A Quick Check of Some Top Prospects
One of the endearing qualities of most Islanders fans I meet is their ability to always look favorably toward the future. Say what you will about the last two decades regarding their favorite franchise, Islanders fans always seem to have an optimistic view of what lies ahead. Whether it’s remaining hopeful that plans for a new arena will somehow develop, or a confidence that the team will someday be champions again, hope never dies on Long Island.
Sure, some of it may lie in the fact that they’ve seen and been through the worst and survived, but mostly it’s a strong loyalty to a team that hasn’t rewarded them nearly as much as they’ve invested, both financially and emotionally.
That may be about to change, however.
General Manager Garth Snow has stated both publicly and privately (yes, admittedly, it’s one of the perks of having access to the team) that he is sticking to the rebuilding process. One of his “three pillars,” if you will, was building through the draft (the other two methods, smart trading and free agency have yielded mixed results to this point).
Now that we’re well into December, let’s look at the progress of a few notable Islanders’ prospects.
Ryan Strome – Center, Niagara IceDogs, Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
With four points (1 goal, 3 assists) last night against Mississauga, the Islanders’ top prospect continues to shine. The fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft is on pace to improve upon his outstanding 2010 OHL campaign, at least as a goal scorer. As of today he sits with 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in just 24 games. The fact that he has increased his goal per game average from 0.51 last season to this year’s 0.67 is a very good sign to me.
On a team that is in dire need of offense, I would expect Strome to make his NHL debut on Long Island during the 2012-2013 campaign. Hopefully he will have an immediate impact.
Kirill Kabanov – Right Wing, Shawinigan Cataractes, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)
Ah, the enigmatic Kabanov.
Despite his well-chronicled behavioral issues, interesting body art, and curious interactions on social media, the slightly off-kilter Russian remains a top 10 prospect.
Claiming to have rededicated himself to hockey this season, Kabanov has put up a decent line. His two goal effort on Friday night upped his seasonal output to 12 in 17 games. He has 10 assists to go with them. He’s a middle of the pack scorer on his own team, but the 12 goals represents the most he has scored in any professional season. It’s not an overly impressive total, but any improvement is always welcomed.
Kirill Petrov – Right Wing, Kazan Ak-Bars, Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
I don’t know why I follow Petrov’s career so closely. Maybe it’s because of the semester of Russian I studied in college? Perhaps it’s because I don’t hate the KHL as much as, well, everyone I meet.
Nevertheless, Petrov, who is under contract though this season in Russia, started off well but has faded. His statistical line shows 10 goals and 7 helpers in 30 games. Not so impressive, and even less so when you factor in that almost all of those points came within his first 15 to 20 games (sorry, I’m going without a game log here). If my memory is correct, he had gone pointless in his last nine games before Friday night. He’s a –3 on the season.
Brock Nelson – Center, University of North Dakota, Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)
Drafted in the same round as Nino Niederreiter, Nelson’s rise hasn’t been at meteoric. But he is developing nonetheless.
The top goal scorer by far on his UND team, he has 14 goals (and 8 assists) in 17 games. At 6’ 4” and 192 pounds he has a big frame like Petrov. However, he’s a year and a half younger than Petrov and is playing in North America. Nelson is in the midst of his sophomore season at one of America’s top collegiate hockey programs.
Of note, Nelson is descended from top hockey pedigree, as both his uncle (Dave Christian) and great uncle (Gordon Christian) won Olympic medals as members of the United States men’s hockey team.
He’s still likely several years away from playing on Long Island, but the early signs are positive.