With the NHL in a lockout that important part of the AHL experience was gone and it was missed. Hockey wasn’t the same. But the NHL is back and hockey is once again whole. Some five or six Sound Tigers will be called-up in the next few days to begin the abbreviated 2012 -2013 season, others will be called as needed over the next few months.
My friends are now asking me “How are the Sound Tigers going to be after they lose all those players to the Islanders?” My honest response is “They are a better team now than the club that started the season.”
There might not be any NHL hockey to watch this season, but the Islanders have some young and talented skaters that are developing nicely with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.; Brock Nelson is one of them.
Nelson was selected by the Islanders 30th overall in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and spent two years playing with the University of North Dakota. In his sophomore season, Nelson scored 47 points in 42 games, earning him a brief stint with the Sound Tigers at the end of the 2012 season.
He did not put up any points in the four games he dressed in for the Sound Tigers. This year, however, has been an entirely different story.
A streak is not a streak until it reaches two games and the Sound Tigers have just suffered their first losing streak of the season, this one a three gamer. Last seasons’ Division Championship winner endured two such three gamers, a four, a five and a six game swoon before they captured the title.
Though still ahead of last year’s pace (20 pts. after 17 games vs. 18 in 2011) this recent streak has caught the attention of the otherwise idle Isles organization brass.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season and while some of this early season success can be attributed to the ‘influx of NHL talent’ that every team is enjoying, there are other subtle benefits that this current NHL forced lockout has provided and the Sound Tigers are taking full advantage.
Similarly to Nino Niederreiter, many were wondering where Ryan Strome would be playing at the start of the 2013 season. After being selected by the New York Islanders with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Strome remained with the team straight out of training camp. He only watched two NHL games from the press-box before being sent back to his OHL team, the Niagara Ice Dogs. (Photo Credit: mandelux12/Flickr)
Strome continued to impress with the Ice Dogs and had some hockey pundits expecting him to crack the Islanders line-up this year. But the NHL work stoppage has basically kept many Islanders prospects with their respective junior teams or their farm team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Therefore, Strome has continued his career with the Ice Dogs this season, playing for them for the fourth year in a row.
After a rookie season that no one expected from an Islanders top prospect, Nino Niederreiter is finally getting the development he has needed in the professional ranks of hockey. (Photo Credit: MVerminski/Flickr)
After being a 40-goal scorer in the WHL, Nino became a fourth liner that saw very limited ice time that only resulted in one goal in 55 games played in the NHL. He saw injuries and even some healthy time spent in the press-box as a scratch, and was often playing with veteran penalty killer Jay Pandolfo, and career AHL'er Tim Wallace.
It seemed as if the big power-forward was potentially turning into a big bust.
Before the first puck was dropped this year there were a few questions about the Bridgeport Sound Tigers chances of repeating as division champions. The biggest question being, who is going to do the scoring?
Of the top thirteen scoring forwards from last season only David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas returned. Free agents Brandon DeFazio and Colin McDonald, acquired from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penquins, and Matt Watkins from the Portland Pirates will provide a solid veteran presence that can be counted on to put up some big numbers, but what about the kids?
Left to carry the banner as the premier hockey league in North America is the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Islanders proud affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
If you are planning a trip to the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport for your first taste of AHL action you are in for a treat. The quality of play and level of competition will leave you impressed, the more intimate fan experience and ambiance of this state of the art facility will certainly leave you planning to return.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has signed a contract with Barys Astana of the KHL. The big Swede is the first Bolts player to decide to play in Europe during the lockout. The 21 year old blue liner had five goals and 18 assists in 61 games with Tampa Bay last season. (Hedman photograph/Linda Hamilton)
Teams in the KHL can sign up to three NHL players at a maximum of 65% of their NHL salary during the lockout. Barys has also signed Winnipeg Jets center Nik Antropov.
Should the lockout continue, expect Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis to take their talents overseas. Both have had preliminary talks with European teams.