I can pretty much talk about hockey 365 days a year, and do. When a friend asks me a question about the AHL or the Sound Tigers, they will get an answer. It took me a while to realize that because they asked me something about the game I love, did not mean they shared my enthusiasm. I first noticed it in the spring when a friend for years asked me to explain what a ‘developmental team’ was. Listening to my response as I explained the roll the AHL was intended to play in the development of players for the NHL, his eyes began to glaze over when I approached the V-260, V-320 (veteran of 260 or 320 professional games) grey areas. An “urgent call” took him from me, and the next day I was ‘un-friended’ on Facebook. That is when I decided it would best to write about the game. While it is still boring to many, at least the number of ‘Happy Birthday’ wishes I get from Facebook friends won’t diminish.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How much do the players get paid in the AHL?” Were I a man of few words, the answer for this 2011-12 season would be a short “The league minimum is $39,000 the highest paid is getting $6,500,000.” This is true though misleading, and as I am not a man of few words and don’t want to mislead you, let me bore you from bottom to top.
This was a season like no other. From its quick start to its abrupt ending it was unique. In season’s past, after mini-camp, the team would form early in September and begin getting ready for the upcoming year. Practice, photo-shoots, training, find lodging, practice, training, media day, practice, training, meet and greet, practice, training. After two weeks, a pre-season game or two and the season is at the doorstep. Not this year.
The team stayed on Long Island until the last minute, perhaps to give the new coaching staff the training and practice that they needed with the Islanders systems. Whatever the reason, the normal two plus weeks was compressed to a few days. The routine remained the same, but with little time on hand the players were getting up at six in the morning to look for housing before heading to practice, training, etc. Condos and houses rented, friendships that will last for years were made and the season began. And a great season it would be, a banner season by all standards.
This edition of the prospect report I will look to update you on all the news and notes surrounding Islanders prospects. Some prospects decided it is time to go pro while others continue their march through the playoffs with their current teams.
To start, the news came down earlier this week that Islanders prospect Brock Nelson decided to leave college and start his NHL career by signing a 3 year entry level contract. Nelson is considered to be one of the Islanders best prospects and it is exciting seeing him ready to take the next step in his development. Nelson also signed an Amateur Tryout contract with Bridgeport that will allow him to join them this weekend to finish out the season and get a taste of some playoff hockey. Nelson will see his first action tonight as the Sound Tigers take on Syracuse. He will wear number 29.
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.
In this edition of the prospect report I will update you guys on the seasons of Andres Lee and Brock Nelson, two college forwards. To check out my original analysis of these two guys click here.
Andres Lee is a big center man from the University Of Notre Dame. His season has come to a close with his teams lost to Michigan in the 2nd round of the CCHA playoffs. While this doesn’t truly mean the season is over until the NCAA tournament is over it is believed that Norte Dame is a long shot to even make it into the tournament. Lee finished the season playing in 38 games and scoring 16 goals and adding 17 assist for 33 points. Lee led his team in goals and shots on goal for the season.
On this edition of the prospect report I will look at two late round picks from the 2010 NHL entry draft. Jason Clark and Tony DeHart were two quiet picks from Garth Snow during the draft that bought us Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson.
Jason Clark was taken in the 3rd round, 82nd overall in the draft. He is currently in his sophomore season at Wisconsin, where currently this season he has been seeing limited time on the ice and having limited success. He is still looking to make the score sheet this season while playing in just 15 games so far. Last season as a freshman he saw limited time playing in only 14 games and having only 1 assist. He did have a hip problem that required surgery this past season which could be slowing him down.
For this edition of the prospect report I will look at two college forwards that are currently flourishing this season and how they could impact the Islanders. I am talking about University of North Dakota center man Brock Nelson and Norte Dame center Andres Lee. One was a late first round draft pick the other a late round gem found by Garth Snow.
We will start with Brock Nelson who was drafted by the Islanders in the first round, 30th overall in 2010. When drafted Nelson had only played high school hockey in Minnesota so Garth Snow he wouldn’t make the Islanders for a few years. For the past two seasons Brock has been attending the University of North Dakota and has really made strides in his game. So far this season Brock is leading his team in goals (16 so far) and tied for the lead in points with 25 through 23 games. Nelson is a big forward (6’-3” 205lbs) that is learning how to use his size and use it well. He has a hard shot that gets off quickly and is very strong on his skates. Nelson was truly drafted to become a star on the Islanders and from his development so far, it doesn’t look like he will disappoint. A large body that can skate well and shoot with the best of them is a great asset for any team.
One of the endearing qualities of most Islanders fans I meet is their ability to always look favorably toward the future. Say what you will about the last two decades regarding their favorite franchise, Islanders fans always seem to have an optimistic view of what lies ahead. Whether it’s remaining hopeful that plans for a new arena will somehow develop, or a confidence that the team will someday be champions again, hope never dies on Long Island.
Sure, some of it may lie in the fact that they’ve seen and been through the worst and survived, but mostly it’s a strong loyalty to a team that hasn’t rewarded them nearly as much as they’ve invested, both financially and emotionally.
The New York Islanders hosted their second prospect scrimmage at the Nassau Coliseum, a game featuring their top young talent in game action in the middle of the summer. Two 25-minute periods were played between the Blue and White teams that were followed by a series of drills in the skills competition. Such drills included the breakaway challenge, hardest shot, rapid fire and a game in which players had to come in on the goalie to attempt to score, and if they failed, they had to retrieve the puck and race back to the blue line. Both sides went simultaneously for that one, and it was the last event of the scrimmage to cap a highlight reel type of night.