The Islanders defensive prospect pool was pretty bare for years. So bare, that former general manager Garth Snow used all seven picks in the 2012 draft on defensemen. Flash forward six years and the only defenseman from that draft who remains in the organization is Adam Pelech. Snow tried a different approach moving forward, quality over quantity. Ryan Pulock in 2013, Devon Toews in 2014, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon in 2015.
Wotherspoon, the fourth-round selection had monster numbers in juniors. He led all WHL defensemen in scoring (10 goals, 56 assists) during the 2016-17 season for the Tri-City Americans. He set team career records for defensemen with 150 assists and 182 points and was an alternate captain for the Americans. He enjoyed two cups of coffee with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in both 2015-16, when he was 18, and 2016-17. The fact that he received an AHL call-up at 18 years old showed how highly regarded he is within the Islanders’ organization.
When it was time to start his first full professional season, it would have seemed that the ten games Wotherspoon spent with the Sound Tigers over two seasons would have given the Surrey, British Columbia native a leg up, it did not. Wotherspoon struggled, playing in only 15 of the first 30 games. His casual play didn’t go unnoticed by Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson.
Like most junior players, Wotherspoon had to adjust not only to the speed of the AHL, but living on his own as well. Once those were settled, Wotherspoon showed he belonged.
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Like Mitchell Vande Sompel, Wotherspoon seized the opportunity. When Devon Toews suffered a season-sending injury, Sebastian Aho was called up to the Islanders. Wotherspoon slid right in. He played point on the power play unit as well as the penalty kill. The lefty defenseman has an underrated shot and it can find its way to the net. He finished the season strongly with four of his seven goals coming in the final eight games.
Reason for ranking
Wotherspoon tallied points very well at even-strength in his two WHL post-draft seasons, and now has done so in his rookie AHL season. At 6’0” his size is less of a concern than Vande Sompel, Aho, or Quenneville for the NHL.
While he doesn’t bring as much razzle-dazzle as the aforementioned three, he shows considerable puck-moving skills. Don’t be surprised if he is called up to NYI for a string of games this upcoming season.
He can skate, think and anticipate the game at a fast pace, he can make the quick outlet pass on the fly or skate the puck out of the zone on the rush. Wotherspoon is also a play maker in his own right and can chip in some goals.
He had a slow start to the season, but significantly improved in the 2nd half after having been paired with BP’s defensive stalwart Kyle Burroughs.
If Wotherspoon can carry over his strong play from the second half of last season into training camp and with the Sound Tigers it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he plays in the NHL this season.
Previously on the Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25
- #15 Mitchell Vande Sompel looks to build upon strong rookie season
- #16 David Quenneville is small but rounded
- #17 Ruslan Iskhakov brings skill, not size, to UConn
- #18 Athletic but inconsistent young goalie Jakub Skarek
- #19 Skill and size but speed questions for Otto Koivula
- #20 A make or break year for Michael Dal Colle
- #21 Questions about Anatoly Golyshev
- #22 New left wing Blade Jenkins
- #23 Switzerland’s Yannick Rathgeb
- #24 Young Finn Robin Salo
- #25 Solid defenseman Kyle Burroughs
- The Roster Cuts