New York Islanders' Best Prospect at Each Position
Their current NHL core consists largely of homegrown talent, and fortunately for their fans, it looks like the pipeline is going to continue to supply the team with game-breakers in the foreseeable future.
Here, we'll review the best prospect the Islanders have at each position.
Left Wing: Kirill Kabanov
With Nino Niederreiter shipped to the Minnesota Wild this offseason and David Ullstrum's NHL future in flux after signing in the KHL, Kirill Kabanov is the best prospect the Islanders have at left wing.
The lanky Russian's biggest question marks are consistency and intensity, a story most NHL fans have seen before from Russian prospects. He is dedicated to playing in North America, however. He spent his teens in the QMJHL, not the KHL.
His final year in juniors was his strongest, as he scored 21 goals and 34 assists in 50 games for the Shawinigan Cataractes in 2011-12.
The AHL didn't afford him the same level of success. He scored only two goals and seven assists in 32 games for the Sound Tigers in 2012-13.
A serious wrist injury earns him a free pass on last year's performance, but this year Kabanov will need to show the team more in Bridgeport if he wants serious consideration as an Islander.
John Persson may be more likely to get to the NHL, but it's really a bit of a coin flip with these two. Kabanov has the edge in the pure talent department.
Center: Ryan Strome
The Islanders are extremely deep at center, and they are likely set for years to come.
Brock Nelson could be the Islanders' best prospect, and he's the guy who may stand in Ryan Strome's way when it comes to earning a roster spot out of the gate.
In a few years, however, John Tavares and Ryan Strome could be a household duo among the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, Henrik Zetteberg and Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit and Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim.
Strome is a likely candidate to move to right wing in the near future to maximize the Isles ability to use him, but for the time being, that's just speculation.
Wherever he lands, Islanders fans have a lot to be excited about when it comes to Strome's game.
Right Wing: Johan Sundstrom
Johan Sundstrom splits his time between right wing and center, but unless the Isles make a trade involving a center in the next year or two, he's going to have to crack the lineup as a winger.
If he can bulk up even the slightest—from 6'2", 196 pounds—he may turn into a nice asset on the third or fourth line.
According to Hockey's Future, he's an excellent two-way player that plays in all situations.
In his first year in North America, he scored 11 goals and 21 assists in 59 games in the AHL.
Don't expect the 20-year-old Swede to see much time with the big club next season, but in a year or two he could be playing key penalty killing and third-line minutes.
Defenseman: Griffin Reinhart
On the surface, it looks like the Islanders need to go out and make a move for top-tier defensive talent if they want to be taken serious as Stanley Cup contenders.
A closer look says the answer may be with defensemen Matt Donovan and Griffin Reinhart.
While Donovan may be the more NHL-ready of the two, Reinhart makes for the better prospect, as his ceiling is much higher.
At 6'4", 202 pounds, Reinhart has all of the tools to become a first-pairing defenseman in the NHL. He's shown, in the OHL, that he can contribute on offense, especially under pressure—in 12 playoff games last season, he had three goals and four assists.
If the 19-year-old doesn't make the roster out of camp, he'll likely make the jump next season. His well-rounded game and hockey IQ should help him use put his his size to good use in the NHL.
And when Donovan and Reinhart graduate, depth at this position most likely won't be hurt too badly. 2013 first-round pick Ryan Pulock and 2012 second-round pick Ville Polka will be likely continue to be highly regarded.
Goaltender: Anders Nilsson
This could be Anders Nilsson's last season as the Islanders top netminding prospect.
And that's not to say he'll be making the jump to the NHL anytime soon.
The 6'6" goalie from Sweden missed most of last season due to gluten and dairy allergies he had not previously been aware of.
With the Islanders selecting two more goalies in the draft this offseason—Eamon McAdam and Stephon Williams—and the Islanders looking at Evgeni Nabokov as a bridge to a new starting goaltender in 2014, the pressure is on Nilsson to show the organization that he can perform on a consistent basis.
He has all of the physical tools to succeed in the NHL. If he wants to cash in on that potential, it will start with a good year in Bridgeport as their starter.