Carkner), and the prospect is one of the limited bright spots the Islanders will have on defense next season.

Ceiling: First-pairing defenseman at NHL level; on power play

ETA: 2014-2015

Age: 19

3. Calvin de Haan

Calvin de Haan is one of the huge bright spots currently on the New York Islanders. He represented Team Canada in 2010 and 2011 at the World Junior Hockey Championships, winning two silver medals, and began his career in 2006-2007 with the Ottawa Valley Titans. Given the Islanders’ overall poor performance so far this season, including a Goals Allowed ranking of 29th (one behind the Edmonton Oilers), fans have been consistently impressed with de Haan’s play over the duration of his stretch in the NHL. His overall career, however, has been marred by constant injuries. Specifically, a second shoulder injury in the 2011-2012 season left fans and management with a pessimistic view on the future of Calvin de Haan given his trouble getting through a full season healthy.

However, all doubts by fans and analysts around the league have mostly been subdued. The 2 goals, 10 points, and -10 rating this season through 34 games may not stand out to the average hockey fan, he is certainly impressing his coaches.

"For me, when you’ve got a young defenseman, it’s how he plays that next shift after a mistake," de Haan’s coach Jack Capuano said. "Calvin’s shown that ability to forget quickly."

de Haan has impressed Capuano so much now that he is playing alongside Travis Hamonic for the top line on Long Island, and if the rookie stays healthy, he could be a solidifying force on the Islanders’ blue line for years to come.

Ceiling: First-pairing defenseman at NHL level; on power play

ETA: Plays in NHL

Age: 22

2. Brock Nelson

Brock Nelson made his debut with the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup last season, and he has been extremely impressive since then. With the aforementioned injury to John Tavares, Nelson will slide into the first line center role centering Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo, two proven stars. His little ice time compared to his production is questionable at best, but with two stars on his wings his ice time and production should go up.

Fans have already seen the diverse intangibles that Brock Nelson has in his hockey repertoire. Nelson has netted 9 goals this season and 10 assists, while averaging less than 14 minutes of ice time all season.

Brock Nelson hasn’t had a solidified role with the Islanders just yet, playing at the wing at center varying between the top three lines.

This rookie also has a tremendous effect on his teammates, and the reasoning is stated in this article by Islanders blog Lighthouse Hockey. In short, Corsi percentage is basically +/-, but for shot attempts. The percentage represents the number of shots taken at your own net divided by total shots for both teams while that player is on the ice. Of the 20 players Nelson has played with, 18 of them have a better Corsi percentage with Brock Nelson on the ice. Yes, 18 of 20 players have better offensive numbers with Nelson playing alongside them.

It’s very hard to dislike this prospect, and the impact he has made on the Islanders this early in his career is incredible.

Ceiling: Second-pairing center at NHL level; on power play

ETA: Plays in NHL

Age: 22

1. Ryan Strome

Rounding off the list of the top 5 Islanders prospects is former 5th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Ryan Strome. The draft pick had been scrutinized by some around the NHL, as center Sean Couturier of the Flyers (8th overall) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton of the Bruins (9th overall) have already made significant contributions to their respective NHL teams. Strome certainly has the numbers to prove he was worthy of a top 5 selection, tallying 85 goals and 79 assists as a 16 year old with the Toronto Marlboros in Canada. While the competition in the Greater Toronto Hockey League doesn’t compare to the NHL, those numbers are downright impressive. Adding three 30-goal seasons for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, including one season in 2010 with 106 points, this prospect has the making of a future offensive star on Long Island. His time in the AHL this season had him player of the month in November and was selected to the American Hockey League All Star Game, where he recorded two goals.

His small stint in the NHL (15 games) has only generated one goal and four points, but his lack of size (184 lbs.) could be contributed to that. The AHL to the National Hockey League is not a smooth transition, and even John Tavares struggled in his first year with the team. With roughly two-dozen games left in the NHL season, and the Islanders all but out of the playoff hunt, Strome should see quality minutes to improve his game and lay the foundation for a great duo comprising him and John Tavares next season for the New York Islanders.

Ceiling: First-pairing wing at NHL level, second pairing center; on power play

ETA: Plays in NHL

Age: 20

Statistics and information were used from,,,, and

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>

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