Because 25 is a round(ish) number (conceptually, human-habit speaking anyway), and because it matches well with a magical age when boy hockey players become men, we begin our latest New York Islanders Top 25 Under 25 countdown here.
Kicking off the Top 25 Proper is Mike Halmo. His ballot:
|CIL||Keith||Mike B.||Mark||Mike L.||Chris||Dom|
Halmo is just the kind of player you expect to see down here, though he still appeared a longshot even for that modest role at this time last season.
Did something happen last summer to change his trajectory ever so slightly? Halmo put up points in Bridgeport (with good linemates, mostly), and had a serviceable stint in the NHL after injuries turned the Islanders lineup into half rookies. (And I can't remember where, but I remember reading or hearing something about a coach helping to change Halmo's approach last season, perhaps as a route to Pellerin his way to the NHL.)
In his review of the Islanders rookie forwards, Garik16 pointed to something that hints why Halmo's recall might not just be a one and done thing:
Speaking of lack of pedigrees, Mike Halmo is the perfect picture of it. An undrafted Free Agent out of juniors, Halmo was the perfect picture of AHL depth - a small tough guy who wasn't talented enough to put up good points #s in juniors. At best, Halmo would become a fourth liner.
That said, Halmo's #s actually are pretty solid for a bottom 6-er. Despite playing with Cizikas, who had lousy possession #s otherwise, Halmo was actually pretty positive. His neutral zone #s were also pretty solid, and the near 40% individual carry-in rate is at least acceptable for a 4th liner
At the time of his signing as an undrafted free agent, it was noted that Halmo had a bit of "poor man's Andrew Shaw" in him: A tough guy who piled up a lot of PIM in juniors and added to it a surge of offensive production in his final, older (including one overage) seasons.
To expect Halmo to turn into a Shaw is still over-reaching -- and Shaw, as a center, adds different assets to the defending champion Hawks -- but the possibility still exists that Halmo combines the right mix of ability and stereotypical fourth-line traits to carve a niche for himself in the NHL.
Of course, as we saw this last season, whether that happens probably depends on opportunity (i.e. injuries to comrades) as well as his ability to adapt further.
Since I am one of three who left him out of my top 25, I'll just explain this: Though I tend to evaluate the top half of my list based on "what can they do right now," the rest of my list becomes more about prospect ranking, rather than factoring in journeymen and minor pros. So Halmo by rights would be in the middle, since he's already showed some acumen at the NHL level. But I left him just outside anyway. Hope he proves me wrong.
Anyway, here are what a few of our voters had to say:
A pleasant surprise when needed to step in. Nobody will mistake him for the mythical First Line Wing that the Isles have been searching for like so many Bigfoot hunters, but if he's a reliable 4th liner he's worth keeping.
Our bottom six is pretty set, I just don't see him being long term.
Pretty impressive energy showing in his NHL cup of coffee. He's a lot faster than many of the Isles current bottom six...and his hands can't be as bad as the bottom three.
CanadianIslesLifer plays us out:
If you like cheering for the underdog, Halmo is your guy. He's only 5'11, but packs 195 pounds into his frame. He's an excellent checker, delivers the big hits, is a reasonably fast skater, plays a decent possession game and brings lots of energy.
Whatever defensive attributes he needs to improve on, I do not doubt he will master. The problem is his offense has limitations. Halmo projects as a 4th line, physical winger who is isn't a fighter. If he can average 8 goals per season, his offense will be adequate for a 4th liner and he will be an upgrade over Martin and McDonald. Given Halmo's speed and shot totals career wise, I'm optimistic he can achieve this.