As the New York Islanders season comes to a close and is headed toward the offseason, fans are looking forward to the future, both in terms of free agency and the future stars of the Islanders. Well, which of our countless prospects could make a major impact with the NHL team at some point next season? Here are just four that might have a chance to step on the ice at Nassau Coliseum or Barclays Center next season.
Mitchell Vande Sompel:
Getting drafted in the third round of the Connor McDavid draft is no bad showing. Vande Sompel, 22, has turned out to be one of the more underrated prospects in the Islanders system. The 2018 AHL All-Star put up new career highs in goals (10) and points (31) this past season, and has played a steady two-way game alongside fellow 2015 draft pick Parker Wotherspoon. Vande Sompel has been labeled by Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson as someone to look for in the future to make an impact on the NHL level, and he was apparently discussed as a potential Black Ace if the Isles made it further in the playoffs. He is not the first defenseman on the AHL depth chart, but based on injury history of our current defenseman, I would not be surprised if he saw game action this year.
Bellows quietly put together a very respectable first season in the American Hockey League. He showed everybody that he will end up becoming the power forward the Islanders expected him to be when he was taken with the 19th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft. Bellows put up 12 goals and 19 points in 73 games, the majority of them being in the bottom-six, where it seemed like all they did was rack up penalty minutes, as he totaled 101 minutes in the box. Bellows may need another half a season in the AHL to finally mature into the NHL player we all expect him to be, but he was one of the best players in the Sound Tigers short stint in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and will definitely make an impact with the Islanders at some point next year.
Aho will not only be showcased on the roster in years going forward, but he could potentially be an impact player on the defense as early as next opening face-off. We all remember Aho for his 22 game stint as an NHLer last year, but all he has done since then is score at a quick pace. The 2o19 AHL All-Star tied his career high with nine goals and set a new high of 46 points this year with the Sound Tigers. If the Islanders end up trading Nick Leddy and Thomas Hickey this offseason while not bringing back Luca Sbisa, we could see Aho as at least the seventh defenseman come opening night.
The man of the hour. Wahlstrom is still only 18, and coming off his first season since being drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, he put up numbers that questioned most fans. Only eight goals and 19 points in 36 games at Boston College? No need to sweat as he was seeing bottom-six minutes and was also in his first year away from the USNTDP. After telling the BC coaching staff that he would not be returning for the 2019-20 season, the thought was he either was sign his ELC and ATO so he could play in the AHL playoffs, or he would go to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL as they have his rights. He made the right decision as he signed his ELC (starting in 2019-20) and an ATO for the AHL season. He scored two goals and tallied one assist in five regular season games, while adding another two goals and four points in five playoff games. I would not be surprised to see Wahlstrom start the year in the AHL, but if he progresses quickly, I could see him up as early as January. NHL, be ready for the next coming of The Office – Ollie’s Office.
Honorable mentions include Travis St. Denis, Mason Jobst, Bobo Carpenter, Otto Koivula, Joshua Ho-Sang, Grant Hutton, and Parker Wotherspoon.
Also, do you want to learn more about our team, the draft, free agency, and prospects like Bellows and Wahlstrom in our system? Take a deep dive into the New York Islanders Offseason Handbook, where you can see all of that and more!