The 2019-20 season has been a roller coaster of emotions for the New York Islanders, and their fans. One thing that is consistent this season, though, is the play of the team’s prospects.
When it comes to drafting talent, you have to hit on more than just your first-round picks. There was a lot of hype around Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Simon Holmstrom when they were drafted. All three are strong in their own right, but the players that are really going the extra mile are some you may or may not know.
Cole Coskey (2019 Draft, 209th Overall)
What helps make a really deep team is getting strong prospects in the later rounds of the draft. Cole Coskey of the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League has people raising eyebrows. It’s worth noting that Coskey is playing with a top prospect in the upcoming draft in Cole Perfetti. That said, in every season since joining Saginaw in 2015-16, Coskey has set new career highs in points and goals.
The former seventh-round pick has 78 points in 61 games with 33 goals. Saginaw is in the playoff race and the top line is a big part of their success. Realistically speaking, if Perfetti wasn’t on the team would you expect to see Coskey playing at this rate? Probably not, but the good thing is that the winger was finding success before he played with Perfetti, so Coskey is not strictly a product of his environment. He also is not likely to lead any National Hockey League team in points in the future. Still, the fact he’s playing well and could contend for the Memorial Cup is a good sign for the Islanders.
Reece Newkirk (2019 Draft, 147th Overall)
Reece Newkirk is another one of those late-round picks that appears to have some talent. Like Coskey, he’s only one season removed from when he was drafted so it’s tough to say where he ranks in the long term, but he’s having success with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Portland is having a fantastic season and is first in the U.S. Divison.
Newkirk is also a player who has improved his career highs in every season he’s played in the WHL. The Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native currently has 65 points with 29 goals in 55 games for his best season in the WHL. He is currently not signed with the Islanders but due to his success, that is likely to change. Even though it wouldn’t come this season, Bridgeport could certainly use some help and Newkirk looks like he can provide offensive support.
Ilya Sorokin (2014 Draft, 78th Overall)
It seems that goaltending and the Islanders just don’t seem to mix without a few bumps in the road. Ilya Sorokin was drafted way back in 2014 but has yet to play a game in an Islanders uniform. His absence is not due to his ability to play but rather his contract. At the end of this Kontinental Hockey League season, he is a free agent and is able to come to New York if he so chooses.
Sorokin has always been dominant in the KHL. Yes, he is on one of the better teams in CSKA Moscow, but his individual play is second to none. To emphasize just how good Sorokin is, he now is second on the all-time list for shutouts in the KHL with 59. He posted a 26-10-3 record this season with a .935 save percentage and nine shutouts.
Sorokin is currently 4-0 in the playoffs after he and CSKA swept Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. The competition will surely get better in the next round. Sorokin is the real deal, now all the Islanders have to do is get him to New York.
Oliver Wahlstrom 2018 Draft, 11th Overall
Transitioning from college hockey to the American Hockey League can be a daunting task, but Oliver Wahlstrom is coming along just fine in his first professional season. He even made his NHL debut earlier in the season.
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While he’s not lighting the lamp every night, 20 points and 10 goals for a rookie on a very poor Bridgeport team isn’t all that bad. The best parts of Wahlstrom are the ones most people know about. He has an amazing hockey sense, great skating abilities and is difficult to contain defensively. This combination can be lethal in some situations.
The fact that he has 20 points in 43 games shouldn’t worry anyone if people thought he would go to the AHL and light it up. Instead, that’s actually impressive. Bridgeport is having an atrocious season with very few accomplishments. If prospects like Wahlstrom can find success in poor seasons, it should be fun to watch what he could do when the team around him is competitive.
There are some other prospects having strong seasons that weren’t highlighted as well. Ruslan Iskhakov (a second-round pick in 2018) is in his second season at the University of Connecticut. He had 21 points in 32 games in both of his seasons in the NCAA. The Moscow native is a smaller center that can create plays with great passing and above-average skating.
Samuel Bolduc (a second-round pick in 2019) is having a tremendous season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 19-year old defenseman was traded from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the Sherbrooke Phoenix and has 27 points in 29 games since being traded. Overall he has 43 points in 61 games this season.
Finally, Bode Wilde (a second-round pick in 2018) started the year in Bridgeport but the Islanders reassigned him to the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League. Wilde only played in 20 games with Bridgeport so it’s likely this was done so he could get more playing time. Saginaw is making a strong push for the playoffs and even acquired star forward Ryan Suzuki for the playoff push.