This one might be a controversial ranking for the moment due to inexperience, but at every level of hockey Casey Cizikas has exceeded expectations placed on him.
It's not quite flashy, it's not quite physically overpowering, but if you throw the puck into the corner or advance it through the neutral zone, you just get the impression Casey Cizikas knows how to retrieve it.
He adapted immediately in the AHL, earning a trip to the All-Star game. He was quick study in the NHL, giving some of us hope he'll pencil into the lineup and upgrade the bottom six next season. It's not that anyone expects him to be anything like a star, it's that some of us expect him to be a mighty solid NHLer.
Some see a little John Tonelli in him, and that's probably because his dogged work ethic is contagious:
From Michael Fornabaio in April:
His time in the NHL, a year removed from junior hockey, showed him what it'll take to stay there next year.
"My defensive game got better, playing against guys like (Sidney) Crosby," Cizikas said. "I learned things, what not to do. ... There were things I showed I need to work on."
Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson knows Cizikas is willing.
"His work ethic is what separates him," Thompson said. "Other people around him, they work harder because of that."
Thompson is obviously a fan, and Thompson -- if suggestions of him joining the NHL staff bear true -- will have something to say about who plays what role:
"I relate him to (Ryan) Callahan, the captain of the Rangers," Thompson said [in late January], invoking another two-way forward. "That's what I see Casey Cizikas as, only for the Islanders."
In 15 games (four assists, +1), Cizikas was certainly used in a defensive role, getting a Frans Nielsen-level low percentage of offensive zone starts. It's a small sample, but obviously he won't be deployed as an offensive force: The sooner he exhibits his two-way abilities at the NHL level, the better for the Islanders.
Was a month and a half internship last season enough to make him ready for 2011-12? Maybe so, maybe not. (Was it for this my life I sought. /obligatory) But I doubt it will be too much longer, which is why I gave him one of the higher votes from our 25U25 panel.
How We Voted
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.
Related Links You'll See with Each 25U25 Post
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
- #17: Aaron Ness, Mini-Me Rising
- #16: Anders Nilsson, Towering Thor
- #15: Kirill Kabanov, now a Proven Winner(TM)
- #14: Nino Niederreiter, historic rookie year
- #13: Calvin de Haan, please don't break
- #12: Brock Nelson hits the pro scene
- #11: David Ullstrom, Swede the Elder
- #10: Kevin Poulin, goalie with attitude
- #9: Hitman Matt Martin
- Our September 2011 25U25 Poll Results
To reflect the variety of ways you can place value on prospects with uncertain futures, we brought a range of philosophies to this poll, which ranks all Islanders (prospect or pro) under age 25: 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.