We're transitioning into prospect mode as we near the draft and free agency, when some assets will be shown the door while new ones enter the pipeline. This next entry on our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 list is guaranteed to fuel some fun and fodder in comments.
Rhett Rakhshani has: 1) Led the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in scoring in both of his pro seasons; 2) Suffered injury setbacks in both pro seasons; 3) A smaller frame that makes people wonder if the injuries are related, and if he can find a role at the NHL level.
Rakhshani is doing it while (as of March) age 24, which isn't his fault. But his older age (for a prospect) and smaller frame generate some skepticism about his value and potential to the Islanders. A draft signing after four years in NCAA, he is also a restricted free agent this summer.
One thing is certain: He hasn't really had much of an opportunity at the NHL level yet. So writing off the Bridgeport leading scorer because of an inability to adapt to a different role in the NHL is just projecting based on data we don't really have.
To be sure, he isn't known for an overly physical game and probably shouldn't try to make too much of one beyond the firm "battle level" he already shows. But if he can adapt his puck skills and hockey smarts to the NHL he could be useful even if not in a scoring role.
That said, maybe he proves doubters wrong and produces in the NHL, too:
"I want to play in the NHL right now," said Rakhshani, who models his game after Philadelphia Flyers winger Danny Briere and Calgary Flames winger Mike Camalleri, based on their explosive burst in spite of their diminutive size. "I don’t think I have had all that I can eat in the AHL, but I think I am good enough to play in the NHL. Sooner rather than later …
Rakhshani overcame concussion and knee injuries last season to again lead the Sound Tigers in scoring. Then he took a puck to the face at the end of the season, sending him to the dentist to celebrate his summer.
Personally, I see Rakhshani's profile as one not to expect too much from. And yet his drive and skills makes me think he's one of those players you shouldn't count out -- like he's going to find a way to the NHL one way or another.
In terms of his free agency, retaining him is a no-brainer. He's not yet seen his NHL chance, and even if that doesn't work out he's a key scorer and powerplay guy for the Sound Tigers.
How We Voted
As you can see, we were all over the map with how we rated him and what criteria we used -- our biggest ranking spread on the entire list. CIL doesn't rate him at all, while ICanSeeForIslesAndIsles went based on stat production in putting him up our chart.
Panelists: CanadianIslesLifer making a return appearance, as well as most of the authors at LHH.
Note: For those LHH readers who sent their own selections in, JPinVA has them summarized in this FanPost. That one will be fun to measure against our panelists' results.
You can see which other prospects just missed our top 25 in this preview post. Others:
- At #25 was 2011 pick John Persson
- #24 saw another Swede from 2011, Johan Sundstrom
- At #23, the irritant known as Justin DiBenedetto
- #22: Kirill Petrov, with an asterisk
- #21: Brenden Kichton, Western late bloomer
- #20: Anders Lee, loophole guy?
- #19: Big Scott Mayfield
- Our September 2011 25U25 Poll Results
Disclaimer You'll See with Each 25U25 Post
To reflect the variety of ways you can place value on prospects with uncertain futures, we brought a range of philosophies to this: Some voters valued present talent/maturity more, some valued future potential more. All are averaged with the intent of capturing a moment in time in the evolution of the Islanders prospect pipeline.