Who Will Be The Next Unsung Hero For The Isles?
Every once in a while there is a roster player on every team that suddenly has a stand out year that came out of no where. Last year the Vancouver Canucks got solid production from Alexandre Burrows, a player that went undrafted and was signed to an NHL contract in 2003. He put up decent numbers in the AHL and came into the Canucks line-up as a bottom-six forward. He ended up with 67 points on the 2010 season, following a 51 point season in 2009. Although his 67 points doesn't compare to the offense possessed by others such as the Sedin twins, having a 50/60 point guy that no one expected is not something that warrants complaints.
Now-a-days many people are familiar with Jason Blake, who is currently playing with the Anaheim Ducks after a mid-season trade. Like Burrows, Blake went undrafted and was signed to a contract by the L.A. Kings back in 1999. Mad Mike Milbury traded a 5th round pick to the Kings in exchange for Blake to play on the 4th line with Claude Lapointe and Steve Webb. They performed as a pretty effective checking line; a veteran center, a pinball hitting machine, and a pesky speedster. But after Michael Peca missed a major portion of the season recovering from surgery after his hit from Darcy Tucker in the 2002 playoffs, Blake took it upon himself to elevate his game to a new level. He ended up finishing the 2003-2004 season with 55 points and becoming one of the Island's favorite players. His best year was in 2007 when he scored 40 goals and 69 points. This led to him cashing in on the free agent market with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although he hasn't come close to 40 goals again in his career, he still has managed to put up 40-60 points in each of the past three seasons.
Matt Moulson arrived to the Islanders training camp last year with low expectations. If anything, he would have been an AHL depth signing that could provide offense to the Sound Tigers. Turns out he ended up leading the Islanders in scoring during the pre-season, and then ended up leading the team in goals by the end of the year with 30 with 18 helpers to add to his point total of 48. As for his draft status, he was taken in the 9th round in 2003 by Pittsburgh. Despite scouting reports and expectations, the draft, especially late picks, comes down to a crap shoot and 30-goal scorers are not expected to be found. Therefore, Matt Moulson has turned out to be one of Garth Snow's true diamond-in-the-rough findings.
So who will be that player this year?
There is the possibility that there won't be one, but Snow has provided his coaching staff with potential gems in P.A. Parenteau and Matt Martin.
Martin has already made a bit of a name for himself in the fan base but hasn't solidified himself into the line-up just yet. He appeared in five games with the Isles, recording 2 assists and 26 penalty minutes. He may provide more muscle than finesse, but that's not a bad thing considering the opponents the Isles face in their division. However, during his days in the OHL before being drafted by the Isles in the 5th round, Martin showed flashes of scoring potential. In 2008 he only managed to accumulate 38 points in 66 games with the Sarnia Sting. But the following year he registered 65 points in 61 games along with 142 penalty minutes. That's a 27 point jump in his production within one year.
Parenteau is already someone Isles fans know due to his former team, the New York Rangers. He appears more poised for a breakout year than Martin since he is a little further in his development, and that could be why the Isles made a quick effort to sign him. At 27 years of age, Parenteau has already spent some considerable time in the minors with the Hartford Wolf Pack. In 2008 he recorded 81 points in 75 games (34 goals and 47 assists) and followed that year with 78 points in 74 games in 2009 (29 goals and 49 assists). He dressed in 22 games with the Isles cross-town rivals and had 3 goals along with 5 assists for 8 points. He also proved to be very effective in the shootout. P.A. is another one of Garth Snow's experiments. If the Isles aren't a good fit for him, the organization can walk away at the end of the year and say they tried. If he turns out with good results, he can be filed under one of Garth's brilliant signings.
Without knowing who is being invited to the Islanders training camp, these are two players that appear closest to a breakout year. However, once the competition picks up in September, things might get just a little bit more interesting.
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