Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf NHL Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. The cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: New York Islanders Prospects
The New York Islanders made the playoffs again in 2016, finishing in the top wild-card spot. They also won a playoff series for the first time since 1993, defeating the Florida Panthers in six games. The Cinderella run would not continue though, as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
The off-season has seen a number of changes. Gone are long time Islanders staples Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, who left as free agents. In is Andrew Ladd who signed a mega-deal on July 1st. They also brought back P.A. Parenteau.
New York Islanders Prospects Scouting Report
Top Prospect: Ryan Pulock
Defense — shoots Right
Born Oct 6 1994 — Dauphin, MAN
Height 6’2 — Weight 215 lbs [188 cm / 98 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 1, #15 overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft\n
Pulock had a solid second pro season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points in 51 games. He earned a late season call-up with the Islanders scoring two goals and four points in 15 games; and also picked up a goal and three points in six playoff games.
Pulock is an above average skater with good mobility on the blue line. He has a good stride and gets good acceleration both forwards and backwards. His top end speed is above average, but could still be improved. His edge work, pivots and agility are excellent, allowing him to cover a lot of ice, and quickly change directions to react and keep the play in front of him. He has solid balance and is difficult to knock off the puck. The agility also gives him the ability to walk the line and open up shooting and passing lanes.
Pulock’s slap shot is an absolute rocket. He also has fantastic one-timer which make him an extremely feared shooter on the power play. His shot was measured over 100 miles per hour. Other AHL teams are certainly shading their penalty kill to try to minimize Pulock’s shot at this point, but despite that, he still managed to put a bunch in the back of the net.
A natural power play quarterback, Pulock makes smart crisp passes and sees the ice extremely well. He also understands the importance of getting the puck on net, and is able to utilize a good wrist shot and quick release when teams try to take away his big bomb. On the rush, he has decent stick handling and can be the lead man with the puck or can join the attack as the trailer, ready to unleash his rocket slapper or that very good wrist shot.
Defensively, Pulock uses his good hockey sense and strong positioning and has really improved his defensive game over the last few years. He keeps his opponent to the outside off the rush. Pulock is rarely beaten one on one. In the defensive zone he cuts down passing and shooting lanes very well. Pulock does play physically, willing to throw hits in open ice or if an opponent tries to get by him along the boards. He could work on his upper body strength, which would help him to win more board battles and be more of a force in front of the net, and clearing the crease. Pulock’s first pass is excellent, and he helps his team start the transition game by moving the puck quickly out of the zone.
Pulock did not look out of place on the Islanders blue line during last year’s playoffs. He has matured at the AHL level and is looking NHL ready. He will go to camp looking for a full-time spot. His time is now.
#2 Prospect: Mathew Barzal
Center — shoots Right
Born May 26 1997 — Coquitlam, BC
Height 6’0 — Weight 175 lbs [183 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 1, #16 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Barzal had an outstanding season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, putting up 27 goals and 61 assists for 88 points in 58 games. He also put up 26 points in 18 playoff games. Barzal was one of Canada‘s most dangerous forwards on their World Junior team as well. He made a lot of teams regret passing on him in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Barzal is an outstanding skater, with top notch speed and great acceleration. His stride is smooth and extremely effective. He also has great agility, outstanding pivots and strong edge work which he uses to be incredibly elusive off the rush, or in the offensive zone. Barzal shows good lower-body strength for his age, giving him the good balance and powerful stride to fight through checks and win board battles. Like most junior aged players, he will still need to add a little more strength going forward though.
Barzal also has incredibly soft hands and great stick handling. He protects the puck extremely well, and works well in the cycle game. He has very good hockey sense, and almost always makes the smart play. These skills alone would make him a dynamic offensive threat, but when you add in his great shot, quick release and excellent vision and play-making ability he is the total package as an offensive player. He does need to use that shot more, and would score more goals if he was a little more selfish. He has shown the willingness to play in the dirty areas of the ice, and shows flashes of adding a power game to his offensive finesse and skill after adding some weight this off-season. If he continues to grow and add that game, the sky is the limit for him both in the WHL and eventually the NHL.
Barzal can be a good two way player. He shows the hockey sense and anticipation to break up plays, create turnovers, and start the transition game. He also knows how to work down low to support his defence, and has shown a willingness to block shots. The issue here is that his effort level in his own zone is not always consistent. He has the skills to be good defensively, but must work to do so night in and night out going forward.
Expect Barzal to spend another year in junior, as Seattle attempts to chase the WHL Title. He should also be one of the leaders of Canada’s World Junior Team. He may not be ready yet, but his potential is sky high.
#3 Prospect: Michael Dal Colle
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Jun 20 1996 — Woodbridge, ONT
Height 6’2 — Weight 198 lbs [188 cm / 90 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 1, #5 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
After leading the Oshawa Generals to the Memorial Cup in 2015, Dal Colle had a pedestrian start to the season with the rebuilding club. After being traded to the Kingston Frontenacs, things picked up. Dal Colle scored 27 goals and 55 points in 30 games with Kingston and six goals and 18 points in nine playoff games.
Dal Colle is a very good skater. He has a good stride which provides him with very good top end speed and excellent acceleration. Dal Colle has good core strength which gives him excellent balance and makes him hard to knock off the puck. He also has excellent agility which combined with this soft hands and vast array of moves makes him a nightmare for defenders one-on-one.
The first thing you notice about Michael Dal Colle is his stick handling ability. His soft hands are absolutely elite and he can do things with the puck that others only dream of doing. I would grade this as an A+ skill for him. Dal Colle has shown an excellent ability to play the cycle game protecting the puck down low, and making quick, smart passes.
When given openings he cane drive the net and show off those soft hands in close, and they give him the ability to beat defenders and goaltenders one-on-one. He’s also a power winger who is strong on his skates and also isn’t afraid to bulldoze through a defender if necessary. Willing to take a hit to make a play, he’s also unfraid to dish them out. Dal Colle can only improve as he adds more strength. He also has a strong and accurate wrist shot with a very good release.
Defensively Dal Colle has really improved in the past couple of years. He fixed his bad habit of puck watching and is much more reliable than he was in his draft year. He back checks hard and gets into good positions cutting down passing and shooting lanes. There is still some improvement needed in his positioning, but it is much improved. He also helps with good back pressure.
Expect Dal Colle to be given a long look in the Islanders top six during training camp. With the off-season changes they could really use him to break through and be an offensive threat. If he has a strong camp, he could find himself on the team when the season starts.
#4 Prospect: Ilya Sorokin
Goalie – Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born Aug 4 1995 — Mezhdurechensk, Russia
Height 6’2 Weight 172 lbs [188 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 3, 78th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Sorokin had an outstanding first full season in the KHL, putting up a .953 save percentage in the regular season and a .945 save percentage in the playoffs. He ended up winning the award for best KHL goaltender. He was part of Russia‘s World Championship team, bringing home a bronze meadal.
Sorokin has good height at 6’2″ but is extremely slight as he weighed just 172 pounds last year. He is an extremely athletic, butterfly style goaltender. He gets side to side quickly, and makes a number of saves that will leave your jaw dropping. Sorokin never fully gives up on a play and can show very quick recoveries. He has outstanding reflexes, and his quick legs take away the bottom of the net. Shooters can try to go high, but his blocker and glove are very quick too.
There are some issues though, as he isn’t the most fundamentally sound goalie out there. He doesn’t fully take advantage of his height as Sorokin could come out further to cut down angles and give shooters less to look at. He also has issues with rebound control, though this has been improving in recent years.
Sorokin will spend the season with CSKA Moscow. It is unclear when the Islanders will be able to bring their best goalie prospect to North America.
#5 Prospect: Anthony Beauvillier
Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born Jun 8 1997 — Sorel, PQ
Height 5’11 — Weight 173 lbs [180 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 1, 28th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Beauvillier captained the Shawinigan Catartactes back to relevance this year. He picked up 40 goals and 39 assists for 79 points in just 47 games. He also had 30 points in 21 playoff games, leading the team all the way to the QMJHL final, before they lost to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
Beauvillier is an excellent skater. He has a good stride generating excellent speed and very good acceleration. Add in the fact that he has a quick first step and he is able to be quick on the fore check, first to loose pucks and beat defenders on the rush. He also has very good agility and edge work, which combines with his stick handling ability to make him very dangerous in one-on-one situations. He has a very low-centre of gravity which gives him good strength on his skates, and makes him very hard to knock off the puck and helps him in battling for pucks and in the cycle game.
Beauvillier has great stick handling skills and the ability to create plays when it seems like nothing is there. He protects the puck extremely well, and uses his quick hands and shiftiness to get defenders out of position and create passing or shooting lanes. Beauvillier also has excellent vision and play making abilities and is the type of player who can make his linemates better. He has a strong shot and a good release, and with him learning to rely on it more has added a new element to his game, making him extremely difficult to defend, and greatly adding to Beauvillier’s breakthrough season.
He’s a little undersized as he’s listed at just 5’11″ right now, but Beauvillier is not afraid to go into the corners, or to get to the front of the net. He shows a gritty game, battling hard for position in front and loose pucks in the corners. He will also need to continue to add muscle to his frame in order to be ready to play at the pro level. Beauvillier has very good hockey sense. He makes the smart play with the puck on his stick, and he finds openings in the defense to set up for a one-timer when he doesn’t have it.
Beauvillier shows his grittiness, and the fact that he doesn’t take a shift off, in his defensive game as well. He works hard in the corners and battling for loose pucks along the boards. Beauvillier also supports his defense on the back check, and in supporting against the opponents cycle. He is excellent on face-offs and is already one of the top players in the league on the draw. Beauvillier is very good positionally and takes away shooting and passing lane. His two-way way play is a major strength. He can have difficulties with bigger, stronger forwards though, and will need to add muscle to play this game at the next level.
Expect Beauvillier to again lead the Cataractes attack this season. He had a strong year, but there is still some development needed for the 19-year-old. He should also be a key piece on Canada’s World Junior team.
#6 Prospect: Josh Ho-Sang
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born Jan 22 1996 — Thornhill, ONT
Height 6’0 — Weight 170 lbs [183 cm / 77 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 1, #28th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
It was another challenging season for Ho-Sang. He was sent home early from Islanders training camp after being late for a team meeting. He was also cut from Team Canada for the World Juniors. Once on the ice, Ho-Sang produced. He scored 82 points in 66 games for the Niagara Ice Dogs and added 26 points in 17 games as they marched to the OHL final.
Ho-Sang is immensely skilled. He is a lightning fast skater with incredible agility and edgework. Ho-Sang has a great first step and outstanding acceleration as well. This helps him to get to loose pucks and dart through openings in the offensive zone. He could stand to use this great speed more, taking defenders wide and cutting to the net more often would add another aspect to his game off the rush. Improved strength would help him to have better balance and be stronger on the puck.
Ho-Sang also has quick, soft hands, and incredible puck control. When he’s on his game, he is a joy to watch as he can do things with the puck that other players only dream of. He quite literally can stick handle in a phone-booth. Ho-Sang can play the role of play maker with good vision and excellent passing skills. He has the ability to make a saucer pass over sticks, or to thread the needle through very small areas. Ho-Sang can score goals with his excellent moves and soft hands.
He also has a good release on his wrist shot but could use more power. His one-timer could also be stronger. That may come as he bulks up, which is something that Ho-Sang will definitely need to do before going pro. He can make dynamic offensive plays when he has time and space, but in fighting traffic he still gets knocked off the puck a little bit too often, and this is another area where bulking up would help.
Ho-Sang’s defensive game is a work in progress. He’s certainly worked to improve it this season, and its gotten better as the year has gone on. Still there are too many times he’s in the wrong position, or outmuscled by an opponent. He’s getting better though and has a lot less instances of when his effort is the question mark. In this way there are some signs that he is starting to mature.
Ho-Sang is highly talented, but still has much to learn about the professional game. Expect to see him in the AHL to start the season.
#7 Prospect: Kieffer Bellows
The Islanders drafted Bellows with the 19th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Bellows. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Alan Quine
Center/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Feb 25 1993 — Ottawa, ONT
Height 6’0 — Weight 200 lbs [183 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the New York Islanders in round 6, #166 overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft
Quine is an outstanding skater, he is extremely fast, and has great acceleration. He uses his speed to be dangerous off the rush, but is also usually one of the first in on the fore check throwing hits and digging for pucks in the dump and chase game, despite being slightly undersized. He has decent agility and edge work. Quine has a low centre of gravity and good balance, allowing him to be strong on the puck.
Quine has good stick handling and puck protection skills, and combines those with good vision and passing to be an effective play maker. He controls the puck down low, and can work in the cycle game. Quine also has an accurate wrister and a good release. His shot could stand to add a bit more power though.
Quine is an effective two way player, who is good in the face-off dot. He understands his responsiblity and role in the defensive zone. Quine has been used to play against other team’s offensive lines at the AHL level, and can kill penalties. He supports the defence well in the cycle game, cutting down passing and shooting lanes.
Quine will look to win a bottom line role on the Islanders this year. He is very effective at the AHL level, but his NHL future likely rests in a depth role.
The Islanders have a very deep group of forward prospects. They have a number of young forwards with high end potential as reviewed above. Further down the system, they have Anatoly Golyshev and Johan Sundstrom. The defence may not have any blue chippers beyond Pulock; but has some decent projects in Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Mithchell vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon. Adding some high end defencemen may become a priority of future drafts.