Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Islanders at Crossroads

The rumor mill is buzzing with talks of the Islanders floating Kyle Okposo's availability to other NHL GM's, with as many as four having serious interest.  Okposo, the 7th overall pick in the 2006 draft, flirted with 20 goal seasons twice before injuries limited him to only 38 games last season, and now he's off to a horrible start in 2011-12. Listed at 6'0", 210 Lb. Okposo is a strong, powerful skater with undeniable skill, but is he washed-up? Is he just the type of gifted player that only shines in a strong core of top-six forwards? Is he just too injured?

He's not alone on Long Island. The team in general is playing terribly, including Joshua Bailey, another early first round pick from 2008. He's got 3 points in 18 games to start the year and was rumored to be very close to becoming a Canuck last season.

The Islanders have been so bad for so long they've got a long list of first round picks, some not doing too well in the big leagues while some of the more recent ones seem to be destined to turn out, so, it would make sense that there is some merrit to the Bailey and Okposo rumors, and if I'm an Islander fan I sure hop there is.  This team is sitting on a roster of mis-managed prospects with a whole bunch more waiting in line, and what they need to do is bring in some veteran help (or the assets to help them do so) while the Bailey's and Okposo's are still worth something.

GM Garth Snow is sitting on an embarassment of riches, and the team is on the precipice of repeating history as they rush Nino Neiderreiter to the NHL just to be a healthy scratch.  He's got three games under his belt this season - this is not the way to bring along a premiere power forward.

They need to chalk this season up as a loss, let the kids they have mature and put them through a camp to see what they've got.  There's no quick fix for this problem, and hey, they'll atleast get another crop of high picks for tanking yet again. As it stands they've got about three top six forwards, and only one playmaking defenseman, and possibly no goalie, but they have almost enough in house to ice a competitive squad, it will just take time and the careful acquisition of the right complementary players.

So let's look at what's in the pipeline for the Islanders, starting with forwards

Casey Cizikas - C -  starred for Team Canada at the WJC and is doing well in the AHL this year with 12 points through 18 games.  He's looking like a fourth round steal.

Johan Persson -L - The big Swede is cutting his teeth in the WHL and has 27 points in 22 games so far

Brock Nelson - F - The Isle's gambled on Nelson after his draft stock plumetted.  He was supposed to be a top-ten pick in 2010 but Snow and Co., scooped him with the final pick of the first round and he looks to have finally found his game, putting up near a point per game stats in North Dakotah.

Kirill Kabanov - F - The big Russian winger is tearing up the QMJHL and is finally healthy.  His injury problems knocked him to the third round in 2010 but he is showing his skill now that he's healthy.

Anders Lee - C - The product of the USHL may turn out to be the steal of the 2009 draft. He's a 6'3" power centre (think Ryan Getzlaf) and has nearly a goal per game to start the year in Notre Dame. Not bad for a sixth round pick.

Corey Trivino - C - 8 goals in 10 games to start the year at B.U. The former phenom of the OPJHL is finally showing his promise.

David Ullstrom - C - Another power centre, Ullstrom is up with the big club and has shown a verstatile game in the AHL after learning his trade in the Elitserien.

Ryan Strome - C - It's not very often a 100 point centre falls to 5th overall in a draft year but Strome was a gift and he's looking like a good one.

Don't forget about Rhett Rakhshani, Jesse Joenssu, Jason Gregoire and Justin Dibennidetto who were all taken in the past five drafts and seem destined for NHL careers.

Now on the back end

Scott Mayfield - The Mammoth from Missouri is standing tall in his Freshman season with Denver

Andrey Pedan - The next D-man the Isles took after Mayfield, another 6'4" blueliner, this one a Russian plying his trade in the OHL and showing a good bit of offensive upside

Robbie Russo - The third d-man taken by the Isles in 2011 has 6 points in 12 games as a rookie in Notre Dame.

Brenden Kichton - The Isles had one more blueliner on their wish list at the 2011 draft and took Spokane's 80 point d-man in the fifth round.  He's off to another great offensive year.

Calvin de Hann - The second first round selection the Isle's owned in the 2009 draft they used to select the all-around solid de Haan who has 5 points in 14 games with Bridgeport of the AHL.

Anton Klementyev - Already in his third year in the AHL, not flashy but reliable.

Aaron Ness - Small by NHL standards at 5'10" he is producing in the AHL

Matt Donovan - A fourth round pick in 2008, Donovan left Denver after two productive seasons and is now in his second professional season with Bridgeport where he has 7 points in 17 games to start the season.

Mark Katic, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic are already up with the Isles and have all been taken in the past five drafts.

In a nut shell, it seems like it's due time for succession on Long Island, a great problem to have for Snow.  At a glance I don't see a deeper well of NHL prospects on any of the other 29 NHL teams, and the Isles seem to have improved their drafting capabilities, now they need to develop that talent right and net as much as they can for their current misfits.

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