Next Year's Sound Tigers Could Change The Isles

The rebuild is only four years old, and although I use the word, "only," I understand how long that it has actually been for the loyal fans who continue to come out and support this team, waiting for them to finally return to glory. But the fact of the matter is that these things take time - a lot of time. (SaraMelikian/Flickr)

The St. Louis Blues are a prime example. They have only made the playoffs once since the lock out and are now finally poised to make a serious run for the Stanley Cup for the first time since Chris Pronger was on the team. Team President John Davidson has been building them through the draft while signing veteran free agents, much like what the Islanders have done. And the free agents they have signed haven't exactly been guys in their prime, such as Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner. They also had trouble scoring goals for a long time as well. But finally, things are starting to fall into place and they are on the brink of becoming a power house hockey team in the Western Conference.

The Isles, much like the Blues, are still building toward that stature. But one thing is for certain; the Islanders farm team next season is going to play a major role in the rebuild.

Brock Nelson has decided to leave North Dakota and signed a three-year entry level contract with the Islanders.

Per the Isles official press release from two days ago:

UNIONDALE, NY (April 3, 2012) – The New York Islanders announced today that forward Brock Nelson has agreed to terms on an Entry Level Contract (ECL).

Nelson, 20, led the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in points (47) and goals (28) in 42 games as a sophomore. The Warroad, MN, native ranked third in the nation in goals and tied for 12th in points. 

Nelson was named to the all-tournament teams at both the Red Baron Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Final Five and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) West Regional. He finished the year with five goals in his last five playoff games, leading UND to a third straight Broadmoor Trophy as WCHA champion and a berth in the regional championship game. Nelson was named the Inside College Hockey “WCHA Breakthrough Player Of The Year” and to the 2011-12 All-College Hockey News Second Team.

The Islanders selected Nelson in the first round, 30 overall, of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He scored 21 points (8g/13a) in 42 games as a freshman at the University of North Dakota. Nelson recorded a point in every game of his senior season at Warroad High School in Minnesota, finishing with 39 goals and 34 assists in 25 games and being selected one of 10 finalists for the state’s prestigious “Mr. Hockey” Award.

Nelson was one of few rookie players who stood out at last summer's prospect scrimmage, looking the most improved since the previous summer when he was drafted. As shown above, Nelson's stats are impressive. Now it's time to see what he can do at the professional level.

Unfortunately, college star Anders Lee has decided to finish out the next two years playing for Notre Dame. Lee scored 17 goals, 17 assists and 34 points in 40 games this year and is starting to show that he might have been a late round steal for the Islanders. However, this will remain to be seen until he transitions to the AHL.

Nelson might have a few more top prospects joining him on the Sound Tigers this year with Kirill Kabanov. He was a third round gamble in the 2008 draft class despite being considered by some scouts as top-10 talent due to a lot of questions surrounding his character and attitude. This year Kabanov has become a top scorer on the Shawinigan Cataractes with 55 points in 50 games and has earned a ton of respect from his coaching staff and teammates. He has come a long way since the draft and might turn out to be one of Garth Snow's best picks in the 2010 draft. (IslandersHockeyBlog/Flickr)

His countryman, Kirill Petrov, will likely (and finally) be joining the Sound Tigers as well. His numbers with Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL have not been jaw dropping (16 goals, 13 assists, 29 points in 52 games), but there has been talk that he hasn't been used on the top scoring lines on a veteran club. Whatever the case may be, Petrov was slated as first round talent in 2008 but was passed on by many teams due to his four-year contract that he signed with Ak-Bars. But the contract is finally expired after this year, and Petrov will finally have the opportunity to come to the States and play with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

These three top prospects can hopefully contribute nicely with the other guys that have been lighting up the Sound Tigers in David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas, whom both of which earned some playing time with the Islanders this year. Keep in mind that Nino Niederreiter might be in Bridgeport to start the year as well. All of this young talent being added to what has become a winning environment in Connecticut can help solidify a foundation in the AHL in this young rebuild.

Like I said, this team has only been rebuilding for four years. Next year could be the year where the torch is officially passed on to some prospects who will make the jump off their Junior, International and college stages and into a professional arena for the first time in their careers.

-Rob McGowan

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metzfan22's picture

"But finally, things are starting to fall into place and they are on the brink of becoming a power house hockey team in the Western Conference.

The Isles, much like the Blues, are still building toward that stature. But one thing is for certain; the Islanders farm team next season is going to play a major role in the rebuild."

Umm don't the Blues have the best record in the Western Conference? They are a powerhouse team. The Islanders are still building, but the Blues are built. Please don't compare the Islanders and Blues because it's not even particularly close.

Rob McGowan's picture

I think you misunderstood my comment. Just because the Blues have suddenly become a top team in the West doesn't mean they are a powerhouse, in my opinion anyway. Powerhouse teams are usually successful deep into the playoffs as well as for multiple seasons. This is the first significantly good season they've had.

With that being said, I am not saying that the Islanders are even remotely close to being as good as the St. Louis Blues - simply put, they are not. However, I am saying that both teams have been in a rebuild phase, the Blues just have been building for longer and are finally seeing the benefits. My point was that, like the Blues have proven, rebuilds take longer than four years and both teams have been built/are building in similar fashion.