If you've been following our Spring 2012 Top 25 Islanders Under 25 closely -- and what else do you have to do with your free time ... work? -- then you probably deduced that the top five are all NHL regulars. (One of them will soon graduate, turning 25 in October.)
The greenest of this final bunch has 135 NHL games under his belt and is one of two more members of the 2008 draft class to hit our list. The other remaining '08 member is the most experienced of the top five, with a whopping 291 NHL games.
That player is Josh Bailey, who checks in at #5 on our countdown. Bailey is just 22 (he'll be 23 in October), and since his NHL debut his experience has always run ahead of his age, his performance always lagging behind expectations. One wonders where our panel would have put him if a late-season return to wing hadn't re-opened possibilities for this still-green NHLer.
By the end of the season, both Bailey and GM Garth Snow had embraced the idea that yes, yes Bailey's future looks more promising as a wing after all. It's as if the in-season departure of the enigmatic winger with whom he had uneven chemistry (Blake Comeau) paved the way for Bailey to take that Enigmatic Wing slot on the depth chart.
(Speaking of Comeau, his awful season made the Islanders look good for dumping him ... but how big of a bounce-back is he due?)
Remember the outcry when the Islanders first moved Bailey to wing a few seasons ago, and complaints of "they're ruining him" emerged? We're reaching the point where if he's fit to be an NHL center, it should start to show by now. Wing may, in the end, be the way to go.
It's possible Bailey's defensive instincts have long been overrated by Islanders fans. Certainly there are some own-zone decisions that make you wonder. But his passing and underused shot are perhaps underrated, and it was from the wing that he was better able to utilize both. We'll see what 2012-13 brings.
Regardless, at 22 Bailey is still very much in the conversation to be an offensive contributor, and with nearly 300 games already he possesses experience no one else in the Top 25 has. Whether that much-debated experience will ultimately serve him well, we're about to find out.
How We Voted
Here are our ballots for Bailey in the Top 25 Under 25. For the most part, I wouldn't say this reflects the relative potential we see in Bailey -- but it does reflect the contributions he is capable of making to the Islanders right now.
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
- #8: Casey Cizikas, New 3rd Line Center?
- #7: Matt Donovan, 2nd-Best D in the 25U25?
- #6: Ryan Strome, stay on target
- 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.