The New York Islanders have struggled mightily in recent years, as they've entered each of the past five NHL drafts with a lottery pick and haven't qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007.
However, there is hope in Islanders Country as general manager Garth Snow continues to stockpile young talent with the idea of building an annual Stanley Cup contender. He added another valuable piece at the 2012 NHL Draft in June, selecting defenseman Griffin Reinhart with the No. 4 selection. Reinhart became the first of seven consecutive blueliners selected by the Isles on draft weekend.
"It really wasn't a protocol set out at the start of the weekend," head amateur scout Trent Klatt told the team's website after the draft. "This particular draft was very heavy-laden defensemen. As it worked out, as names were crossed off, it fell into place that's the type of players we were going to take."
Reinhart will receive the opportunity to play for the Islanders out of training camp, as will a few other prospects. Those who don't make the club will certainly have an impact on the Islanders in the near future.
Here's a look at the Islanders' top prospects:
1. Ryan Strome, C: The Isles' first-round pick (No. 5) from 2011 enjoyed another tremendous season with the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League in 2011-12, tallying 30 goals and 38 assists in just 46 games. Strome, who also represented Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships (he had three goals and nine points in six tournament games), added another seven goals and 16 assists in 20 postseason contests. Still only 19 years old, it will be either New York or Niagara again for Strome this season.
"I feel like it was a good year for me," said Strome, whose overtime tally on Aug. 14 clinched Canada's series victory in the Canada-Russia Challenge. "Obviously, going back to junior I got to play in the World Junior Championships, which was big. [I have] another year of maturity and I've got some time to grow still.
"I'm very happy with where I'm at right now. I'm just trying to continue to get better each day."
2. Kevin Poulin, G: A fifth-round pick (No. 126) from 2008, Poulin spent the majority of 2011-12 with Bridgeport in the American Hockey League, where he helped the Sound Tigers win the Northeast Division. In 49 games, the Montreal native went 26-18-4 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. Depending on the health of Rick DiPietro, Poulin -- who already has 16 career appearances on his resume -- could be ready to become a full-time player in the NHL this season.
3. Griffin Reinhart, D: In desperate need of size and skill on the blue line, the Isles didn't hesitate to use the fourth selection at the draft in June on this 6-foot-4, 206-pound defenseman. Reinhart, who is the son of former NHL player Paul Reinhart, had 12 goals, 24 assists and a plus-23 rating in 58 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League this past season.
"You can see the skill level he has and why he was a top-five pick in this year's draft," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "He's a good-sized kid."
4. Brock Nelson, C: After racking up 68 points in two seasons with the University of North Dakota, the former first-round pick (No. 30, 2010) decided to turn pro in the spring of 2012. The 6-foot-3 center joined Bridgeport in the AHL, where he will almost certainly play this season.
5. Anders Nilsson, G: The Swedish netminder made an immediate impact in North America this past season, as he split the goaltending duties in Bridgeport with Poulin. Nilsson won 15 of his 25 appearances with the Sound Tigers while boasting a 2.42 GAA and .921 save percentage. A third-round pick (No. 62) in 2009, Nilsson also had a 2.75 GAA in four games for the Islanders, including a shutout.
6. Casey Cizikas, C: After earning 45 points (15 goals, 30 assists) in 52 AHL games, the gritty two-way forward earned himself a call-up to the Islanders for the final 15 games. Cizikias, who was New York's fourth-round choice (No. 92) in 2009, will battle Marty Reasoner for the role of fourth-line center in training camp. He can win faceoffs, kill penalties and contribute offensively.
|Calvin de Haan, who made his NHL debut last season, will compete for a permanent spot on the Islanders blue line in 2012-13 (Getty Images) |
7. Calvin de Haan, D: Will this be the year de Haan makes the jump to the NHL? A first-round pick (No. 12) in 2009, the offensively-gifted defenseman has been slowed by injuries but did appear in 56 games for Bridgeport in 2011-12. With spots available on the Isles' blue line, de Haan will receive every opportunity to make the big club out of training camp.
"I want to get there as soon as I can -- but at the same time, I want to have an immediate impact," de Haan told NHL.com. "If it takes me a couple more years to develop, that's fine with me. I just want to be the best player I can and be an impact [player] right away.
"It takes time. Maybe I won't start the year in the NHL, but my goal is to finish [there], for sure."
8. Scott Mayfield, D: Another big defenseman (6-foot-4, 203 pounds) who will return to the University of Denver for his sophomore season. As a freshman, Mayfield -- New York's second-round pick (No. 34) in 2011, showed both skill (12 points) and a willingness to stand up for his teammates (76 penalty minutes). It's not out of the question that Mayfield opts to turn pro after this collegiate season.
9. Kirill Kabanov, LW: The Islanders took a gamble on this Russian winger at the 2010 Entry Draft, and so far Kabanov is showing he may have been worth the risk. He spent this past season with Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he tallied 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 50 games before adding four goals and 13 points in 11 postseason contests. Now 20 years old, Kabanov will play for Bridgeport this season.
10. Matt Donovan, D: This speedy blueliner from Oklahoma did not look out of place during his first season as a pro in Bridgeport, collecting 10 goals and 45 points in 72 games. Donovan, who helped the United States win gold at the WJC in 2010, will compete against the likes of Calvin de Haan and Aaron Ness for an NHL job in training camp.
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
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