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Top 25 Islanders Under 25: Mark Katic shoulders a burden at #23

The curse of the "A" in the rookie games?
The curse of the "A" in the rookie games?

This is a heartbreaking entry to our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 series because the subject is a guy who just had what was to be a pivotal year wrecked by preseason injury.

Mark Katic is 22 and headed into the third and final year of his Entry Level Contract. The 2007 3rd-round pick (62nd overall) was part of the Sarnia gang and another member of the group of small but fleet-footed defensemen in the Islanders prospect pipeline.

In a year when Calvin De Haan (age 20) turns pro and Matt Donovan (21) and Aaron Ness (21) resume after baptisms last year, suddenly the field is much more crowded for Katic. He was already set to battle with veteran minor pros like Ty Wishart and Dylan Reese for a depth spot this season. Now with shoulder surgery sabotaging the majority if not all of his 2011-12 season, the competition will only be greater when he next appears on the ice.

Not to get too melodramatic about it, but Katic's post-doctor reactions are understandable:

"I don't really remember much he said after that," said Katic, who is as upbeat a player as the Isles have in their organization. "I was just in shock."

Of course, on the other hand the Islanders have some key veteran contracts set to expire in 2012: Milan Jurcina, Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton all expect to play significant roles this season but could be looking for work next summer. Despite his injury, Katic has one thing on his side yet: youth. (No, not Youth, who produced "Bittersweet Symphony" and played bass for the best post-punk band that ever lived.) Youth, mixed with some experience those other pups and the 2011 draft haul of defensive prospects do not have.

Just to illustrate how much views and ratings change at these formative ages, Katic was once seen as higher on the futures chart than Andrew MacDonald, who touched the ECHL before becoming an unsung stud in the NHL.

And that's why our panel's 25 under 25 vote -- taken before preseason began (and thus before his injury) -- puts Katic in the top 25. He saw 11 games of NHL action last year and has been a key player for Bridgeport when healthy. He probably lacks the upside of other blueline prospects who will appear above him on this list (of course, those others haven't yet had the same years of pro for their "upside" to sink or swim).

But he's already accomplished more than several others on our list and thus deserves his place on it (even if, as you can see by the tallies below, we're still in the sector of the rankings where guys did not appear on every ballot):

25 Under 25 mikb M11 CIL Dom KQ Web
Mark Katic 20 n/a n/a 21 24 20

The Top 25 under 25 is an idea conceived (I think) by Oilers blog Copper & Blue and copied elsewhere, incorporated here by popular demand. We cut it off at players who were under 25 going into this season, so Andrew MacDonald, having just turned 25 this month, barely misses eligibility.

For this first edition, we 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. It is absolutely unscientific but solid enough with varied enough votes to get us thinking.

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