The future for the Islanders may not be very bright. While the team has been competitive recently with some playoff wins and a Semi-Final loss to last year’s eventual Cup champions, the team has some veteran players with expensive and long-term contracts.
Anders Lee ($7M X5), Brock Nelson ($6M X4), Jean-Gabriel Pageau ($5M X5), Josh Bailey ($5 X3), and Casey Cizikas ($2.5M X6) are all around 30-years-old with big dollars and term. It is difficult to think that they will provide the kind of value their contracts will demand as time goes by.
The good news is the Islanders have graduated several prospects recently in Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Ilya Sorokin who are making an impact.
The bad news is the prospect pool has dried up with little promise to look to for the future as their veteran core ages out with immovable contracts. The Islanders have traded some high-end draft picks recently and have also missed on some high-end draft picks as well. Michael Dal Colle (5th overall), Josh Ho-Sang (28th overall), and Griffin Reinhart (4th overall) are all busts.
Unless the Islanders can find a way to get out from under some of those heavy contracts and acquire some draft picks, the team may be looking at some darker days ahead.
2021-22 Top 10 New York Islanders Prospects
- Aatu Raty, C – Jukurit (Liiga)
Drafted: 2021 round two, 52nd overall by New York Islanders
The Islanders’ first pick in the 2021 draft did not come until midway through the second round. But they may have drafted a first-round talent in Raty. Heading into the 2021 draft year, Aatu Raty was considered a top prospect, if not the top prospect. Raty had draft pundits salivating at his potential as a 16- and 17-year-old prospect.
His combination of advanced size and skill had him projected as potentially the first ever Finnish born player to be selected first overall at the NHL entry draft. In his draft year, his stock plummeted, perhaps under the weight of expectations. He failed to return to the Finnish WJC roster after making the team as a 17-year-old, and his point per game production in the Liiga was cut in half.
With the draft behind him, he had a statement tournament at the WJC summer showcase posting 15 points in a six-game exhibition tournament. His point production in the Liiga has bounced back after a move to Jukurit where has become a point a game player.
Raty has a heavy shot, soft hands and good vision. He makes smart reads and plays and is a reliable defensive player. His skating needs some development, particularly his quickness and first step. Raty may never live up to the first overall billing he received early on as a franchise superstar, but he has significant potential as a top-six center with a floor as a checking line center with offensive upside.
- Kieffer Bellows, LW – New York Islanders (NHL)
Drafted: 2016 round one, 19th overall by New York Islanders
It would be fair to argue that Bellows has graduated as he essentially was a full-time New York Islander last season. But the son of NHL great Brian Bellows was limited to only 14 games as he was a regular member of the taxi squad. It is a similar situation this year as he has been played more, but still not a regular in the lineup.
Bellows has an extensive resume already with experience in the USHL, the US National Team, NCAA, WHL, AHL, NHL and International experience with USA at the U18 and WJC. Bellows is a very inconsistent player, from game-to-game and from year-to-year.
His stock was high in his draft year with a 50-goal season on the US National team. His D+1 year as a Boston Terrier was disappointing with 14 points in 34 games. Bellows left the NCAA after one season and rebounded in the WHL with 42 goals and 74 points with the Portland Winterhawks. The following season he struggled again as a rookie in the AHL with 19 points in 73 games but racked up 101 penalty minutes establishing himself as a power forward.
His consistency in the NHL has been a problem and getting quality minutes under Barry Trotz has been a challenge as well for Bellows. At 23-years-old, the clock is ticking for Bellows to establish himself as a top-six winger.
- Robin Salo, D – Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round two, 46th overall by New York Islanders
After six pro seasons in Europe, Robin Salo has finally arrived in North America. The 23-year-old is now a relatively finished product in terms of his development and after 14 games in Bridgeport adjusting to the smaller ice, he posted eight points. His play earned him an NHL recall wherein ten games he earned his first career NHL point, an assist. With the return of the taxi squad for COVID depth, he may have a prolonged stay at the NHL level, albeit in limited games.
Salo is a mobile defenseman with offensive upside and a reliable defensive game. He has decent size and is a well-rounded player. As mentioned, he is a developed player with few deficiencies in his game. His upside peaks at a middle pairing defenseman with the ability to play on both special teams.
- Simon Holmstrom, RW/LW – Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round one, 23rd overall by New York Islanders
Bob McKenzie had Holmstrom ranked 43rd on his draft list, so the Islanders may have reached in selecting him 23rd overall ahead of Philip Tomasino and Connor McMichael.
That potential mistake may have been doubled down as with no previous pro experience, the Islanders brought Holmstrom to North America as an 18-year-old and dropped him in the AHL where he posted 15 points in 46 games with a minus -15 as a rookie. In his second season, his point pace dropped slightly with seven points in 24 games and while he was named to Team Sweden at the WJC he was held pointless in five games with a disappointing showing.
Now 20-years-old and in his third AHL season, Holmstrom is starting to show why the Islanders drafted him so high. Through the first 30 games, he has 16 points, good for fourth in team scoring.
His skating and puck handling skills make him a dangerous player on the rush, but his lack of physical play is cause for concern. Holmstrom has struggled with his development for two reasons; being in the AHL too soon is one, and injuries is the other. He has dealt with a concussion, hip surgery and a broken thumb as well as a reduced schedule due to COVID. If Holmstrom can stay healthy and the AHL remains open, his development could take a big step forward.
- Samuel Bolduc, D – Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round two, 57th overall by New York Islanders
Bolduc had a breakout season as a rookie in the AHL last year posting six goals and 14 points in 24 games in a top pairing role. His combination of his size and better-than-average skating translate well to the NHL. A big point shot makes him a threat offensively.
Bolduc, unfortunately, missed training camp and the start of the season due to injury, and there may still be lingering effects of what ails him as he has yet to register a single point in his sophomore season through 25 games. This massive step back is a major red flag to be sure, but the term small sample size is often used to discredit a player who has a sudden and explosive offensive outburst. Looking at his entire body of work, there is more cause for optimism than concern.
- Bode Wilde, D – Vasterviks IK (Allsvenskan)
Drafted: 2018 round two, 41st overall by New York Islanders
One of the fastest falling prospects in hockey is the Islanders Bode Wilde. The big smooth-skating defenseman has an excellent package of physical skills. He is 6-3, skates like the wind, has a hard and low shot. In his D+1 season he dominated the OHL with 19 goals and 70 points in 62 games with Saginaw.
However, he has struggled mightily since as his game has not transitioned to the pro level. In his two seasons in the AHL he has eight points in 42 career games. His offensive game is developed, so no doubt he has been focusing on his defensive game.
The concern for Wilde is his tendency for giveaways, turnovers, lapses in judgment, and questionable reads. This season is a critical development year for Wilde who needs to show he is not a one-dimensional player. His decision to refuse COVID vaccination forced the Islanders to loan him to Vasterviks in Sweden. He has failed to dominate there as well with only one goal and six points in 24 games with a minus -7. Time seems to be running out on Wilde.
- William Dufour, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2020 round five, 152nd overall by New York Islanders
The big winger is having a big season on his fourth team in four years in the QMJHL. Dufour is a power forward with good size, an NHL-ready shot, good skating and he is also defensively sound as well. Dufour uses his size and skating to power his way to the goal, willing to go through defenders if he can’t get around them.
His best weapon is his shot, it is low, hard, and accurate. He can disguise his release well and has a quick release. Dufour has struggled with consistency from game to game, but overall has shown steady progression in his development.
The big winger is having his best season with the Sea Dogs, where he is poised for a potential long playoff run and a shot at the Memorial Cup as Saint John is the host city for 2022. Dufour will transition to the pro level next year and if he continues to progress could develop into a middle-six player.
- Otto Koivula, LW – Bridgeport Islanders (AHL)
Drafted: 2016 round four, 120th overall by New York Islanders
Time is starting to run out on Koivula to establish himself as an NHL player. He now has three full seasons of AHL development under his belt in the Islanders system. His play at the AHL level has been excellent, 102 career points in 153 games. Unfortunately, his production while at the NHL level has not been present with only one assist through 15 total games.
His toolbox is impressive with size, a good shot, playmaking vision, defensive awareness, and a good compete level. What he is lacking is foot speed and the ability to process at the pace of the NHL. With his exemption from waiver wire protection ended, the likelihood of him earning multiple NHL recalls is slim and his window in the Islanders organization is quickly closing.
- Ruslan Iskhakov, C – Adler Mannheim (DEL)
Drafted: 2018 round two, 43rd overall by New York Islanders
After the Islanders drafted the diminutive forward out of the MHL in Russia, where he was a near-point per game player, they brought him over to North America to develop in the NCAA. Iskhakov played in two seasons at the University of Connecticut where he had 21 points in 32 games in both seasons. After his sophomore season, he ended his NCAA career.
The second-round pick remains unsigned and played last year in the Liiga with TPS getting his first taste of pro hockey. He performed well with 38 points in 54 regular-season games and added another seven in 13 playoff games.
Still unsigned in his D+4 season he is on his third team and league in three years with Adler Mannheim in the DEL German league. He missed the start of the season with a foot injury but has six points in six games since his return.
Iskhakov is a dynamic skater and skilled offensive player. His lack of size and physical play will need to be overcome for him to succeed at the NHL level. Still only 21-years-old he has time, but the fact he remains unsigned is a big red flag.
- Logan Cockerill, LW – Boston University (NCAA)
Drafted: 2017 round seven, 201st overall by New York Islanders
A very late seventh-round pick from the 2017 draft, Cockerill has been developing in the NCAA with the Boston Terriers. His rookie season was impressive with 20 points in 37 games and winning an NCAA (Hockey Easy) Championship. While his offensive production dipped slightly as a sophomore, he played a role with USA at the 2019 WJC winning the Silver Medal.
Injuries have slowed his development down and limited him to just 12 games last year. Despite the limited games, he had a career year as the Terriers Captain with 10 points in 12 games. Cockerill has returned for a fifth season in the NCAA made possible as a result of the Pandemic but is surprisingly off to a slow start.
The 22-year-old is undersized but has an extremely high compete motor and has excellent speed and skating ability. He is very strong defensively, and despite his slight stature can play a physical game. He is a threat short-handed to score and is more than capable in the offensive zone. Sprinkle in his leadership qualities and he has the upside to become a bottom-six, energy, and penalty killing specialist at the NHL level.