Despite not having a first-round pick for the second consecutive year, the New York Islanders were able to add six new faces to their prospect pool. New York still remains as one of the NHL’s weakest prospect pools, parting with draft assets to put a playoff contender on the ice. General manager Lou Lamoriello has turned two years’ worth of first-round picks into Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac. He has reaped the benefits as his team has appeared in back-to-back conference finals and appears primed to compete yet again.
With the limited number of qualified prospects remaining in New York’s system, here is a rundown of the top 10 Islanders prospects.
10. Simon Holmstrom, RW
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Round 1, Pick 23
2020-21 Team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
2020-21 Stats: 24 GP – 4 G – 3 A – 7 P
It’s not very often you see a first-round pick ranked this low in a prospect pool, especially one as shallow as New York’s. Holmstrom was surprisingly picked 23rd overall by the Islanders in the 2019 Draft, with several highly-touted prospects still on the board. While it remains to be seen how Connor McMichael, Philip Tomasino, and other later selections will perform at the NHL level, the focus in New York is on the development of Holmstrom. The Swedish winger now has two American Hockey League seasons under his belt and is expected to return to the Bridgeport Islanders for a third. He has just 12 goals and 22 points in 70 career games with Bridgeport, including a minus-14 rating last season that ranked second-worst on the team.
Despite another uninspiring season with the Sound Tigers (now Islanders), Holmstrom showed some flashes playing for Sweden at the U20 World Junior Championships last year. He recorded five assists in the team’s five tournament games but only took three shots on goal in the entire tournament. While not known as a goal scorer, Holmstrom’s unwillingness to put the puck on net added to the concern around his profile. He played with some talented teammates, but there were chances for him to create his own opportunities. His performance received mixed reviews, and overall, many are split over whether he was the best choice for the Isles at his draft spot.
9. Alexander Ljungkrantz, LW
Acquired: 2020 Draft, Round 3, Pick 90
2020-21 Team: Brynas IF (SHL)
2020-21 Stats: 16 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 P
Slightly edging Holmstrom is Ljungkrantz, the team’s first selection in the 2020 Entry Draft. The Swedish winger has spent the past four seasons playing with Brynas IF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) at various levels. He dominated the competition with the Brynas IF U16 team, leading the team with 39 goals and 64 points in just 25 games in his only season. He faced stiffer competition after moving up to their U18 division, scoring 25 goals and 48 points in 59 games across three seasons.
Ljungkrantz saw similar success in the U20 league as he did in U18, amassing 23 goals and 42 points in 58 games across two seasons. In addition to playing for the U20 team, he found himself playing for Brynas IF’s pro team in parts of the past two seasons. In those 19 pro games, Ljungkrantz has one goal and one assist. The SHL pro division represents the toughest competition he’s faced so far in his career, but the numbers he posted during his time in the junior divisions bode well for his potential to make an impact in the future.
8. Tristan Lennox, G
Acquired: 2021 Draft, Round 3, Pick 93
2019-20 Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
2019-20 Stats: 33 GP – 20 W – 3.63 GAA – .876 SV%
The newest goaltender to enter the pipeline, the Islanders picked Lennox in the third round of this year’s draft. After the Ontario Hockey League’s inability to put together a season in 2020-21, his most recent game action came in 2019-20 with the Saginaw Spirit. He collected 20 wins behind a very talented roster, but his peripheral stats leave more to be desired. He bolstered his draft stock with an impressive performance for Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Lennox played in front of a stacked team for Canada but nonetheless held his own in the tournament against impressive competition. He posted a 0.95 goals against average and a .951 save percentage to lead Canada to the final against Russia. The Russians prevailed, but Lennox displayed his ability to perform in big moments against some of the game’s top prospects. He is expected to return to Saginaw next season and will need to raise his game, especially if the Spirit is without former top-10 pick Cole Perfetti.
7. Bode Wilde, RD
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Round 2, Pick 41
2020-21 Team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
2020-21 Stats: 22 GP – 3 G – 3 A – 6 P
While stuck behind a solid group of right-shot defenders for the Isles, Wilde still projects as a solid prospect. He has now played parts of two seasons for the Sound Tigers and looks primed to play a big role there this season. A former teammate of Lennox with the Spirit, Wilde cemented himself as a solid two-way defender before joining the pros. In the 2018-19 season, Wilde was second to Perfetti in points with 70, led the Spirit in assists with 51, and led the team’s defensemen in goals, assists, and points. He remained a point-per-game player in his 11-game stint there in 2019-20.
With the Sound Tigers, Wilde isn’t relied on as heavily offensively, as he’s only contributed three goals and eight points in 42 career games. New York’s lack of goaltending depth has hurt Bridgeport, reflected in Wilde’s minus-8 rating over his two seasons. Lennox could opt to go pro over the next few seasons, which could help the Bridgeport defensemen on the scoresheet. In the meantime, Bridgeport’s defense core will have some growing pains, but Wilde remains one of the top blueliners in the system.
6. Otto Koivula, LW/C
Acquired: 2016 Draft, Round 4, Pick 120
2020-21 Team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) / HIFK (Liiga)
2020-21 Stats: 20 GP – 2 G – 7 A – 9 P / 14 GP – 3 G – 8 A – 11 P
Koivula is one of the most experienced players in New York’s prospect pipeline. The Finnish forward has played in the NHL, AHL, and Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, all in the past two years. The soon-to-be 23-year-old had a brief stint with the Islanders but projects to remain one of Bridgeport’s top options and a prime call-up candidate. He wasn’t able to crack the scoresheet at the NHL level after playing 12 games in the 2019-20 season. He has found success with Bridgeport, however, with 32 goals and 77 points over 125 career games.
In the shortened 2020-21 season, Koivula was loaned to HIFK of Liiga, where he appeared in 14 games in addition to his 20 games of AHL action. With HIFK, he scored three goals and 11 points against the top competition in his home country. In his previous two-year stint in Liiga with Ilves, Koivula produced 19 goals and 57 points in 104 games. He had much more success with Ilves in the junior divisions, producing over two points per game at times, but has also seen modest success at the highest level. He produces at a solid clip for Bridgeport and should remain a fixture there until his time comes with the big club.
5. Ruslan Iskhakov, C
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Round 2, Pick 43
2020-21 Team: TPS (Liiga)
2020-21 Stats: 54 GP – 10 G – 28 A – 38 P
One of the lesser-known assets in the Isles’ system, Iskhakov could be one of the best forwards in the pipeline. The Russian center came to North America after choosing to play for the University of Connecticut in the NCAA. In two seasons at Connecticut, he put together 15 goals and 42 points in 64 games. After the 2019-20 season, Iskhakov left North America to play for TPS in Liiga amid season cancellations due to COVID-19. In his one season playing Finnish professional hockey, he scored 10 goals and 38 points in 54 games.
Despite transitioning from playing against college kids to European adults, Iskhakov scored at a higher clip in the Liiga than he did in the NCAA. After turning pro internationally, Iskhakov will continue in Europe after signing a one-year deal with Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). Now heading to the top German league, Iskhakov will have an opportunity to further build his credentials before deciding on his NHL future. He has until June 1, 2022 to sign with the Islanders, or he becomes a free agent.
4. Kieffer Bellows, LW
Acquired: 2016 Draft, Round 1, Pick 19
2020-21 Team: New York Islanders (NHL)
2020-21 Stats: 14 GP – 3 G – 0 A – 3 P
It feels like Bellows has been an Islanders prospect for a really long time, but somehow he’s only played three pro seasons. Still just 23, he remains a prospect in my book, as he does for the many who advocate for the Minnesota native to crack New York’s lineup. He has only appeared in the Isles lineup 22 times, scoring five goals and adding an assist across two seasons. He had an impressive showing last season, scoring three goals in a two-game stretch before being promptly returned to the press box. Islanders fans have voiced their frustrations with the team opting for less than remarkable replacements like Leo Komarov or Michael Dal Colle over the former first-rounder.
Bellows has put together a solid career in Bridgeport, totaling 34 goals and 50 points in 125 games over two seasons. He led the team in goals and points in 2019-20 but was another casualty of the goaltending carousel with a minus-16 rating. He remains a tremendous goal-scorer, evidenced by his strong showings in the Western Hockey League, the United States Development Program, and most recently, with the Sound Tigers. If he can lock down a consistent role, he has the tools to become one of the Islanders’ leading scorers.
With the Islanders firmly in win-now mode, the team’s coaching staff seems more comfortable putting those with more experience in the lineup. Coach Barry Trotz even opted to keep Oliver Wahlstrom out of the lineup in the playoffs after he fully recovered from an injury. While Wahlstrom looks primed to keep a consistent NHL role, Bellows doesn’t appear to have as clear-cut of a spot with the Islanders. If a return to Bridgeport is on the horizon, he’ll be one of the first call-ups if needed and could earn his spot with another strong showing.
3. Samuel Bolduc, LD
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Round 2, Pick 57
2020-21 Team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
2020-21 Stats: 24 GP – 6 G – 8 A – 14 P
Now entering the top three, we land on Samuel Bolduc. A top prospect at a position of need, the former second-round pick could be seeing NHL ice sooner rather than later. He impressed many at Islanders camp last season, and if the team runs out of external options to replace Nick Leddy, Bolduc could be a prime candidate to fill the void. He made his professional debut with the Sound Tigers last season, leading the team’s defensemen with six goals, eight assists, and 14 points in 24 games.
In a long career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Bolduc scored 22 goals and 94 points in 189 games with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Sherbrooke Phoenix. He cemented himself as a solid two-way defender and fulfilled a similar role with Bridgeport, even finishing with a plus-5 rating on a team without top-notch goaltending. With the team staring at a big hole in the lineup, Bolduc could be in the NHL before you know it.
2. Robin Salo, LD
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Round 2, Pick 46
2020-21 Team: Orebro HK (SHL)
2020-21 Stats: 51 GP – 6 G – 24 A – 30 P
Salo gets a slight edge over Bolduc here due to his comparable production against much better competition. While both defenders will be competing for the same spot in the lineup if it remains vacant, Salo may have the upper hand just due to his track record. The 22-year-old is approaching 300 professional games between Liiga and the SHL. His two-way game has been inconsistent, especially in Liiga, where he has a minus-40 rating and sits at just 0.26 points per game.
His overall performance improved drastically over the last two seasons in the SHL, where he has 36 points and a plus-20 rating in 63 total games with Orebro HK. He led the team with 24 assists last season and ranked second with a plus-17 rating. If Salo chooses to come to North America, he and Bolduc could compete for a spot among the Islanders’ top four defensemen. Even if the Isles bring in an external solution, Salo would have a prominent role in Bridgeport and would be a prime option to earn NHL minutes if an injury occurred. It looks like only a matter of time before Salo becomes a regular in the Isles organization, and once he does, he’ll be fun to watch.
1. Aatu Raty, C
Acquired: 2021 Draft, Round 2, Pick 52
2020-21 Team: Karpat (Liiga)
2020-21 Stats: 35 GP – 3 G – 3 A – 6 P
While his 2020-21 season stats don’t exactly jump off the page, Raty immediately becomes the best prospect in the Islanders’ system. Once considered among the top prospects available in the 2021 Draft, Raty tumbled down draft boards after an underwhelming campaign in his draft year. It was only his second season playing in the Liiga, lining up against grown men as an 18-year-old. His first season with Karpat as a pro saw Raty produce two goals and four points in 12 games; not his usual productivity but still modest production given his age and skill of opposition.
Raty dominated the Liiga U16 and U18 divisions and still played well in U20 as an 18-year-old. In Liiga U16, he led the league in goals with 35 and ranked third with 65 points in just 21 games. His Liiga U16 career ended with 63 goals and 153 points in 79 games, and he recorded 2.25 points per game in 12 games in the U18 division.
Raty was the youngest player at the 2020 World Junior Championships and still managed to score twice and add an assist in seven games for Finland. He should remain on loan in the Liiga for the 2021-22 season, and with another season under his belt, he could make further strides towards being ready to turn pro in North America. When the time comes, he could add even more to the Islanders’ tremendous center depth.
More Top Talent Needed
The Islanders haven’t had a surefire talent in their pipeline since taking Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson in the first round of the 2018 Draft. Holmstrom isn’t looking even close to a sure thing, and without a first-rounder in either of the last two years, it wasn’t looking good until Raty fell into their laps. Even with Raty and having Salo and Bolduc to immediately fill a need, there isn’t much promise beyond that.
As it stands now, the Islanders have a first-round pick in each of the next three drafts. They could trade one if they really need to fill a lineup hole, but ideally, they can find those replacements internally. The next two draft classes project to be very strong, so keeping those assets could pay dividends in rebuilding the prospect pool. As some of the top-ranked players on this list begin to crack the NHL, keeping those picks may be the only way to fully replace them.
Islanders 2021-22 Top Prospects
- Aatu Raty, C
- Robin Salo, LD
- Samuel Bolduc, LD
- Kieffer Bellows, LW
- Ruslan Iskhakov, C
- Otto Koivula, LW/C
- Bode Wilde, RD
- Tristan Lennox, G
- Alexander Ljungkrantz, LW
- Simon Holmstrom, RW
All stats courtesy of Elite Prospects
Covering the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. MBA Sports & Entertainment Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Formerly Marketing Intern with the American Flag Football League & Operations Intern for the Long Island Nets, G-League Affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.