As we drill backwards to 19 on our Top 25 Islanders Under 25, David Ullstrom represents the first one thus far who appeared on all six of our ballots. (*Not exactly a consensus, mind you.)
With apologies to Justin DiBenedetto (who didn't make our collective 25, but arguably should have), from here on out we are in pretty solid prospect land -- at least as far as our panel of six opinionators saw it when we collected votes before training camp.
Reassuring then to see Ullstrom please members of this site with his preseason performances. You can see the toolset that got the Islanders to draft him in 2008, and why a fourth-round, 102nd overall pick has steadily moved from Sweden, to an entry level contract and first year in Bridgeport, to a likely callup to the NHL this year as needs warrant.
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As mentioned in previous posts, ranking prospects/young pros is hard on its face -- placing defensemen, forwards and goalies together posing its own challenges -- but made harder when you're trying to make "playable now" account for as much as or even more than "ceiling."
Ullström falls in the middle of that territory: His ceiling in terms of offense isn't very high, but his smarts and profile sound like someone could be a very useful NHLer wtihin a season or two.
Personally, as for the aforementioned DiBenedetto I see where he can be a pest on the fourth line, and possibly soon. For Ullstrom, hoping for a more versatile (and ultimately valuable) defensive role is why I voted him higher. Of course, in two years that could change, and even Johan Sundstrom could be ahead of them both.
Ullström has been to four Islanders prospect camps now, and he's entering his second year of the adjustment to North America. Naturally, here's what he noticed:
"In Sweden there’s not a lot of fighting so that was a new thing for me," Ullstrom said. "The game is faster here. You have to make decisions faster. The biggest thing is off the ice with a new lifestyle, new people and a new language."
Reports about his play improved as time went by last season. So far in camp, that hasn't looked like a mirage. On his draft day he was seen as a project with a "projectable" frame so I take it as a good sign that he's steadily progressed since then. If that continues, we won't look back on this and feel regret for placing him in the top 19.
Not exactly related to the overall point here, but if Ullström ever does become a regular NHLer and his classmates continue their curve, then that 2008 draft haul of the Islanders ... man, it's looking impressive.
Previous Posts in This Top 25 Under 25 Series
- Those who didn't make the Top 25
- #25: Anton Klementyev
- #24: Not to be Pedantic, but is it Andrei or Andrey Pedan
- #23: Mark Katic shoulders the burden
- #22: Rhett Rakhshani
- #21: Matt Martin, budding 'stache
- #20: Johan Sundström
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 LHH authors 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 with varied enough votes to get us thinking.