Since hockey news in August is as meager as your success rate scoring dates on Twitter, I was kind of looking forward to when nhl.com's team-by-beam summer previews got to the Islanders. Alas. That preview is up today, and while its a fairly thorough round-up for the casual fan or follower of other teams, it doesn't really contain any new nuggets for Islanders fans who have kept tabs all summer.
The theme is "hope" -- hope for the Lighthouse project, for the latest draft crop, for budding prospects and for the returning youngsters like Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo. Quotes from Charles Wang (progress on the LP, but the push isn't over yet) and Scott Gordon (boy is it nice to have NHL-caliber goalies, as we imagined) are of the same message we've heard all summer. A small bit from Garth Snow re-emphasizes the Islanders' evaluation process for draft prospects, which is what motivated them to move up twice to select Calvin de Haan: "We do have a system we're using, a process -- and we believe in it."
So in the absence of anything new for the die-hards, it's always food for thought to hear another perspective on the Islanders' best prospects. NHL.com writer Brian Compton's top five (included in that preview) is after the jump, and it predictably differs from a few others out there, also posted below. I'll add my two cents, but I'm curious: How do you rate the top 5 (and these three lists), and why?
NHL.com Top 5
Aaron Ness - Gaining weight (in a good way), but reportedly had a so-so junior evaluation camp
Jesse Joensuu - Ready to make the jump after a strong AHL season?
Justin DiBenedetto - The 6th-round steal?
Kirill Petrov - Should be an excellent player when his KHL deal ends
Travis Hamonic - Budding WHL and Canadian Junior two-way defensive dynamo
For perspective, Chris Botta had his own list of Islanders junior/college/Euro prospects earlier this month, excluding Joensuu and DiBenedetto because they're already Bridgeport-established, but including this top 5:
1. de Haan
3. Corey Trivino
Meanwhile, Hockey's Future posted its fall top-20 list last week, with -- of course -- a different take:
1. John Tavares (OK, that's unanimous, but the others left him off because of his inevitable presence in the NYI lineup)
2. de Haan
4. Mikko Koskinen
At #7 was Trevor Smith, who debuted in the NHL last year (grrr...taking Pierre Turgeon's #77) and appears higher than at least one guy on each of the other two lists.
Now, I'll betray my bias here while acknowledging people love to toss this stuff around: Like mid-summer NHL playoff predictions, team prospect rankings are subject to wild variations in criteria and data, which is why you can have two lists consider Ness in the top two, while another list drops him behind at least two NHL-ready players and one defenseman drafted only 50 days ago. Frankly, I take any "ranking" with a grain of salt -- but people like to see things in numerical list form, so let them eat cake.
When you're thinking about prospects, you're thinking not only what they could become in the NHL but also what chances they have of actually making the NHL. Some guys (like the undersized Ness, and the Russian-tied Petrov) are high-risk, high-reward -- you don't know if they'll ever even become NHL regulars. Other guys (Joensuu, Harmonic) look like clear bets to become regulars, but their ceiling isn't as sexy as guys in the high-risk/high-reward category.
Me, I'm an NHL fans, so when talking prospects, I like birds in hand over a flock in the bush. A guy could be the next Paul Coffey? Wake me up when he gets here. So I'll give my (still hopelessly arbitrary) list based on who I'd most bet my own money on becoming Islanders regulars:
4. de Haan
Are there others who, if they make it, should be better than any of the above? Yes. Would I place money and time-wounded faith on it? No. But that's why team's have massive scouting staffs, and that's why scouts can talk shop over coffee in cold rinks for hours on end.
How about you? Which pre-natal Islanders youngsters give you the greatest hope?