Recently, the New York Islanders have had some good luck when it comes to their prospects. More so than the prospects themselves, in certain regards. See, as their junior or college seasons have ended without huge playoff success, their professional careers have taken off.
This is a letter addressed to the New York Islanders. This is the team with a hibernating fan base that has been starving for any sustained success in recent years. Success is a distant memory on Long Island and despite some stretches of promising teams, they have gone 30 years without a championship.
In that time span, the team has went from the envy of the league to the polar opposite. For a franchise that was once so successful, seeing the losing seasons piling up was disheartening.
For the younger generation of fans who were born after the Dynasty years, we have known nothing but despair and heartache. Aside from a Shawn Bates penalty shot and a Wade Dubielewicz poke check, the memory bank of positive memories are thin.
Puck drop on Long Island, where the Isles were facing the Winnipeg Jets, was followed shortly thereafter in Worcester, Mass. when the same ritual was performed to start the Sound Tigers vs. Sharks contest. Isles fans would get to see Anders Lee play his first game as a professional (historic in that it marked the first time all members of an Isles draft class, 2009, ‘made it’) while Sound Tigers fans would watch top prospect Ryan Strome (2011) make his pro debut. Neither would disappoint.
The Sound Tigers have ten games remaining in their season and while they still have a chance to make the playoffs, the chance is remote. It is likely the team would have to run the table in order to extend the season.
Ten W’s in ten games is a lot to ask of a team whose record in ‘Tweetish’ (140 chars. or less) to date is: ‘#BST-W-W-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-W-W-L-W-W-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-W-W-W-L-L-L-L-L-W-W-L-L-L-L-W-W-W-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-W-L-L-W-W-L-L-W-L-L-W-L-L.’ It does not look good for the playoffs, but tables have been run and there are still some compelling reasons to visit the Webster Bank Arena for the remaining games.
Ullstrom is most effective when he's skating hard and working the forecheck to create turnovers. When he is on, he's also a pest and easily gets under the skin of opponents, all the while playing a clean game.
When Ullstrom is doing these little things, that's when he is creating his best offense. Forcing turnovers and converting them to offense is the hallmark of the young Swede.
The Isles went with Tavares and it certainly is looking like the right choice. He is one of the hardest working players in the National Hockey League and he is super competitive. He leads by example and makes those around him better.
But what about the rest of the 2009 draft?
Let's take a look at that draft and see where they are now.
Lee, the Islanders 6th round pick (154th overall) of the 2009 NHL entry draft, is a center on a very good Fighting Irish team. The 6'3" 227 pound Edina, Minnesota native is a junior for the 7th ranked Notre Dame squad.
What is going on with the Islanders and their prospects? Rhett Rakhshani has signed a one-year deal with HV71 in Sweden, Justin DiBenedetto is on his way to Austria and Mark Katic is going to Germany. Granted Trevor Gillies also signed to play in Russia but he was never going to see the NHL again and I think we can all agree on that. What does this mean for the players and the Islanders as an organization?
The rebuild is only four years old, and although I use the word, "only," I understand how long that it has actually been for the loyal fans who continue to come out and support this team, waiting for them to finally return to glory. But the fact of the matter is that these things take time - a lot of time.
The St. Louis Blues are a prime example. They have only made the playoffs once since the lock out and are now finally poised to make a serious run for the Stanley Cup for the first time since Chris Pronger was on the team. President John Davidson has been building them through the draft while signing veteran free agents, much like what the Islanders have done. And the free agents they have signed haven't exactly been guys in their prime, such as Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner. They also had trouble scoring goals for a long time as well. But finally, things are starting to fall into place and they are on the brink of becoming a power house hockey team in the Western Conference.
The Isles, much like the Blues, are still building toward that stature. But one thing is for certain; the Islanders farm team next season is going to play a major role in the rebuild.