Josh Bailey was selected ninth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Garth Snow, who had sole possession of the fifth overall pick, moved down twice in order to get Josh, citing him as the player he wanted all along for his leadership and creative play-making abilities. The natural center is currently in his third year with the New York Islanders after having joined the team straight out of the draft. As of yesterday, he was sent to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, on a loan basis.
Bailey started off the season with a strong effort and quickly became one of the team’s best players with John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit out due to injury. Along with Blake Comeau, Bailey was noticed each night either earning assists or scoring timely goals that helped his team start at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Since missing some time as a result of a minor hip injury, Bailey hasn’t been the same player he was back in early October. In 18 games this season, Bailey has only amassed 6 points, which were primarily scored when he was on his hot streak. He is pointless in his last 13 games played and has been put both on the wing and center. Last year, Bailey notched a personal best 16 goals, 19 assists and 35 points while leading the Isles in plus/minus with a plus-5. Most of those points came playing as a winger as opposed to a center-man.
Sending Bailey back to Bridgeport can be seen as a serious sign of regression in the young forward’s development. However, this draws attention that he prematurely rushed into the NHL and probably could have used another year of Junior hockey before making the jump. Josh clearly has a lot of potential as he has shown flashes of brilliance with spectacular vision and improved strength when carrying the puck. A change of scenery could be very beneficial as it can help him fine tune all the little areas of his game that have gotten away from him.
The Islanders are doing the right thing by sending Bailey to Bridgeport. If they were that determined to draft him back in 2008, then they must take all the necessary steps to ensure that he will develop into the top-six forward they thought he was capable of becoming.