To say it was a surprise to see Dustin Kohn get his first 22 NHL games this season is to forget that NHL bluelines routinely face injuries, and the Islanders have the triage part of constructing an NHL blueline down pat.
To review: Entering the season Kohn was still low on the depth chart at age 22 (turned 23 in February). But as it turned out, he was a Radek Martinek injury, a Brendan Witt demotion, an Andy Sutton suspension, a Nate Thompson waiving and a Mark Katic injury away from getting his first NHL callup. After that, he was a Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald injury away from getting 21 more games.
That's how the last soldier standing from the last Mike Milbury draft got his first NHL exposure. Where he fits on the chart for next year depends on Garth Snow's summer plans and the Islanders' evaluation of where his development stands. Our opinion doesn't count, but we can issue our own eval' anyway, because that's just what we like to do as May turns to June and we start to wonder where the time has gone. It has been 50 days since the last Islanders game.
#56 / Defenseman / New York Islanders
Feb 02, 1987
1-ish (22 GP)
RFA ($735k NHL salary in 09-10)
If Kohn sees time, lightning has struck Radek again.
I don't typically do report cards for players who only had a quarter-season of exposure -- and certainly Kohn did not play many important minutes even in those 22 games -- but since he's still a prospect, he's due an RFA qualifying offer from the Isles and he might feature in future plans, I want to gauge people's impressions in comments.
I'll start with mine, and some data for thought: First, I think we can hardly count on him becoming a full-time NHLer. That's not an indictment, but rather a testament that we didn't really see him tested. Of Isles blueliners who played at least 10 games, the only one who was sheltered by Scott Gordon with weaker competition was Brendan Witt.
Again, I don't like to cite the advanced rate stats at Behind the Net for such small samples -- for example, in a similar number of games, Dylan Reese comparatively looks like a star -- but it's worth noting that Kohn received the rookie-shelter treatment, yet opponents still drove play (Corsi rel. QoC) when he was on the ice. (I did think Reese was a better D-man in his sample, but Reese is a few years older and got almost four minutes more per game.)
Maybe that's Kohn learning on the job. Maybe that's small sample size -- hey, maybe it's even a guy trying to find his legs while only getting 11 minutes or less on most nights. The point is, we just don't know because there haven't been enough at-bats and he's still of developing age.
|2009-10 - Dustin Kohn
|+/- per 60
|- 0.97 (8th of 9)
|Sound Tigers (AHL)
Kohn's most common partners, who each saw about 40% of his ice time, were Jack Hillen and Freddy Meyer. If we had the data, it would be interesting to compare how each fared with Kohn (and vice versa), but again we're talking about tiny samples.
I do remember Kohn throwing a few Meyer-like hits when paired with #44, but in any case it's not only a question of what Kohn can do, but also what role he'd be assigned. In the seven NHL games where Kohn saw 13 minutes or more of ice time, he was +1 with 3 assists. Can he use his decent size (6'2") to good effect if given enough minutes to keep his legs warm? Is he destined to be a spot call-up/depth guy? Will he be retained, and get a chance out of camp or after injuries next year to show us?
Time will tell. He wouldn't have been in the AHL All-Star Game and probably wouldn't have gotten the call if not for Katic's injury. But he's only 23 and he didn't squander his callup in 2009-10, so the script is not yet finished on this 2005 2nd-round pick.
So...I have no poetry for the man, and it's weird -- unfair, even -- grading him on 22 games of mostly spot duty. Nonetheless, what did you see in his limited time in the bigs? More importantly what do you see for his future?