Another New York Islanders who is aging out of our Top 25 Under 25 (like that matters), and who might end up squeezed out of the organization's growing depth (now that matters), is Minnesota product Aaron Ness, who turned 24 in May.
Part of the 2008 draft class, the undersized (obligatory modifier) Ness saw 20 games this past season with the Islanders, but he has been lapped by draft classmates Travis Hamonic and Matt Donovan, as well as 2009 pick Calvin de Haan.
Like Donovan and de Haan -- all of whom have been developing in Bridgeport together the last three years -- his entry level contract is now up. Unlike Donovan and de Haan, a qualifying offer this month to retain his rights is not a given.
That's not to say Ness hasn't been good at the AHL level and serviceable at the NHL level. But the pipeline is getting crowded, and he is not getting younger. Depending on moves like the pursuit of and the potential packaging of prospects for other help, Ness' future is unclear.
Since it's not my money and I like depth, I'd at least qualify him and see what happens. He has three more years of experience than a bunch of the young pups now hitting Bridgeport. But I understand if people are casting their eyes elsewhere.
Here is how we ranked Ness on our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 ballots, poll taken in late May:
|CIL||Keith||Mike B.||Mark||Mike L.||Chris||Dom|
Here is how a few of us rationalized our picks...
This is based mostly on longevity, but I don't think he's part of the Isles' future plans. He may be one of the guys they let walk as an RFA. He's serviceable given a good enough scenario.
I don't really know what to make of Ness. I think +/- (DRINK) is largely piffle. He had the lowest PDO of any Islander who played at least 20 games (.933, which is really awful, or unlucky), so his -13 doesn't bug me so much. But like Kirill, he's been lapped by the field. The Isles can use him as a call-up/bottom pair guy, and that's fine, but they have better players higher up on this list.
The door is likely closing on Ness, thanks to the incredible potential talent ahead of him. A good problem to have, I suppose.
I'll be somewhat surprised if Ness is back in 2014-15 with the Isles. He could very well catch on with another team, might even make the show as a depth D, but he is never going to live up to any of those pre-draft, Phil Housely comparisons.
Small and slight, Ness is fast. He is also really good at using his stick to make defensive plays, looking very much like a pool player poking the puck at high-speeds, but I can't help but think, he's developed this skill because of his lack of size. Given the Isles depth at D and Ness probably already being at or near his ceiling, I think his Islander days are finished.
What say you, reader? Is there room to qualify him? Or is his next stop, Europe? Or will the Islanders let him go and watch him Spurgeon it up with another team?