New York Islanders: Down on the Farm

The New York Islanders have seen better days in terms of their play to the start of the 2016-17 season. However, there are a lot of promising youngsters to be excited about down on the farm for this organization.

Goaltending

The New York Islanders have a number of young goaltenders in their prospect pipeline but by far, the two best are Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom.

Sorokin currently looks like an absolute steal as a third round pick in the 2014 draft. Sorokin has been dominating the KHL between this season and last. Last year the 21-year old 6’2, 168 lbs Sorokin, went 17-7-4, 1.06 goals against average, and a .953 save percentage. So far this year Sorokin is 14-4-4, 1.38 goals against and a .937 save percentage.

The forgotten man in the Islanders prospect pool is Swedish goalie Linus Soderstrom. Soderstrom was in the same draft as Sorokin, in fact, he was taken one round later in the fourth. Soderstrom is 6’4, 198 lbs and currently playing in the Swedish league and was a  standout player at the World Junior Championship for Team Sweden last year.

Both youngsters are playing overseas against men which could only help their development. The big question regarding Sorokin is when can the Islanders get him over to North America? Sorokin is signed to play in the KHL through next season (2017-18). However, recent reports have the

Sorokin is signed to play in the KHL through next season (2017-18). However, recent reports have the KHL struggling financially and very well may contract the league. Could this open the door for Sorokin to come over to the Islanders next year?

In terms of the big picture and where do Sorokin and Soderstrom fit? Things open up between the pipes for the Islanders between the end of this season and next. Thomas Griess is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, while Jaroslav Halak becomes one after next year (2017-18).

The Islanders know who their future goalies are, the question is when do they arrive on Long Island – Brooklyn?

Defenseman

The Islanders seem deep on the blue line currently. With the signing of Dennis Seidenberg this September, the Islanders had Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech as their seventh and eighth defenseman.

However, over the course of the next couple of years the door could be opening up for some blue line spots. Seidenberg is 35 and will be with the Isles just for this season. Calvin de Haan is a restricted free agent at the end of the year, and in a salary cap world, could be traded either during this season or in this upcoming off-season or even in June’s expansion draft. And Thomas Hickey is a UFA after next year, 2017-18.

The Islanders have been quietly stockpiling some solid youngsters in the middle rounds of the last few drafts. Doyle Somerby was taken in the fifth round of 2012, Devon Toews in the fourth round of 2014, Mitchell Vande Sompel in the third round and Parker Wotherspoon in the fourth round of 2015.

All four need time to develop their game but over the course of the next couple of years, they could be ready for the NHL.

Somerby (at Boston University) is a 6’6 blue liner who plays physical and skates well. Toews is at Bridgeport and projects as a solid defenseman in all phases of the game, as well as being a great character player.

Wotherspoon is just 19, has great skating ability and should be very effective at both ends. He is currently in the WHL. Vande Sompel is the best bet to be the home run of the Islanders d-core prospects. He is only 5’10 and 181 lbs but has big offensive skills, excellent puck mover, good shot, great skater and could be a great quarterback on the power-play. He is also playing at the junior level.

He is only 5’10 and 181 lbs but has big offensive skills, excellent puck mover, good shot, great skater and could be a great quarterback on the power-play. He is also playing at the junior level.

Forwards

All Islanders fans were hoping they could see some magic from Mathew Barzal this season after it was announced he made the team. Unfortunately, he was recently sent back to the WHL (Seattle Thunderbirds) after playing in just two games for the Isles.

Barzal is a playmaker with great vision, who makes everyone around him better. He is also a weapon on the power play. Come next opening night, the 16th overall pick of the 2015 draft will be with the Islanders for good.

Joshua Ho-Sang is another matter. Also a former first round pick (2014) there is no doubt to the level of offensive skill this young man possess. Currently playing at Bridgeport, Ho-Sang has ten points (2 goals) in his first 14 games. He was scratched one game due to an issue regarding his skating.

The Islanders knew when they took Ho-Sang 28th overall in 2014 he was a boom or bust pick. If this kid can put together his game with his skill, he could become a scary hockey player. Remember he is only 20 years of age.

Michael Dal Colle like Ho-Sang is currently playing for the Sound Tigers. He has nine points so far this season, although he has lit the lamp seven times this season.

It seems like the Islanders fan base has been waiting for Dal Colle to make it to the NHL for a while. That’s only because Dal Colle was the fifth overall pick of the 2014 draft. His upside is tremendous and remember, he’s also only 20 years of age.

Finally, there is the Islanders first-round pick of 2016 (19th overall) Keifer Bellows. Bellows is currently playing at Boston University and is a power forward with a plethora of skills. He has strong offensive abilities, great shot, grit, goes to the net and is a good skater. So far he has three goals in the early going for BU.

In terms of their top forward prospects in Barzal, Dal Colle, and Bellows the question is will they be top-six forwards for the Islanders or will they become first line players? They ceiling is that high for that threesome, not to mention their work ethic and intangibles.

Barzal, Dal Colle, and Bellows all could be on the Islanders next season and be part of this team’s future core for many years to come. In an interview that both myself and my co-host Mark Warner did with George McPhee on the Vegas Hockey Podcast, the Vegas GM thought Bellows would be in the NHL very quickly. Possibly as early as next season.

Keep in mind Cal Clutterbuck is a UFA after this season and Josh Bailey, Jason Chimera, and Nikolai Kulemin after next. That’s a lot of forward spots opening up for the Islanders. You can write down in ink Barzal, Dal Colle and Bellows for this franchise going forward.

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