After using all seven of his picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on defensemen, Islanders fans probably weren’t expecting Garth Snow to select Ryan Pulock with the fifteenth overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Snow’s selection certainly made sense at the position in which New York was drafting, but more importantly, the selection further bolstered the Isles’ defensive depth in their pipeline.
While Pulock will certainly need his fair share of seasoning before he is ready for NHL duties, the Islanders have a number of defensemen in their system that could have an impact in the very near future. Despite the fact that some of these defensive prospects might take a little while to develop, the New York Islanders could be calling up some of their best young defensemen by the time that they settle into their new home, the Barclays Center.
With Mark Streit being traded to Philadelphia and Lubomir Visnovsky taking over the primary role as New York’s puck-moving defenseman and powerplay quarterback, defenseman such as Matt Donovan should be able to have significant time and opportunity to showcase their skill sets. Even though Donovan might be a front-runner for a call up to the Islanders, he certainly won’t be the last defensive prospect to be considered for NHL duties down the line.
New York Islanders Defensemen On The Rise?
Calvin de Haan
Calvin de Haan presents an interesting case amongst defensive prospects in the Islanders’ pipeline. De Haan has been touted as a very capable puck-moving defenseman that could potentially quarterback a powerplay unit in the NHL, but injuries and subsequent shoulder surgeries have undoubtedly impacted de Haan’s stock as his ability to stay healthy has been quite a concern over the last few years.
While de Haan has been unfortunate over the years in terms of being bitten by the injury bug, there is no denying the fact that the blueliner still has immense talent and has come back and played well after prior operations on his shoulder. With de Haan’s Entry Level Contract expiring at the end of the upcoming hockey season, Garth Snow and the Islanders’ upper management will be tasked with taking a good look at de Haan before evaluating whether or not a new contract offer should be extended to him. If de Haan manages to stay healthy, then there is certainly too much talent for the Islanders to pass up on, but if injuries keep derailing the young defender’s progress, then New York could look elsewhere in its system for a replacement.
Reinhart was dealt a bit of a blow when he suffered a torn ligament during his most recent WHL season, but the prospect is definitely worth monitoring in 2013-2014. As of now, it looks as though Reinhart is still a couple of years away from being ready for an NHL gig, but once he arrives to the big club it will likely be for an extended or permanent stay.
Not only is Reinhart a big defenseman (6’4″, 205 lbs), he has a very refined overall skill set for a defenseman of his age. Even though Reinhart experienced a bit of a setback during the 2012-2013 WHL season in terms of his offensive production, Islanders fans should still expect the defenseman to pan out well for the team in the coming years. While Reinhart might still be a season away from transitioning to the AHL, fans should keep an eye on the prospect to see how he finishes his last WHL season and how he reacts to coming back from the torn ligament that he sustained during his prior campaign with the Oil Kings.
For a nineteen year old prospect, Ville Pokka is definitely keeping his stock high by putting forth great efforts in the SM-liiga. As a member of Karpat, Pokka registered six goals and six assists for a total of twelve points in 47 games played during the 2012-2013 hockey season. While such totals might not be all that impressive, hockey fans must keep in mind that the young defenseman is playing in a league with older and more seasoned hockey players.
Pokka currently stands at 6’0″ and weighs in at around 200 lbs., so the Finnish defender should not have much trouble holding his own in the NHL. Despite the fact that Pokka isn’t your typical hard-hitting defenseman, he has a well-balanced skill set that could fit well with the Islanders once he has fully developed his game. Of course, there will be some sort of adaptation period if Pokka makes his way from a Europe to America, but fans should expect the responsible defender to rise in the Isles’ pipeline as long as he keeps on developing the way that he has over the last few years.
With the 65th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders selected Adam Pelech – a pretty big (6’2″, 209 lbs) defender that was known for his defensive rather than his offensive play. During his most recent season with the Erie Otters of the OHL, Pelech doubled his previous season’s point totals as he registered 40 points (8 Goals, 32 Assists) in 59 games played.
Although Pelech’s +/- totals over the last couple of years have been unattractive, fans must remember that the defender is developing on a team that isn’t necessarily known for strong defensive play as most of the team registered a +/- rating that was in the negative. Pelech’s NHL arrival might be some years away, but he sure would be a welcome addition to the Isles’ prospect system once he is ready to take on AHL duties. Even though Pelech might not fit the mold of an offensive defenseman, the young defender certainly has the leadership qualities and defensive awareness necessary to be a key cog of New York’s defense in the future.
Standing at 6’4″ and weighing slightly over 200 lbs., Andrei Pedan is certainly a big defenseman. Over the last three hockey seasons, the defender has performed admirably as a member of the Guelph Storm of the OHL. While Pedan registered 44 points (14 Goals, 30 Assists) in 60 games played for the Storm, Islanders fans should also remember that the defenseman is one of the bigger defensive prospects in the Isles’ system.
For some, Pedan has brought back memories of Darius Kasparaitis, but the Lithuanian native still has to prove how he stacks up against AHL competition. During a brief eight game stint with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Pedan compiled two assists, seven penalty minutes, and a -2 rating. Pedan’s small sample size with the Sound Tigers doesn’t really give Islanders fans an extensive look into what the d-man might offer down the line, but if the defenseman keeps up his steady progression then he will undoubtedly be a big part of New York’s future defensive units.
Much like Andrei Pedan, Scott Mayfield might loom over other defensive prospects in the Isles’ system as he stands at 6’4″ and weighs a bit over 200 lbs. After leaving the University of Denver, Mayfield joined the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for six games, but he failed to register a goal or an assist. Despite not registering a point in his six games played, Mayfield is not a prospect that is known for his offensive prowess. Instead, Mayfield’s size and defensive abilities were the reason that the Islanders selected the young defenseman with the 34th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
While Mayfield had just as small of a sample size at the AHL level as did Andrei Pedan, there is no questioning the fact that the Islanders could use Mayfield’s size and ability. Although Mayfield might require a bit more time to develop in New York’s pipeline, Islanders fans can rest easy knowing that the d-man will be playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers during the 2013-2014 AHL season – something that will give hockey fans a better glimpse as to what the young defender can do at the professional level.
Entering the last year of his Entry Level Contract, Aaron Ness might have to prove himself a bit more if he is to remain in New York’s future plans. Many Islanders fans have undoubtedly heard Ness’ name before, but the defenseman’s 2012-2013 campaign with the Sound Tigers might have some fans wondering how his prospects of making it to the NHL might have been impacted. While Ness equaled his 2011-2012 AHL production (27 points scored) in his most current hockey season with the Sound Tigers, the defender’s +/- rating took a severe hit as he dropped from a +8 rating in ’11-’12 to a -10 rating in ’12-’13.
With Matt Donovan likely receiving a call-up to the big club at some point during the ’13-’14 hockey season, Ness might just have to distinguish himself from the rest of the Isles’ defensive prospects in order to re-sign with New York once the 2014 offseason rolls around. Ness has certainly shown great skating and puck moving abilities, but it will be up to the young defender to put forth his best effort for the upcoming hockey season if he wants to make a name for himself with the Islanders.
A Plethora Of Defensive Depth
Aaron Ness, Scott Mayfield, Ville Pokka, Calvin de Haan, Griffin Reinhart, Andrei Pedan, and Adam Pelech are just some of the defensive prospects that have been developing in the Isles’ pipeline, but there is currently no shortage of prospect defensemen in New York’s system. While certain players might be ahead of others in terms of development, there is ample reason for Islanders fans to be excited about their potential future blueliners.
Depth options such as Thomas Hickey proved their worth to the New York Islanders during the abbreviated ’12-’13 NHL season, but it is likely that Islanders fans will be more anxious for the arrival of Matt Donovan. Donovan could very likely see significant time with the Islanders this season after New York sent Mark Streit over to Philadelphia, so Isles fans will be able to take a very good look at the young defender as he will have an opportunity to display his skill sets on team’s bottom defensive pairings.
Aside from the fact that the Islanders are stacked with young defenders in their pipeline, it is plain to see that Garth Snow is taking a very careful approach with his prospects – regardless of those prospects being skaters or goalies. Not only has the Islanders’ GM illustrated a patient approach with his youngsters, he has also displayed an unwillingness to change his NHL roster unless he feels that a young player is absolutely ready to take on NHL duties. Although it might take some years for the aforementioned prospects to develop into NHLers, the New York Islanders have certainly secured a bunch of defensive talent for fans to watch over the next several years.
In his third year with The Hockey Writers, Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders. Focusing on the Islanders, the NHL Draft & draft-eligible prospect goalies, and hockey history, Toli can be contacted on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.