It is rare when a player stays for more than three seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The team exists for one purpose and one purpose only … develop talent for their NHL affiliate, the New York Islanders.
Each September, a half-dozen or so twenty-year olds arrive in Bridgeport to begin their careers as professional hockey players against bigger, faster, stronger competition.
This years arrivals could include forwards Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, Johan Sundstrom, John Persson, Mike Halmo and perhaps Nino Niederreiter, each, an investment by the Islanders in the future of the franchise.
In the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft, the Islanders selected two players from Sweden, John Persson and Johan Sundstrom, who will most likely be starters for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season. Each has taken a different path to reach their goal … a full time job in the NHL.
While Islanders fans become increasingly impatient with the teams’ rebuilding, Sound Tigers fans await the annual summer, team reconstruction.
233 goals were scored by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Not a team record and not even close to an AHL record, but enough to win the Northeast Division title. Of the 49 skaters that laced them up last year, six of them accounted for 104 (or roughly 45%) of that total. None of them will return for next year.
Winning a title obviously requires good goaltending, and the tender tandem of Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson was exceptional. Each of them earned Goaltender Of The Month recognition from the AHL during the year. One of them will not return next season.
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?
It almost seems like it's been the same story heading into the off-season year after year now; the Isles lack a top-six forward and top-four defenseman that could help make them a competitive team that could be fighting for a playoff spot.
They've tried free agency and have been shot down by guys like Paul Martin. They tried the trade market with James Wisniewski, who ended up being a major disappointment while wearing orange and blue. They even tried that route once more, gaining the negotating rights to Christian Ehrhoff. He didn't want to sign, and I think after seeing how he played under his very luxurious contract, most Isles fans probably don't care.
Although both trades were under different circumstances, they shared one glaring similarity. Not one of them involved any actual players leaving the Island. Ehrhoff's rights were acquired for a fourth round draft pick, and Wisniewski came on board in exchange for a 2011 second round pick and conditional 2012 fifth round pick. Despite the early signs of GM Garth Snow developing a pattern, there is reason to believe that could change heading into this summer's off-season.
With this edition of the prospect report I will continue my count down of the top 15 prospects in the Islanders system from this past season. If haven’t read the first part of the countdown then click here and catch yourself up.
#10 Mikko Koskinen – Goalie, KalPa (Swedish Elite) 6’-6” 202lbs
Mikko is the first and only goaltender to make this list as Kevin Poulin and Andres Nilsson played their season in the AHL. Koskinen spent his season in the Swedish Elite league in order to avoid a three headed goalie monster at Bridgeport. Playing for KalPa this season, Mikko appeared in 25 games posting a GAA of 2.30 and a save percentage of .916. Koskinen also played in 6 games during the opening round of the playoffs in which KalPa was eliminated.
For this edition of the prospect report I will take a second look at the two Islander’s prospects that played in the World Juniors tournament and see how their season has progressed since last hearing from them. Ryan Strome and Johan Sundstrom are two very solid prospects for the Islanders that both have a very good chance of one day wearing an Islanders jersey full time. I introduced you readers to these two prospects after the closing of the World Junior tournament in January. You can find the original article by clicking here.
Ryan Strome is still considered by many to be the top prospect in the Islanders system and he continues his impressive season with the Niagara Ice Dogs. Ryan Strome hasn’t played a full season this year due to injury but in his limited 38 games he has still scored 23 goals and 31 assists. The injury Strome suffered was a broken nose from Brody Slik. The punch was considered to be a sucker punch and landed Slik a 10 game suspension. The good news is that Strome is back playing and still producing at a high level.
With the world junior’s tournament coming to a close earlier this week, it seemed like a good idea to take a look at the two Islanders prospects that took place in the games. Ryan Strome played for team Canada and Johan Sundstrom played for team Sweden. Of course Sundstrom seemed to come out of the games better as he is walking away with a gold medal (probably good for some locker room trash talk in the future).
Ryan Strome led the favored Canadian team into the tournament and didn’t disappoint with his play. In his six games played during the tournament he scored three goals and added another six assists. Unfortunately, Strome left the games with a bronze medal after losing a tough game against the Russians in the semi-finals.