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New York Islanders Top 25 Under 25: Carter Verhaeghe looks to build strength at #19

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Coming off his first pro season at age 20, Verhaeghe should keep the Grabner trade alive for a while.

The (Ice) Dog years
The (Ice) Dog years
Graig Abel/Getty Images

Carter Verhaeghe is the second piece acquired in the Michael Grabner trade to appear on our Spring 2016 Islanders Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Our colleagues at Pension Plan Puppets had him ranked 20th in a similar prospect rundown for the Leafs last season, and you can read about why there.

His incremental success in juniors, which he finished by captaining Niagara -- where he was initially a teammate of Ryan Strome's -- was enough for the 2013 3rd-round pick (82nd overall) to earn an ELC. But in a surprise preseason curve, that initial pro contract kicked off with the Islanders organization after he was one of five players acquired for Grabner.

At age 20 he spent his first pro season split between AHL Bridgeport and ECHL Missouri, showing progress after each ECHL assignment when injuries didn't get in the way. By late in the the Sound Tigers season he was a productive member of a top line with Bracken Kearns and Mike Halmo along with power play time, though he was assigned to Missouri for their ECHL playoff run. He finished with 15 points in 30 AHL games and 25 points in 20 ECHL games, plus 11 points in 10 Missouri playoff games.

As Michael Fornabaio profiled in the Connecticut Post, the organization likes his game but wants him to focus on building more strength to battle the bigger bodies of the pros:

"It's knowing what I have to do in the weight room," said Verhaeghe, listed at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. "My skating's improved, for sure, my overall game."

With strength, Thompson said, will come better proficiency in the one-on-one battles that coaches stress, along the boards and in the defensive zone.

"His biggest thing is going to have to be consistency, every practice, day-in, day-out," Thompson said, "with his work ethic and his commitment to off-ice work. It's tough during the season to gain strength."

Like anyone in this section of our list, he doesn't profile as a potential top-line guy in the NHL. But he has enough tools and hockey IQ to see the potential for an NHL job down the road, especially if he grabs top-line minutes in Bridgeport next season and rounds out the rest of his game.

Some in our 25U25 are ranked here because they're older and already close to whatever their pro identity will be (be it in the NHL or elsewhere). Others like Verhaeghe are here because they have a ways to go, but the time (youth) and potential to increase their stock.

How We Voted

Here is how our ranks for Verhaeghe broke down, with a few comments from the gallery.

King (CIL) Keith Mike B. McNally Garik Dominik Leboff Les
23 22 18
18 25
23 23 17

Mike B:

The detours to the ECHL don't put me off. He played well at both levels and he also has the luxury of time to mature.

David King (CanadianIslesLifer):

I honestly haven't seen much of Verhaeghe since he played with Ryan Strome for the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs. From what I've read, he's good at faceoffs and his overall game has improved at the pro level since his stint in the ECHL. If Verhaeghe can get his skating to an NHL level, he could pan out as a 4th line centre.

McNally:

At only 20 years old, Verhaeghe was yo-yoed back and forth between Bridgeport and Missouri last season. He averaged .8 points per game between the two leagues, and anytime a player can do that in their first pro season, it is something to take notice of. He followed it up by averaging over a point per game in the ECHL playoffs. He should get a full-time shot in Bridgeport in 2016-17.

Previously on the Spring '16 25U25