To build a little more excitement and debate leading up to the 2011-12 season, we're introducing an "Islanders Top 25 Under 25" series -- a simple ranking of the best Islanders properties who have yet to hit age 25 by this year's training camp.
This is an idea conceived (I think) by Oilers blog Copper & Blue and copied elsewhere. We asked LHH readers over the summer if there was interest in an Islanders version, and enough of you acknowledged having nothing better to do so here we are. The thing I like about this exercise is it's not just a prospect ranking; plenty of those exist. Instead it considers every Islanders property under a specific age. (Andrew MacDonald, having just turned 25 this month, barely misses eligibility.)
Today we begin the series with a collection of those who just missed our cut, and some speculation as to why.
Note: For this first edition, I polled Keith, WebBard, mikb, myself, and two particularly prospect-focused LHH regulars, CanadianIslesLifer and MatthewM11. We wanted enough to get a decent number of voters but not so much that we make the first run unwieldy.
Aside from the first cuts listed below, we're going to unveil future results one by one rather than all at once -- but that's more to provide air time for each player (which we don't do enough) rather than badger you with an annoying slideshow. We know the final list will be debatable. We know this is not authoritative. We do think this will be a way to talk about young Islanders players we otherwise wouldn't devote separate posts to.
Before I get to the outsiders, one thing stood out to me among all the candidates: Only two were drafted by a team other than the Islanders, Michael Grabner and Ty Wishart. The age of Milbury is definitely behind us.
The general rule for this poll was who is a better hockey player right now, but as with all subjective rankings, I'm sure we let personal preference and dreams color our perspective. That's okay in my book: This is about averaging a general sample rather than pretending this is a science.
Maybe Next Year
These are the guys who received votes from at least one of us but finished outside of the aggregate Top 25:
Tomas Marcinko -- Marcinko only received one vote (mikb's) from our six-man panel, and that's likely a reflection of our surprise he was even retained this summer. The 2006 draft pick has yet to appear in the NHL, but the fact he's making another go of it -- rather than doing a Joensuu and returning home -- is a positive sign.
Mikko Koskinen -- This is where I point out that our votes were tallied before any preseason games. Koskinen's appearance on the outside may be a surprise to anyone who remembers his draft position (31) or still rates him highly. Personally, I can't figure him out and wonder if the hip injury that ruined his 2009-10 is still a factor. Thus far he has not impressed our panel, although the 23-year-old did appear on two of our ballots.
Corey Trivino -- Trivino was from the second round of that famous 2008 draft, and if he ever makes it to the pros, he'll prove going the NCAA route was the right decision. Had a rough start to his college career but last year in particular he started to change some minds. He appeared on one of our ballots.
Brenden Kichton -- Well, Kichton has been a key of his WHL Spokane team man and earned an invite to Red Wings camp a year ago. Drafted as an overager this past summer, that late bloomer status may be the only reason he didn't make the cut. He appeared on two ballots -- mikb's and Keith's -- each putting him at 23rd. It will be interesting to see if he clears our Top 25 next year.
Justin DiBenedetto -- An oversight, or a deliberate overlooking of an agitator in favor of prospects with sexier ceilings? DiBenedetto will likely never be a scorer in the NHL and might never even be a regular, but his chances are probably better than some of the players who ranked above him in our poll. Of all the guys left out, his may be the most silly because you could easily see him getting significant NHL time this year.
Jesse Joensuu -- This is probably another oversight, as Joensuu played half an NHL season last year and looked at least capable of holding down 4th-line/call-up work. We no doubt penalized him for being out of sight, out of mind. He appeared on two ballots, at 24th, but I don't expect him to appear in an Islanders uniform again.
Robbie Russo -- I confess I'm the only one who voted for the college-bound kid. What can I say? This summer's draft excited me.
Cody Rosen -- WebBard voted for Rosen at 25. Because someone had to. Just to continue an LHH tradition.
Maybe Not Even Next Year
That's it for ballot appearances outside our Top 25. Other players who qualify but did not receive votes include Jason Clark, Troy Mattila, Tyler McNeely (might be another oversight), John Persson, Tony Romano, Mitchell Theoret, and somewhat surprisingly, Aaron Ness.
I will point out again our ballots were in before any training camp (including rookie camp). And I'd bet once you get past the top 15, it all becomes a blur. That said, will pick this series up with #25 and continue throughout camp and into October.
As for comments, since this will be a recurring post you might save your own top 25 for later -- or maybe toss it up now and again later when we get toward #1. But we'll try to orient each post around an individual player, this current post being an obvious exception.