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New York Islanders Top Prospects: 2023 Edition

New York Islanders Top Prospects

Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the summer of 2023, each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a look at one NHL team’s top prospects or other topical articles. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben KerrKyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports!  You can find all the articles here as well as our extensive NHL Draft preview. Today, we look at the 2023 New York Islanders Top Prospects.

For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.

2023 New York Islanders Top Prospects

1.) Samuel Bolduc

Last season was a massive one for the New York Islanders top prospect, Samuel Bolduc. The former second-round pick had a wonderful season in the AHL, where he put up 35 points in 56 games. This earned the defenceman a call-up to the NHL where he even scored two goals and had one assist in 17 games. A performance that the Islanders rewarded with a one-way contract, putting him in a prime position to become a full-time NHLer next season.

While Bolduc’s consistency still needs improvements, his ability to make quick and smart decisions with the puck makes him a very interesting player to watch. He has great size and frame and uses it really well to regain the puck in the defensive zone. Add to that his strong puck moving style and he is a very modern defenceman which has elevated his offensive production a lot. His confidence has skyrocketed and it has suited his game offensively. Bolduc was always a decent defensive player, but adding the offence to his game has elevated him into the top prospect in the Islanders organization.

2.) William Dufour

Another player who made a huge impact last season was William Dufour. Similar to Bolduc he performed extremely well in the AHL this season which eventually earned him a game in the NHL. In 69 AHL games, he had 48 points which is all the more impressive considering it was his first year as a pro.

Dufour also brings a great bit of size and physicality which should be a great fit with the Islanders long term. He is a strong power forward whose style is not too far away from former Islander Cal Clutterbuck.  He works hard in both ends of the ice and brings his all shift after shift. Adding to it the offensive upside with a deadly shot, he could easily turn into a solid middle-six forward in the NHL. The main thing holding him back is his skating, but with improvements, he has the tools to be a major part of the new-look New York Islanders.

3.) Danny Nelson

Danny Nelson was the Islanders first pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, selected at 49th overall. While he was slightly overshadowed on the stacked USNTDP team in the USHL this past season he kept on improving. While he isn’t going to put up superstar numbers, his versatility and steady growth in key areas do make him an interesting prospect to follow.

Nelson’s primary strength is his strong mobility for his size. While he isn’t fast or powerful in his skating, his edges and overall movement are extremely polished. Over the season his acceleration also improved which saw him develop a new dimension to his game. The added step makes him able to get away from the defender and open up for a pass or a shot. The playmaking is solid as he reads the game well, and his shot is heavy and with a quick release. A lot of his game still needs work, and it’s raw, but given the time he could develop into a really interesting middle six forward in the future.

4.) Matthew Maggio

Matthew Maggio took the OHL by storm last season as he put up 111 points in 66 games for the Windsor Spitfires. An astonishing first season after being taken in the 5th round of the 2022 draft. A season that has catapulted him up the prospect rankings and has made him a name to watch for the upcoming season. Questions will be if he can translate his production to the AHL and if it was a product of being an overage player in the OHL rather than anything else.

Maggio plays a highly competitive game and has clear leadership qualities. It’s not a mystery why he was the captain for the Spitfires this season, as he is a player who works hard whenever he hits the ice. The responsibility suited him as his game matured, making him a versatile player who can play in both zones. While he would do well to add muscles to his frame and get strong, the improved and more direct style of play makes it far more plausible that he can successfully translate his game to the pro level.

5.) Alex Jeffries

One of the more underrated prospects in the Islanders system is Alex Jeffries. The fast 21-year-old forward had another improved season in the NCAA. During last season he had a breakout year with 41 points in 38 games for Merrimack Collage. A performance that had Jeffries nominated for multiple NCAA awards within his conference.

What makes Jeffries such an intriguing player is his playmaking ability. His vision is stellar and he is able to find the gaps in the defensive structure to exploit with pinpoint accurate passes. He also has great skating to open up defences. He has also been developing into much more of a shooter, and the shot is decent although a bit one-dimensional. There is still room to grow for Jeffries, but he has shown a willingness to put in the effort to do it in the NCAA. If he keeps it up he could be a steal from the 2020 NHL draft.

6.) Calle Odelius

To some, this position for Calle Odelius might come as a surprise. Last year he was regarded as a defenceman with great upside and was around the first round by many, our own ranking included where he was ranked 35th. With his style that fits the modern defenceman, there is a lot to like. His speed, skating, offensive flair and IQ make him an exciting player to watch. And he wasn’t bad in the Allsvenskan for Djugården this season. He was solid and played well as a teenager on the blue line.

However, there weren’t quite enough improvements to see this past season. His weaknesses in his own end were still evident and he didn’t seem to add the necessary muscle to truly improve in key areas. The potential is still there, but he has to improve his overall strength and defensive game to reach it. Added strength will also help him offensively as it would grant him a heavier shot, which would add yet another dimension to his game in the offensive zone. Hope is absolutely not lost for Odelius, but next season is going to be pivotal for the young Swede.

7.) Eetu Liukas

Another European prospect who is looking to have a breakout year in Europe is Eetu Liukas. Last season Liukas had his best season yet with 23 points in 58 games for HPK in the Finnish Liiga. A strong season which also included over 100 penalty minutes which tells a lot about the way he plays. He loves to get physical and will never pass up the chance to play the body anywhere on the ice. His frame and size are great for his hitting style and he is a player that is anything but fun to play against.

Liukas also has a heavy and powerful shot that can overwhelm goalies by the sheer force he puts behind it. Especially on the one-timer, where he can rifle the puck with the best in the world. His skating and overall speed to his game need to be improved a lot. Currently, the skating simply isn’t ready for the NHL and it would make it hard for him to crack the NHL roster in today’s hockey. He is more of an old-school power forward with a huge hit and the question will be if there is room for someone like that on the Islanders if his skating doesn’t improve.

8.) Arnaud Durandeau

Arnaud Durandeau is one of the older players in the Islanders prospect pool at 24 years old. However, he was also one of the most improved players last season. While he had shown signs of progress during his time in the AHL, last season was a breakout year with 55 points in 68 games. He also managed to get four games in the NHL during the season as a reward for his strong play in Bridgeport.

Durandeau is a natural scorer who over the past few seasons has improved his shot and skating quite a lot. He plays the game at a much faster pace than before which makes him able to create space for his shot. His playmaking is alright and makes him an interesting forward as he can fake a shot to make a nice pass into the open ice. However, he is still a primary shooter which can be somewhat one-dimensional at times. Defensively he is not quite as involved as others which does put his ability to stick in a bottom-six role at risk. If he can continue to improve as he has in the AHL, he should be in for a good training camp and a more permanent NHL call-up throughout the season.

9.) Isaiah George

If there is one area where the Islanders prospect pool is covered, it’s in modern puck-moving defencemen. Another one of these is the 2022 fourth-round pick, Isaiah George. The 19-year-old had another fine season with the London Knights, where he had 22 points in 54 games. While the production isn’t eye-catching his two-way game certainly is. He is extremely quick and able to make smart plays, especially in his own zone to get the puck and move it up ice. This is especially impressive given his decent size. George simply doesn’t play like a bigger player and the great mix of size and skating should make him an NHLer at some point in his career.

The only downside is that despite his fantastic skating and quickness, his offence simply isn’t there. While he can carry the puck into the offensive zone, he simply doesn’t do enough with the puck once he is there. He is far too stationary and it limits his ability to take part in the offensive rotations. Improving this would help his game tremendously and make him a potential top-four defenceman in the NHL.

10.) Ruslan Iskhakov

The last player to be in the Islanders top ten is Russian center, Ruslan Iskhakov. After spending two seasons in Europe, he played in Bridgeport last season and took it by storm. In his first season in the AHL, he had 51 points in 69 games. While his path has been extremely unorthodox, he will get the chance during training camp to cement himself as an NHL player this upcoming season.

The main thing Iskhakov needs to prove during camp will be that his season in the AHL wasn’t a flash in the pan. Prior to it, he had been all but forgotten during his stint in Europe. Now a year later he is a prospect to watch despite his chances of making the Islanders being slim due to their strength down the middle.

However, if he keeps improving and performing in the AHL, he might be hard to ignore for the Islanders or another team looking to get an offensive center prospect. His defensive game isn’t good enough for a checking line making a spot in the NHL even harder. However, offensively he is dynamic and has all the potential in the world in that area. If a team wants a player with high offensive upside and is willing to play him on a scoring line, he could thrive in the NHL.

Honourable mention (Round 4 or Later): Tristan Lennox

The lone goalie to make this list is Tristan Lennox. The Canadian netminder is finally ready to step into pro hockey after four seasons in the OHL. His stats during his time in the OHL aren’t exactly fantastic, but his potential is hard to deny as he is a great mix of size and athleticism. Standing at 6-foot-4 he takes up a lot of the net and has the quickness to get across when needed.

The technique still requires a lot of work as his movement can be somewhat clunky. He also struggles to get positioned correctly, especially after making an initial save. Far too many times he relies on his size and aggression to make up for his flaws and in the NHL this will be punished. For him to turn into an NHL-caliber goalie he needs to show improvements at the pro level. With the Islanders already having Ilya Sorokin, Lennox has a tough task ahead of him to become the future starter for the Islanders, but he could become a great backup for Sorokin in the future if he improves his weakness in the upcoming seasons.

Main Photo Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports


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