Last Week Was Right So This Week is Left On Wing For The Islanders

 

Last week in this space, the Islanders prospect depth at right wing was put under the microscope so it only seemed appropriate that the left wingers get the scrutiny this week.

For the Isles, it is better than the right, but not nearly as good as center or defense, at least in depth.

As a matter of fact, it is actually quite top heavy. New York, as listed on hockeysfuture.com, have four left wing prospects, but there is a dividing line in effect. Basically, it bisects the group leaving two prospects with good potential and two that have journeymen/role player potential.

Let's investigate, shall we?

The four, as listed in order of ceiling according to hockeysfuture, are Nino Niederreiter, John Persson, Mike Halmo, and Brandon DeFazio.

Nino Niederreiter, as every Islanders fan knows, spent last season up on the Island with the big squad. He was under aged and he lacked some seasoning, but the Isles had little choice due to strange National Hockey League rules that would not allow him to play minor league hockey. It would allow him to play in the NHL and that is where he was forced to play. (Photo credit: flikr/Robert Kowal)

He was still learning the speed of the game, the roles of forwards on the ice, and the physicality of the sport. All of which combined to limit his ice time to fourth line minutes and his game struggled. He had one tally and no assists in 55 games.

That rule doesn't apply to him this year and he is where he belongs: in the American Hockey League and playing well. The young Swiss product has good speed and hands. He is a goal scorer with very good size and on ice vision. He will create room on the ice and get some assists as well. Best of all, he has a history of playing big in big games. He is currently the leading scorer for the Isles AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers compiling 26 goals and 19 assists for 45 points in 62 games. Expect him to be an Islander next season with the potential to be a star in the league.

John Persson, who was a fifth round pick in the 2011 entry draft, also has good size, standing six feet two inches and on the north side of 200 pounds. The Ostersund, Sweden native played his junior hockey in North America for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. Persson plays in the tough areas, taking advantage of his size and strength to create offense. He can play in both ends. There are questions about his speed, but if the young man can use the same work ethic he uses on the rink to work on that skating, then it may very well become a non-issue.

Persson has been dinged up a bit this season and in fact, just recently resumed skating, although full contact is still a bit away. Persson has contributed well this season, scoring 28 points in 54 games while earning a +6. Even still, he likely needs more time to develop, particularly working on his wheels. He will definitely be in camp next season, but with some guys ahead of him, barring some trades, he will likely be returned to Bridgeport.

Mike Halmo is kind of a late bloomer. The undrafted Waterloo Ontario native signed an entry level contract (ELC) with the Isles last year after putting on a show for the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. That show consisted of leading the team in scoring and, wait for it, penalty minutes! Despite his limited size-Halmo is 5' 10" and 190 lbs- he racked up 162 minutes. He has played for Bridgeport this season, and more of his toughness than his scoring has been on display. With 45 games played, Halmo has racked up 14 points and 46 shots on goal. He has 46 penalty minutes. He is pushing 22 years old so his ceiling might be limited. Then again, he is a late bloomer so don't count him out just yet. The Isles threw big money at him so they obviously have plans for him. He'll likely be in camp but he faces an uphill battle to make the team. Can he do it?

Brandon DeFazio played his college hockey at Clarkson. Afterward, he signed with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins where he played all of the 2011-2012 season. That year, he potted 11 goals and 104 penalty minutes. After signing with New York prior to this season, DeFazio has played 57 games getting nine goals and racking up 118 penalty minutes. DeFazio has good but not elite size, making him more of a middle weight. DeFazio will be 25 by the start of next season and his contract is up at the end of this year anyway, all of which combining to make him a long shot for Long Island. He is likely a career minor leaguer. (Photo credit: flikr/MR_53)

Even with the lack of depth, if Niederreiter and Persson pan out and reach their potential, the Isles are probably ok on Left Wing. With Matt Moulson signed long term and the Isles continuing love affair with Josh Bailey, the team might not need more. Still, Isles GM Garth Snow likes to go heavy after an organizational weak spot in the draft, so the look for him to draft plenty of wingers in this year's draft.

-Donovan Brooks

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