With the NHL season on hold due to the rapidly-spreading Coronavirus outbreak, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the seasons that the Islanders’ prospects were having in the North American leagues or elsewhere. Let’s continue by taking a look at how the Islanders’ defensive prospects were performing in their respective leagues prior to the worldwide sports shutdown.
Before I get into it, the question arises. Who am I counting as a prospect? Well, I am using the same system as my Islanders’ Prospect Pyramid earlier this season, which says that anyone under the age of 25 (unless they turned 25 this season), and has not fulfilled rookie requirements, per the NHL, is considered a prospect. So, let’s get into it. Here is the breakdown of the Islanders’ defensive prospects from this season.
In his first season as the full-time captain of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with the departure of Ben Holmstrom, Kyle Burroughs stepped up in a big way, both on and off the ice. In 58 games for the Sound Tigers this year, Burroughs tallied two goals and eight points, adding 63 penalty minutes and was a minus-seven. He also jumped up the all-time games played list, moving from eighth to third all-time, and now sitting only 13 games behind Jeremy Colliton in second, and only 55 shy of Mark Wotton in first place. He also entered the top-five in penalty minutes in Sound Tigers history. The long-time Sound Tiger has become a big influence in the locker room despite only being 24, and still has a long career ahead of him.
Mitch Vande Sompel:
If I was grading each of the Islanders’ prospects seasons, Mitch Vande Sompel’s grade would read incomplete. That is because his season was cut short. During the preseason, he injured his shoulder in a collision that resulted in him spending the entire season on season-opening injured reserve. In past years, Vande Sompel has had success with the Sound Tigers, and next year will be big for him as he recovers from his injury, playing in the Sound Tigers top-four.
The Islanders’ third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Mirageas just wrapped up his junior season on Providence College’s defense, only tallying three assists in 26 games, while cutting down on his penalty minutes, and rebounding on the defensive side of the game (plus-five). The Islanders will have to make a decision on Mirageas sooner than later, as he can become a college free agent next summer if he does not sign his entry-level contract with the Islanders.
Christian Krygier, the Islanders’ seventh-round pick in 2018, has been a blueline staple for the Michigan State Spartans for the past two seasons, playing alongside Florida Panthers’ defensive prospect, and his twin brother, Cole. He doesn’t have much offensive prowess but has made strides on the defensive side of the game. Krygier had three assists in 35 games this season while playing at an even plus-minus after finishing his freshman campaign at a minus-11. With half of the Spartans’ defensive core graduating, the second-pairing will have to step up in a much bigger role next year.
If you want to talk about someone who made strides this year, Salo is at the top of the list. The Islanders’ second-round pick in 2017 had eight goals and 21 points in 46 games with SaiPa in the Liiga to start the season and was then loaned to Orebo in the SHL, where he continued to be an offensive juggernaut, scoring a goal and tallying six points in 12 games to end the season. Salo looks to continue succeeding in one of the top leagues in the world next season.
After signing an Amateur Try-Out contract for the end of the 2018-19 season and scoring one goal and six points in nine games, Hutton had a strong campaign this season, scoring six goals and tallying 15 assists for 21 points in 55 games. If Hutton continues his consistent play from last season, he could potentially rise the depth chart and be a primary call-up option on defense next season.
Wotherspoon was in the midst of his third full season in Bridgeport when the pandemic struck, and he definitely made some strides. With four goals and 27 points, Wotherspoon set a career-high for assists and points. On the other hand, he was much less disciplined and had a rough defensive season as did the entire Sound Tigers team. He was leaps and bounds above his career-high in penalty minutes with 82 and was a minus-13. Wotherspoon is showing to be one of the leaders on a young Sound Tigers defense core, and could potentially get the call-up in the next few years as an injury substitute.
Aho had an interesting season this year. Despite being named to his third-straight AHL All-Star Game, he was on pace for fewer goals and points this year. He was also part of the struggling Sound Tigers defense this year, posting a minus-16 in his 49 games. Without Andy Greene being in the fold next season, expect Aho to return to his post as the taxi defenseman shuttling between the Sound Tigers and the Islanders.
The Islanders’ second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Bolduc had a very successful season in the QMJHL this year. Close to the QMJHL’s deadline, Bolduc was traded by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the unstoppable Sherbrooke Phoenix, who were dominating the Western Conference with 106 points in 63 games, 38 points ahead of the Armada who were in second place. Between the Armada and Phoenix, Bolduc scored 11 goals and totaled 43 points in 61 games. Bolduc’s strong season resulted in him signing an entry-level contract ahead of next season.
One of the Islanders’ second-round picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Wilde fell due to a multitude of things, and he has become one of the steals of the draft significantly quick. Wilde initially was on the season-opening injured reserve due to an ankle injury, and he made his AHL debut in November and ended up playing 20 games with the Sound Tigers, tallying two assists. He was then assigned to the Saginaw Spirit, scoring four goals and tallying 11 points in 11 games. Wilde is expected to head back to Bridgeport ahead of next season and be a mainstay on their defense core and continue to be towards the top of the Islanders’ defensive prospects
Finally, Noah Dobson. Dobson shined during the preseason, and he ended up making the Islanders out of training camp. Dobson has come in and out of the lineup this year, playing in 34 games, scoring a goal and adding six assists for seven points. He has been strong on both sides of the puck, but there is definitely room for improvement. Without the presence of Andy Greene on the blueline next year and the potential for buyouts, Dobson should be in the Islanders’ lineup as a mainstay next season.
The Islanders’ defensive prospects in the system have improved over the years, and it seems like the future is bright on the blueline. Make sure to check back next time when we take a look at the forwards in the Islanders’ system!