Something we think we learned from an admittedly wee-sized 9-game sample in 2011-12: Aaron Ness looks like he can play NHL hockey.
In a refrain that accompanies any prospect who isn't a MONSTER but is particularly relevant to 5'10" 170 lbs. defenseman facing Atlantic Division MONSTERS: How will he hold up?
The answer, if he does hold up, is in his best attributes as a player: Ness' skating and anticipation is what the Islanders saw in him on Draft Day 2008, and his elusiveness is what might keep the situationally courageous forwards who targeted Jack Hillen from being able to prey on Ness when he digs the puck out from the boards behind the Islanders Goalie of the Week.
That debut was a careful but hardly Klementyevian introduction for 14:25 with the Islanders missing both Travis Hamonic and Milan Jurcina.
Of the young D prospects back in 2011 training camp, Ness impressed the Isles most, which is how he received a nine-game injury recall that was longer than both Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan's NHL debuts. His ice time increased from his debut, with several games putting him over 18 minutes.
He lined up mostly as Hamonic's replacement next to Andrew MacDonald -- so nice partner there, but tough shoes to fill -- and also saw some shifts with Steve Staios. Generally speaking, he followed the golden recipe for a rookie: Keep it simple.
Despite that longer look, our panel still has Ness below the other two in our May 2012 Top 25 Islanders Under 25. (And who says size doesn't matter?) But hey, at least we all had him on our ballot, which is a lot more than we could say last summer.
How We Voted
As you can see in a lot of the ballots listed so far, our panel (intentionally) took varying criteria to this list, some more focused on potential (i.e. how valuable a prospect?) and some focused on present-day ability (i.e. Who's best prepared to step into a lineup today?).
That's in part because this is supposed to be a cross-section of views on the young talent (under 25 anyway) the Islanders have from top to bottom, Tavares to Trivino. So I'll explain my high vote like this: Based on what I saw this season, Ness is more ready to contribute now than others who will one day be better NHLers. My approach: If you're age 24, you better be high on this list. If you're 19, you're probably going to be low unless your Tavares special.
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.
- 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
- #18: Rhett Rakshani, Queen of Funk
- 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.