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Bridgeport Battles: Poulin, Nilsson and the Islanders Goaltending Future

While Rick DiPietro struggles in Germany, the future of the Islanders goal crease is playing out in Bridgeport.

This guy, hopefully his knees and hips are druable.
This guy, hopefully his knees and hips are druable.
Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

It probably doesn't matter if Rick DiPietro is having a rough start in the German second division or not. The future of the New York Islanders goal crease is playing out in Bridgeport.

Four summers ago, the Isles officially signaled their intent to find insurance for what was already an alarming sequence of DiPietro injuries when they drafted Mikko Koskinen and Anders Nilsson with consecutive picks in the second and third round of the NHL Draft.

Three seasons and a whopping 42 DiPietro NHL game appearances later, absolutely nothing has indicated that insurance plan won't be necessary.

To put it bluntly, DiPietro has not performed at the caliber of an NHL goalie since then. Short samples, injury and rust explanations, and any other condition cannot change that the Islanders will need quality goaltending if they are to rise in the hyper-competitive Atlantic Division. We are flirting with a fifth consecutive season in which it doesn't look like the man who was once the franchise-to-be can provide that quality.

Which brings us to the 2012-13 season in Bridgeport. Nilsson and 2008 draft pick Kevin Poulin have the crease. Each had a turn as AHL goaltender of the month last season. Meanwhile, Koskinen is getting his reps with KalPa in Finland, where he's giving up fewer than two goals per game and putting up a .914 save percentage.

In short, the Islanders have three young goaltenders who are thus far performing as advertised: Developing, growing, making their case to be heir to the crease.

And with Evgeni Nabokov entering his age 37 season and iced by the lockout, while DiPietro enters his 31 season still looking for the elusive form he last displayed {gulp} five seasons ago, whoever wins this year's Bridgeport battle probably has pole position on Islanders Goalie of the Future, which is to say Goalie of the Very Nearly Right Now.

That makes who gets the crease each night in Bridgeport all the more intriguing. (They have their first three-in-three next weekend, so look for a dose of both.) Add another angle with Sudsie gone but Mike Dunham joined by Stephen Valiquette in the goaltender coach arena.

And since goalies are both crazy and unpredictable (hopefully I don't have to mention Jim Carey, Andrew Raycroft or Steve Mason here), you know the openings in the NHL and the advantage among the prospects is due for some twists and turns.

Video and Question

For the textually challenged, we have a brief two-minute video version of this same topic here. Sure, it's a little dry and we need to do better to spice these up. But on the other hand, it features complete sentences -- no small accomplishment for a clip shot while hung over on a family vacation.

Anyway, who do you thing will grab pole position for Goalie of the Future?