What's In The Islanders' Pipeline Between The Pipes?

On Thursday February 7th, the Islanders traded a conditional second round pick to the Boston Bruins for goalie Tim Thomas. The soon to be 39 year old was sitting this season out. The condition on the second round pick? That Thomas actually play. He won't and the Isles won't lose the pick.

Then, Rick DiPietro, making only his second start in place of worn out netminder Evgeni Nabokov,  gives up five goals in a 6-4 loss on Tuesday to the Hurricanes. Naturally, one has to think: what do the Islanders have in their system in net? (Photo credit: Flikr/madmiked)

It's a good thing you asked. As it turns out, the Isles have a good stable of goalies in the system waiting for their chance to man the crease.

A quick check of the New York team site will tell you they have Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson, Mikko Koskinen and Cody Rosen. Let's forget Rosen for the purposes of this article. The Clarkson goaltender is a back up at his school and has no real future at the NHL level.

That leaves Poulin, Nilsson, and Koskinen. They are listed in that order because that is most likely the depth chart for the Isles goalies on the farm.

Kevin Poulin, the six foot two inch Montreal native, is currently sharing duties in net for the Isles' AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, with fellow prized prospect Anders Nilsson. Poulin uses his athleticism and quickness to his advantage, often times flailing about to make a save. He has worked on his technique and consequently his fundamentals have improved. He has played 27 games and sports a 3.01 goals against average with a 0.909 save percentage. Despite a rather inflated goals against, Poulin is considered a bright prospect who will vie for the Islanders number one goalie spot in the coming seasons.

Nilsson is a big goalie. He stands six foot six inches. The Swedish born goalie has played in 19 games for the Sound Tigers, earning a 3.14 goals against average and a 0.896 save percentage. Again, the goals against should be ignored especially with the roster turnover that was seen in the AHL this year. The 22 year old is technically sound with a good hockey mind and he uses these to his advantage in net. He is also pretty athletic for a guy his size. Scouts believe his ceiling is as a number one goalie at the NHL level. Expect New York to give him the chance to earn that in the next two years.

Mikko Koskinen, the 24 year old Finnish product, is older than Poulin and Nilsson, who are both 22. After playing in the Isles farm system for the last three years, Koskinen returned to Finland to play for Kalpa of the SM-liiga. There he blossomed, having played 43 games with a 2.03 goals against and a 0.919 save percentage. Koskinen, like Nilsson, is six foot six inches and uses his size to his advantage. He plays aggressively and is a smart. He is a bit raw technically and  the return to Finland is probably helping his skills because he is getting to play in a lot of games. However, the return to Europe clouds his future somewhat. Europe plays a different style than what is played in the NHL. Also, if both Nilsson and Poulin develop, there will not be room for him on the Island. He might also be trade bait.

Although DiPietro still has a contract that runs through the 2020-2021 season, his health and diminished skills mean his time is limited on the Island, at least in net. Nabokov can still play at a high level, but he is 37 and on the last year of his contract. Even if New York signs a veteran netminder, that still leaves room for one at the NHL level. If both Poulin and Nilsson prove they are ready the Bridgeport tandem may unite in New York in 2 seasons.

It may be a bit much to ask that both Nilsson and Poulin turn into NHL regulars, but even if only one does, that is good news for the Islanders. It gives the team freedom to shore up other areas of the team. If Koskinen is added in, the odds only increase. Like the defense, the future is bright in net for New York. (Photo credit: Flikr/lovexanastasia)

-Donovan Brooks

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