The Islanders do not have a great track record of drafting and developing over the past decade.
It’s not a disaster mind you, there have been some success stories (some no brainer like John Tavares), but a lot of misses. First-round busts like Griffen Reinhart (#4 2012) and Josh Ho-Sang (#28 2014) stand out.
Now under the leadership of GM Lou Lamoriello the Islanders have new hope for improvement in all aspects, including player development.
The Islanders have had recent success stories with impact roster players under 25-years-old including Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock and recent graduates Michael Dal Colle, and Devon Toews who are all exempt from this ranking of their top ten prospects.
Lamoriello has inherited a strong prospect pool with good depth in all positions including a spectacular 2018 draft with four selections in the first 43 picks.
The team has had a lot of success on the ice this season and with a deep pipeline fueling the roster for the future. The hope that the Islanders can return as a regular contending team is long overdue.
2019-20 Top 10 New York Islanders Prospects
1. Noah Dobson, D – New York Islanders (NHL)
Drafted: 12th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft
After a highly decorated career in junior that included a Hlinka Gold Medal, two QMJHL Championship, two Memorial Cup Championships and a playoff MVP, Dobson went straight to the NHL in his first pro season. While his deployment has been insulated, playing in only 17 games and seeing limited minutes in the majority of the games he does play in, he has still made a good impression as a rookie.
Dobson has it all, size, skating, smarts, leadership, compete, he is the whole package. Once he establishes himself in the NHL as a regular, the upside is nothing short of a number one defenseman. He can play in all situations and should be a stabilizing force on the Islanders back end for years to come.
2. Ilya Sorokin, G – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Drafted: 78th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft
The top two goalie prospects coming from Russia are the Rangers Igor Shesterkin (who just made his NHL debut) and the Islanders Sorokin. Sorokin will see his KHL contract expire after this season and Islanders will try to bring him over to North America. With the contract of backup 33-year-old Thomas Greiss expiring the timing could seems to support his arrival.
Sorokin has been dominating in Russia for years now and has won a KHL Championship, Olympic Gold, World Junior Silver and has three World Championship Bronze Medals. Should the Islanders get him under contract, it will not be long before he is the starting goalie.
3. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Drafted: 11th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft
After playing his draft plus one season in the NCAA with Boston College, Wahlstrom concluded the season in the AHL with a promising three points in five games. His first pro season has been encouraging as well.
He started in the AHL and after scoring ten points in 14 games he made his NHL debut. Wahlstrom failed to register a point in the nine games he played and was returned to the AHL and then loaned to Team USA for the World Juniors. While USA failed to Medal and were disappointed with the team result, Wahlstrom had five points in five games.
The sniper has made a quick transition to pro hockey and looks to be on the right development track to end up as a top-six winger in the near future.
4. Sebastian Aho, D – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Drafted: 139th overall in the fifth round of the 2017 draft
The Swedish Sebastian Aho, not to be confused with the Finnish Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes (NO relation) is starting to make a name for himself! In his third season in North America now. Aho played in 22 NHL games as a rookie in North America back in 2017-18, and split time between the AHL and the Islanders. Last year was a development season as he played all 67 games in the AHL producing a 46 point season. This year, all his games have been played in the AHL but he is currently recalled with the Islanders.
Aho is a mobile and offensive defenseman that is smart and reads plays well. His best assets are what are coveted skills for NHL defensemen in today’s game. He is ready for the NHL now in a bottom-six role with upside for more.
5. Kieffer Bellows, LW – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft
It’s been a bumpy ride for Bellows in his development. Bellows had an excellent draft year playing for the USA U18 National team and playing for USA at the WJC winning the Bronze. After his draft, Bellows played in the NCAA where he struggled with the Boston Terriers, but won Gold with USA at the WJC.
After his freshman year in NCAA he bailed and played a year in the WHL where he regained his goal-scoring touch with a 41 goal season and dominated the WJC with USA scoring nine goals in seven games and picking up another Bronze along the way.
Last year he turned pro and had a rough go scoring only 12 goals and 19 points in 73 games. This year he has rebounded nicely and is one of the better players on a struggling Sound Tigers team with 15 goals and 21 points in 39 games to date.
His low assist number is concerning but he uses his size well, is playing an engaged physical game and competing hard. He is one of the Islanders most improved prospects. The trick will be if he has found consistency and continues in the right direction.
6. Bode Wilde, D – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Drafted: 41st overall in the second round of the 2018 draft
Wilde is a big offensive defenseman who was projected as a first-round pick through most of his draft year. He likely fell to the second round to the Islanders due to cancer around his hockey sense. Wilde spent his post draft season in the OHL where he scored 70 points in 62 games with the Saginaw Spirit. It was a dominating performance and it was reassuring for the Islanders seeing solid development in his game.
Wilde is in his rookie pro season in the AHL and the adjustment is a difficult one. With only two assists in 16 games he is struggling to hit the score sheet, but his minus -5 is actually a promising stat. The Sound Tigers are in last place in the Eastern Conference and have given up 41 more goals than they have scored collectively. The AHL is a high-quality league and not easy for a 19-year-old defenseman, so patience, while he develops, will be essential for the Islanders. They see Wilde having NHL upside as a middle pairing defenseman that can generate some offense and play a physical game.
7. Simon Holmstrom, RW – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Drafted: 23rd overall in the first round of the 2019 draft
The Islanders 2019 first-round pick is another teenager struggling to adapt to life in the AHL. Holmstrom comes from Sweden where he played mainly in the SuperElit, and had only two games of pro in the SHL. It is curious to see his playing in the AHL as an 18-year-old, over playing pro hockey back home, or junior hockey in North America which is the path most 18-year-old follow.
Holmstrom missed close to a month and that injury likely cost him a role with Sweden at the WJC. His transition being four thousand miles from home and only 18 has overall been good. While the point production is limited with five points through 25 games, his skating and speed are excellent and his focus has been on shoring up his defensive game.
8. Otto Koivula, C – New York Islanders (NHL)
Drafted: 120th overall in the fourth round of the 2016 draft
Koivula has been a steady riser in the Islanders system since going 120th overall in ’16. After two successful seasons in Liiga with Ilves, he made the move to North America last year. As a rookie in the AHL he produced 46 points in 69 games and made the transition to play center at the same time.
Koivula is a big-bodied power forward with skill, soft hands, that plays a two-way game. His play in the AHL has not gone unnoticed and he is currently up with the Islanders and has played in six games. Playing in less than eight minutes a game, he has yet to hit the score sheet. Koivula may spend the majority of the balance of the season back in the AHL but will compete for a full-time job in the NHL next year.
9. Linus Soderstrom, G – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Drafted: 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft
Once considered an elite prospect, his stock has plummeted recently due to injury. Soderstrom missed all of last year and in the previous two seasons in the SHL, he played a total of 36 games. Now coming back from injury he has made the move to North America and has been playing entirely in the ECHL so far. He was recalled to the AHL mid-November, but has yet to play a game.
The former SHL Champion still has a long road ahead if he is to regain his status as a top prospect and compete with Ilya Sorokin for NHL playing time in the future.
10. Samuel Bolduc, D – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Drafted: 57th overall in the second round of the 2019 draft
The big defenseman blends a nice mix of size and skill to his game. He plays a rugged game, but keeps it clean as his PIM totals are very low. His offensive game is under construction but his 23 points through 40 games in his post-draft season show promise.
Bolduc will need a few years of development in the AHL before he is ready to compete for an NHL job, but he has a good upside.