While the New York Islanders are having a very strong season, their AHL affiliate is having a year they would like to forget. After their season was postponed in 2019-20, after 61 games, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are currently playing in a division with only three teams and have won just three of their first 17 games this season.
They have played the Providence Bruins nine times and only had one victory come on Feb. 25. They are 2-6 against the Hartford Whalers and have been outscored 22-9 in their past four meetings. This is the second straight season that Bridgeport has dropped 12 of their first 15 games. This year, the Sound Tigers are averaging 2.12 goals per game and have league-low seven points so far. Despite having a roster mixed with young players and veterans, head coach Brent Thompson is having another year to forget.
As all teams have now due to COVID-19, certain players in a normal year would likely be in the AHL. Instead, they are on the taxi squad. For the Islanders, that has mainly consisted of players like Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows, and Austin Czarnik. They have been in and out of the lineup with the NHL team. Still, Bridgeport has six forwards that have combined to play 340 games in the lineup regularly.
Tom Kuhnhackl has played 232 of those games, but Otto Koivula, Cole Bardreau, Tanner Fritz, and Dmytro Timashov are all players who have seen at least 10 games in the NHL. From those five, they have scored a total of 15 goals. Bardreau leads the team with seven, as the 27-year-old is known for his strong two-way play. New York also has a former first-round pick in Simon Holmstrom playing in the AHL. He has three goals and five points in 17 games. Holmstrom is also a minus-13. A fifth-round selection in 2018, Blade Jenkins has just one point in six games, while Felix Bibeau, who was selected 178th overall in 2019, has only one point in limited action this season.
The Islanders of course, traded away two of their AHL forwards in Mason Jobst and A.J. Greer, along with a first-round pick for Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. However, both Jobst and Greer combined for five points this season. Andrew Ladd has also played in one game this year for the Sound Tigers as the veteran winger has been out of the NHL for most of the past three seasons.
If there was one part of Bridgeport’s game that is slightly encouraging, it is some of the young defensemen they are developing. It is not too long ago when Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield were all Sound Tigers and are three of the Islanders top-four defensemen in the NHL today.
Of all the players, Samuel Bolduc has played well and shown off his offensive game. He has four goals and nine assists. Bolduc has been the quarterback on the power play this year and has one of his goals with the man advantage. Bode Wilde is also someone that can potentially have a career in the NHL, though, like many other players on his team, is a minus-6.
Seth Helgeson, Parker Wotherspoon, Grant Hutton, and Mitchell Vande Sompel have been the other four regulars on the blue line this season. They have played in front of Jakub Skarek, C.J. Motte, Ken Appleby, and even veteran NHL goalie Cory Schneider. Skarek has started 9 of the 17 games and has a goals-against-average of 3.94 and a save percentage of .874. The other three netminders all have save percentages lower than .900 as depth in net is lacking from within the organization. Fortunately, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin have remained healthy this season.
While it seems certain that Bridgeport will not make the playoffs this year, it will certainly be interesting to see how the team finishes the season. There is not much help on the way in regards to first-round picks as the Islanders traded away their 2020 and 2021 picks prior to the trade deadline. It is certainly clear that this is a win-now type of organization as the Islanders are certainly Stanley Cup contenders, but they don’t have much help on the horizon should they need it.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.