After allowing seven goals in an onslaught of a hockey game, the final buzzer at the Nationwide Arena would not only sound the ending of a massacre, but also signify the end of what was a disappointing season for the New York Islanders.
It was a disappointing year for many reasons. With the rebuild entering its fourth season, many expected this team's fortunes to change. For plenty, that meant making the playoffs instead of falling into the draft lottery. For yours truly, that meant climbing out of the cellar but not high enough to reach 8th place. I am sad to say that we were both wrong. The Islanders finished the year out of the playoffs and 27th overall in the league, giving them the fourth overall pick going into Tuesday night's draft lottery for the second year in a row.
On paper you can call the 2012 season just the same as any other. At 14th place in the Eastern Conference, the Isles finished the season with a 34-37-11 record with 79 points. That's only a six point improvement over last season and the SAME exact record as the year before that in 2010. It would almost appear that the rebuild has established a trend of not going up or down, but rather staying put.
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.
I have said that I believe it would be better for the Islanders to finish between 10th and 12th place in the Eastern Conference as opposed to going the 'Fail for Nail' route and trying to get a top-five lottery pick for this summer's 2012 Entry Draft. But if the season ended today, the Isles would go into the lottery with the fifth pick in the draft. Although that is the least likely position to be in when hoping to move up to number one, the Islanders are almost guaranteed to at least have a selection in this year's top 10 class.
With the playoff picture painting itself out on a permanent canvas over the next two weeks, let's put ourselves in the shoes of some NHL scouts and take a quick glance at what the Islanders will be looking at in between game 82 and draft day.
Nail Yakupov is the clear choice for first overall, having a lot of Alexander Ovechkin comparisons made about his play. After Nail comes Mikhail Grigorenko, who has often been compared to Evgeni Malkin. Both of these Russian prospects will probably be out of the Islanders grasp barring a significant change on the day of the lottery. After these two goal-scoring forwards lie plenty of top-rated defenseman.
The playoffs might be further out of sight, and the reality that the Islanders aren't a playoff team has become more and more apparent with every weakening loss, but this is not the time to "fail for Nail."
Nail Yakupov is considered to be the obvious choice for the number one overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The 19-year old Russian sniper scored 101 points (49 goals, 52 assists) in 65 games played for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He currently has 31 goals and 37 assists for 68 points for Sarnia and is a +14. The Islanders, like every other team in the NHL, could certainly benefit from having another scoring winger added to their line-up.
So why do I say that the Islanders shouldn't look to drop in the Eastern Conference standings?
It's still a long shot, but the Islanders have pulled themselves back into playoff conversations with a 1-0 win yesterday over the New Jersey Devils that has put them within five points of the last spot in the Eastern Conference. But even so, there are plenty of questions that surround the New York Islanders hockey club, ranging from the uncertain future of the arena to whether or not Tim Horton's will ever return to the concession stands. The most important questions, the ones that impact the immediate future, are the ones that need to be answered first; GM Garth Snow has to figure out where certain players will fit on his roster as the rebuild pushes forward.
I've already talked about the possibility of Evgeni Nabokov re-signing with the Islanders, as well as teammate P.A. Parenteau returning in an orange and blue sweater. But Snow will have to take a long look at some of his current regulars and decide where they fit with the team long term as some young, fresh faces are pushing for NHL jobs.
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.
A lot of Islanders fans are upset that Garth Snow didn’t do more for the Islanders during the Trade Deadline yesterday and I am here just to give you my opinion on the moves that were and weren’t made. Garth Snow stayed rather quiet throughout the day before moving Rolston and Mottau just at the deadline. I have seen a lot fans on twitter and message boards screaming at Garth because he didn’t do more to help the team at the deadline. I just want to look at a few possible deals that could have been made at the deadline and how they could have affected the Islanders.
One of the Islanders biggest needs is a solid young D-man. The closest one moved at the deadline was Quincey to Detroit for a 1st. Not a bad move for Detroit since their first pick will most likely be at the bottom of the round. Now if the Islanders did that it would have been an AWFUL move because despite our hopes that pick still has a very big chance to be a lottery pick and Quincey isn't worth that!
The season for the New York Islanders is more than halfway over, having completed Game 46 of the 82-game season last night with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime. The win has brought the Isles to a 19-21-6 record putting them eight points out of a playoff spot behind the Washington Capitals sitting in the final, eigth spot.
As John Madonia pointed out in his post-game wrap up, these next two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs are crucial for the Islanders. For the first time in a few years, Islanders fans are able to find themselves in a position where they can start looking at the standings and sharing concerns about the success of other teams in their Conference. Two wins against the Leafs would hypothetically put the Isles at only four points out of the playoffs and see them with a .500 record.
The Isles are not in last in the Eastern Conference; they are currently out of the draft lottery; and John Tavares has emerged as an elite talent in the NHL. Part of the rebuild requires looking for signs of progress in all areas. Although those signs that are mentioned above don't necessarily amount to the hopes and dreams of most Islanders fans, they are still important. Slow and steady as she goes.
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.
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.