Matt Martin - Bigger, Faster, Stronger
It is rare when a player stays for more than three seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The team exists for one purpose and one purpose only … develop talent for their NHL affiliate, the New York Islanders.
Each September, a half-dozen or so twenty-year olds arrive in Bridgeport to begin their careers as professional hockey players against bigger, faster, stronger competition.
This years arrivals could include forwards Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, Johan Sundstrom, John Persson, Mike Halmo and perhaps Nino Niederreiter, each, an investment by the Islanders in the future of the franchise.
The physical difference between a 20 year-old prospect and a 24 year-old professional can be significant and many of this promising group of ‘boys’ will be playing against ‘men’ for the first time in their young careers.
In 2009 Matt Martin was one of those new arrivals, a ‘boy’ ready to play a man’s game. (Photo: Dayton/flickr)
As a sixteen-year old in 2005, Martin was not drafted into the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). His good friend Mark Katic, however, was selected as the Sarnia Sting’s first pick and second overall prompting Martin to try to make the team as a walk-on (the first pick that year went to the OHL’s Oshawa Generals who selected a player named John Taveres).
Martin made the Sting as a walk-on where he filled out to 6’2”, 192 and developed a solid physical game. His numbers were good, his determination exceptional and Martin became the Islanders fifth round pick in the NHL’s 2008 Entry Level Draft.
After being drafted by the Isles, Martin’s determination increased. 35 goals and 30 assists during his last year with the Sting in 61 regular season games plus 3 goals scored in 5 playoff games left him wanting more.
Martin did not spend the allotted three years of development in the AHL. In his first two seasons as a pro, he played 83 games in Bridgeport and 73 on Long Island. He never returned to the AHL for the final year of his entry-level deal, and as a dedicated, determined, hard working member of the Isles checking-line he led the NHL in hits this past season.
Matt is now listed at 6’3”, 220 and at just 23 years old probably has a year or two to develop to his full physical potential. (Photo: @mattymarts17/Twitter)
To protect the Islanders investment and aid in the development of this young pool of talent, the team returns or acquires players with AHL experience.
Among those returning to the Division Champion Sound Tigers are Blair Riley and Sean Backman at forward and Ty Wishart and Jon Landry on defense, solid contributors to the teams’ success last season.
The off season acquisitions of experienced players such as; Nathan McIver, Brandon DeFazio, Colin McDonald, Jason Clark, Eric Boulton and more show promise of a talented roster ready to repeat as division champs. But the off-season is always the season of promise.
Each of the players mentioned above will be given a chance to make the Islanders team during training camp this September. Those that do not make the Isles will be assigned to Bridgeport for development and to provide the talent necessary for the inevitable call-ups that will occur next year.
When called, they will arrive bigger, stronger and faster.
- Mike Flannery
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