Islanders' top 10 prospects led by Reinhart, defense

Griffin Reinhart leads a deep pool of New York Islanders defensive prospects and could help fortify the back end this season.

Friday, 08.01.2014 / 10:25 AM
Mike Morreale

The New York Islanders have quietly assembled one of the finer pipeline pools of defensive prospects in the NHL, and there's a good chance one of them will help fortify the back end this season.

Griffin Reinhart, a 2012 first-round selection (No. 4), provides the organization with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound shutdown defenseman mature beyond his years. But Reinhart is one of several top defenders in the system, leaving general manager Garth Snow and his staff with some tough decisions to make in September.

The Islanders already have Calvin de Haan, 23; Travis Hamonic, 23; Thomas Hickey, 25; Kevin Czuczman, 23; and TJ Brennan, 25; also in the hunt for positions along the blue line this season. Lubomir Visnovsky is expected to serve as the veteran presence on defense.

"There's a lot of competition from within and these players will push each other," Islanders director of player development Eric Cairns said. "There are different types of defensemen here too, with different body types, strengths and areas they all need to improve. We're happy to have them in the prospect pool."

One thing is certain: training camp is going to be competitive since there will be several spots up for grabs as the Islanders look to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in nine seasons.

Here's a look at the Islanders' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Griffin Reinhart, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 4), 2012 draft

Last season: 45 GP, 4-17-21, Edmonton, WHL

After four full seasons in the Western Hockey League that culminated with him helping the Oil Kings win the 2014 Memorial Cup, Reinhart, 20, appears ready to begin his professional career. Serving as captain last season, Reinhart had four goals and 13 points in 21 playoff games and was named Most Valuable Player of the WHL playoffs. In 209 regular-season games with the Oil Kings, Reinhart had 30 goals, 111 points and 164 penalty minutes.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano feels winning the Memorial Cup in his final junior season will provide Reinhart (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) the boost of confidence he needs entering training camp.

"He was a horse for [Edmonton] and gained a great deal of experience, and most importantly winning a championship and how hard it is and how tough it is," Capuano said. "The fact that he was able to do that, we're proud of him, and now he's going to get an opportunity come September."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Ryan Pulock, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 15), 2013 draft

Last season: 66 GP, 23-40-63, Brandon, WHL

The Wheat Kings captain closed out his fourth full season in the WHL as the leading goal-scorer among defensemen in the history of the franchise. He had 64 goals and 146 assists in 261 games and became the fifth defenseman in team history to score 200 points in a career. The 19-year-old (6-2, 212) likely will begin the 2014-15 season in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

"He's an offensive defenseman and has a big body (6-1, 218), is mobile and has a cannon for a shot," Cairns said. "That shot is a dangerous weapon and he likes to use it a lot. He scored a bunch of goals and is a good leader."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

3. Anders Lee, C

How acquired: 6th round (No. 152), 2009 draft

Last season: 54 GP, 22-19-41, Bridgeport, AHL; 22 GP, 9-5-14, N.Y. Islanders

A power forward (6-3, 227), Lee spent the majority of last season in Bridgeport, but did play 22 games for the Islanders and impressed during his stint with the big club. Capuano even gave Lee an opportunity on the top line late last season when John Tavares and Kyle Okposo were out with injuries. The belief is Lee, 24, has a very good chance to earn a role with the Islanders right out of training camp, but only if he can perfect his game in the defensive zone.

"Offense is pretty natural for almost anybody who's played this game," Lee said. "You roam around, cycle, support one another, look for openings. Defense is where you have to learn technique, structure, systems. Guys jump behind you all the time at this level."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

4. Ville Pokka, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 34), 2012 draft

Last season: 54 GP, 6-21-27, Karpat, FIN

Earning major minutes against men for Karpat in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, Pokka earned the Matti Keinonen Trophy for leading the league in plus/minus rating (plus-32). The 20-year-old (6-0, 214) also manned the blue line for Finland at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, and had one goal and four points winning a gold medal.

"That plus/minus rating tells us he was doing the right things with the puck while playing a solid defensive game," Cairns said. "He played top-four minutes for Karpat and was on the power play and penalty kill."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Michael Dal Colle, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 5), 2014 draft

Last season: 67 GP, 39-56-95, Oshawa, OHL

After a strong regular season, Dal Colle had eight goals and 20 points in 12 OHL playoff games and was named to the OHL Second All-Star Team. He played a majority of his career at center before moving to left wing as a rookie with the Generals in 2012-13 when he had 15 goals and 48 points in 63 games. Dal Colle, 18, might spend two more seasons in the OHL before turning pro in 2016-17.

"I watched a lot of video on Michael and he's got tremendous size (6-3, 184) and is really a well-rounded individual," Capuano said. "He's faced a lot of adversity in his life and is a solid citizen. Any time you build a team you want size and skill but also character players."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

6. Scott Mayfield, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 34), 2011 draft

Last season: 71 GP, 3-15-18, Bridgeport, AHL

He made the jump to the AHL in 2013-14 after two successful seasons at the University of Denver. Mayfield, 21, is known to be a physically intimidating presence along the blue line, as evidenced by his 129 penalty minutes in 71 games for the Sound Tigers last season. He earned himself a call-up to the Islanders for five games, but likely will spend his second full season in the AHL to shore up his game. The 6-5, 218-pound defenseman is an exceptional skater, a trait unusual for a physically intimidating, stay-at-home type.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Sebastian Collberg, RW

How acquired: Trade (Montreal Canadiens), March 5, 2014

Last season: 40 GP, 3-6-9, Frolunda, SWE

Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in the Thomas Vanek trade in March, Collberg has a hard, accurate wrist shot with a quick release, in addition to good speed and acceleration. He has succeeded on the international stage, with nine goals and 10 assists in 19 games for Sweden in three World Junior Championship tournaments; he won gold in 2012 and silver in 2013 and 2014. The 20-year-old (5-11, 181) ended his third season playing for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League in 2013-14 with three goals and nine points in 40 games. Snow predicts Collberg, who underwent shoulder surgery in April, could be a future top-six forward.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

8. Joshua Ho-Sang, RW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 28), 2014 draft

Last season: 67 GP, 32-53-85, Windsor, OHL

Islanders head amateur scout Trent Klatt acknowledged the organization never likes to leave the draft floor without attempting to acquire players they like, so moving up to select Ho-Sang in the first round in June was an easy decision. Snow traded two second-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning to get back into the first round and choose the 5-11, 169-pound forward. Ho-Sang, 18, led the team last season in assists and points and tied for the lead in goals. The son of a Jamaican-born father and Chilean-born mother, he has 46 goals and 129 points in 130 OHL games.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

9. Johan Sundstrom, C

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 50), 2011 draft

Last season: 40 GP, 8-10-18, Bridgeport, AHL

The 6-3, 201-pound Swede spent his second full season in the AHL. He earned 11 games with the Islanders but likely will remain in Bridgeport this season. Sundstrom, 22 in September, is a prototypical agitator in the AHL, but proved his offensive ability as well by chipping in when called upon. He has 19 goals and 50 points in 99 games with the Islanders' minor-league affiliate.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

10. Adam Pelech, D

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 65), 2012 draft

Last season: 60 GP, 9-45-54, Erie, OHL

The third-round pick (No. 65) in the 2012 NHL Draft was named to the OHL Second All-Star Team in 2013-14 after he had 54 points in 60 games in his fourth season with Erie. Pelech, 19 (6-3, 220) logged key minutes and was a major contributor as an alternate captain with two goals and seven points in 14 playoff games. He had 20 goals and 107 assists in 228 career games and likely will begin the season in Bridgeport to work on his all-around game.

"Moving forward he'll focus on what he needs to do to make himself a pro hockey player," Cairns said. "A lot of people have said they see Adam in a defensive shutdown role, but he put up a lot of goals from the blue line. We don't want to stereotype him as a defensive defenseman; we'll explore his offensive side."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

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Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer

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