New York Islanders

The Affect That Semyon Varlamov Can Have On The New York Islanders

The signing of Semyon Varlamov can prove to be beneficial in many ways for the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders inked Semyon Varlamov to a four year deal yesterday with an AAV of five million, reported by Arthur Staple of The Athletic. The move comes after the news of former Islander goalie, and fan favorite, Robin Lehner agreeing to a one year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Varlamov is coming off of a decent season with the Colorado Avalanche after going 20-19-9 with a SV% of .909 and a GAA of 2.87. Varlamov will now have the chance to elevate his game by working with goalie guru Mitch Korn.

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Why Varlamov over Lehner?

For just about every Islander fan, hearing the news of Robin Lehner leaving Long Island to join another team was heartbreaking. He was beloved by the whole community and was a strong role model for everyone battling with mental illness.

While it was very tough to watch him leave, it was harder to hear that Lehner was offered a contract to stay with the Islanders that he turned down. We would have to assume it was declined in hopes that he would get a contract he thought was more fitting for the production he put on the ice this past season. While it is odd to see the Islanders go after a 31 year old goalie coming off an ok season rather than lock the 27 year old Vezina finalist to a long term deal, it looks as if they had no other choice after he declined their first offer.

I know I speak for every Islander fan when I say this, good luck in Chicago Robin. All of the Isles family is rooting for you.

Varlamov and Sorokin

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The Islanders have a goalie by the name of Ilya Sorokin in their system, and here is a little secret, he’s very very good. The last three seasons in the KHL have been unbelievable for Sorokin. In the past three seasons, his GAA has been under 1.61 in each season. In fact, he was able to post a 1.16 GAA this past season with CSKA Moscow. Read those three numbers one more time and soak that in. The 23 year old kid is a bonafide stud and all the Islanders could ever hope for is for him to come over to the States after his final season in the KHL next year.

This is where we go back to the signing of Varlamov. Varlamov and Sorokin are noted to be very good friends, both being from Russia, and both having the same agent. This relationship is exactly what Sorokin might need to him make the transition from Russia to the States easier. For the Islanders, that is without a doubt what they hope it will do. Not only would Varlamov help Sorokin adjust to life in the States, he can also help his game on the ice. If he was to come over, he would hopefully become the franchise goalie that the New York Islanders have been waiting a long time for.

For the time being, Islanders fans will have to be patient with Sorokin and let him focus on his time in the KHL. While Isles fans are waiting, they’ll be rooting for Varlamov to have a bounce back season with Mitch Korn there to guide him.

Stats from www.eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

 

 

 

Kirill Kaprizov

A KHL Update With Aivis Kalniņš of HockeyBuzz

photo of Kirill Kaprizov, photo credit – Андрей Чудаев

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Aivis Kalniņš of HockeyBuzz. Kalniņš is a Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) columnist/insider and is a great follow for insight on players and prospects across the pond.

In my interview with Kalniņš, we touched on many topics including North American players adjusting to life in the KHL, Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild prospect), Vasili Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks prospect), Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders prospect and more. 

Let’s check out what Kalniņš had to say.

The Interview

Josh: Many hockey fans in North America don’t really comprehend why the KHL is relatively low-scoring compared to the NHL. Can you talk about the style of play in the KHL and why the league is considered a low scoring one when you compare it to the NHL?

Aivis: It’s mainly because of the rink size. Puck gets overcarried a lot. Players try to make fancy plays. It’s just a whole different game over here which unfortunately affects goal scoring. However, the league is set to slowly switch to North American sized rinks as IIHF is working on doing the same across all European pro leagues. 

Josh: Ilya Sorokin is coming off of a great season with CSKA Moskva. What are the attributes of his game that you like the most and what do you believe that he still needs to work on?

Aivis: Ilya is a super athletic goalie and he knows how to use that. His reflexes are at an elite level, his movements are very steady, especially when moving side-to-side in the crease. He could work a little more on puck tracking. He’s often caught making those desperation saves just because he sometimes loses the puck. 

Josh: Nikita Gusev had an outstanding season with SKA St. Petersburg. He led the KHL in points. Do you believe that his offensive production will translate well to the NHL?

Aivis: I do believe that his production will translate well to the NHL. He’s one of not many players from KHL that can actually make the jump, adjust and make an impact. Gusev, Dadonov and Panarin have all been THE players that from the start to the end of their paths to the NHL have had me convinced that they are going to be big name players even in North America. You can look at Panarin – everyone loves him on and off the ice. Dadonov is also loved and is performing exceptionally well in a market like Florida so he’s a little underrated. Gusev has the same future ahead of him. 

Josh: Kirill Kaprizov of CSKA Moskva is looking like the best drafted prospect in Russia. The Minnesota Wild are patiently waiting for him to come to Minnesota. If you had to compare Kaprizov to an NHLer (current or former), which player would you compare him to and why?

Aivis: I don’t think Im going to say that he reminds me of player X or Y. He’s a goal scorer, he’s fast, he can play along the boards. He’s a very well rounded player. Can play in both ends of the ice. He hasn’t even played a single game in the NHL but I already read him as an 80+ point guy in the league and that says a lot about him. 

Josh: Miro Aaltonen had a great campaign with Vityaz Podolsk. In your opinion, does Miro look like he improved since his days with the Toronto Marlies or is he relatively the same?

Aivis: He has improved a little but I don’t think he will be able to improve to an extent which could lead him to the NHL just because his team choice was very poor. Yes, he is a part of the leadership group, he is playing big minutes, important situations – but it’s not working for him. More or less – he is the same player he was back then. ”Being a leader” in my book doesn’t count as a thing you should be developing. 

Josh: What are your overall thoughts on Vasili Podkolzin? 

Aivis: Canucks make the right choice. I had spoken to a few scouts and people in both KHL and NHL and heard that he was probably a top 3 prospect in the draft if it wasn’t for his KHL contract with SKA. NHL teams are scared because of the ”Russian” factor. Podkolzin is very similar to Alex Radulov but much faster. Very bright future for this kid. 

Josh: Who are some KHLers that NHL teams might try to bring to North America next year? Are there a few KHLers that fans in North America should pay special attention to?

Aivis: It’s hard to say at this point. The players that are worth bringing to North America usually pop up during the season. They tend to change on a monthly basis – so this really isn’t a question for the off-season. There is literally no buzz at this time of the year as the whole focus for everyone is either the current NHL free agency period or for the KHL it’s time to start packing and slowly getting to the training camps that mostly start at some point in July. 

Josh: We’ve seen a lot of Americans and Canadians come play for KHL teams. Does it seem that it’s relatively easy for these players to come to the KHL and get used to living across the world? Do the players begin to learn the local languages (i.e. Russian, Finnish, Latvian)?

Aivis: It depends on where you sign. I’ve heard so many stories from so many players. The European based teams (Riga, Helsinki, Minsk) are usually more pleasant for the so-called import players. There is not as much of a culture shock. You’re not thrown into bear fights or whatever. It’s never easy to move to the other side of the world. Often players don’t see their families for months because of how hard it is to travel. Some players don’t even want to bring their families along. Traveling in KHL from city to city is a nightmare – you can never get used to that. There are cities in Russia that players absolutely hate to even be in but sometimes they offer the best money. I think all the players try to learn local languages to an extent, especially all the simple phrases and things like ”Hello”, ”Goodbye”, ”How are you”.  There are some that love Europe and money so much that they change their hockey passports and move to these countries and even represent them in the IIHF competitions. 

Thank You Aivis

Thank you Aivis for taking the time to speak with me. Look forward to interviewing you again in the future.

featured image photo credit – Андрей Чудаев, Wikipedia Commons (License Info)

 

Talking About The New York Islanders With Andy Graziano Of WFAN

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Andy Graziano (@AndyGraz_WFAN) of WFAN about the New York Islanders.

Graziano is a columnist for WFAN660 in New York City. He specifically covers the New York Islanders and recently he’s written quite a few posts on the team’s farm system and their off-season plans

In my interview with Graziano, we talked about both (the farm system and the off-season). He talked about Jordan Eberle’s new contract, who will general manager Lou Lamoriello look to re-sign, who will the Islanders target in free agency and how their farm system is doing.

The Interview

Josh: Earlier today, Jordan Eberle signed an extension with the Islanders. Are you surprised that Eberle didn’t try to test the market? In addition, what are your general thoughts on the deal?

Andy: I am surprised, yes. I felt that of all the Islanders free agents, Eberle would be the one to go. But Lou Lamoriello had other ideas and meant what he said when he commented at the end of the season, ‘We would like to bring all our free agents back’. Eberle represents a winger who would have been in high demand had he made it to the open market, averaging 25 goals per season over his career with incredible consistency. Last year, he suffered, as many teammates did, as New York switched to a more defensive system under Barry Trotz. But in the playoffs showed everyone what he was capable of. I feel he would have commanded many offers on July 1 from teams looking to add punch to their lineups. What’s most important about the signing is that it shows that Long Island is quickly becoming a desirable destination. Players around the league notice those things and talk to each other all the time, especially when deciding where to commit their futures. When was the last time a player took a pay-cut on a multi-year deal weeks before becoming a free agent? To stay with the Islanders? I can’t remember. 

Josh: Do you believe that the Islanders will look to re-sign Anders Lee, Tom Kühnhackl and/or Valtteri Filppula? If they don’t, who do you believe that they will target?

Andy: I think Anders Lee gets signed and all indications from people I’ve spoken with believe the same. It’s term that they are trying to work through, but Lamoriello and Neil Sheehy will get it done. I can’t see Kuhnhackl coming back as he was just a spare part anyway and the Islanders have to start making some room for the likes of Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang (should he remain with the club), Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom. With New York weak down the middle, I can see Filppula coming back on another one-year deal to play C3, but that will have to be on Lou’s terms and Lou’s terms only. He had a strong season and is perfect for Trotz’s system. All sources are pointing to a full court press on Artemi Panarin. That will cost a ton, certainly north of $10 million AAV, but the Islanders know what they need – a bonafide sniper. However, I don’t see them getting it this year. I’m sticking with the Rangers and Florida as the most likely destinations for him.

Josh: What are your thoughts on Arnaud Durandeau? 

Andy: I’ve never seen him play, but what I heard is that he is a flashy offensive player with an ‘agitating’ aspect to his game. His speed and stickhandling is most often mentioned in all scouting reports. Others say that his overall skill level is not up to snuff and he’s best suited for a 3/4 line role. Time will tell, maybe the Islanders have another Anthony Beauvillier on their hands, at worst its a risk that didn’t cost them much.

Josh: With Robin Lehner hitting the market and Ilya Sorokin looking like the goalie of the future, do you believe that the Islanders will bridge Lehner until Ilya Sorokin is ready?

The problem here is similar to Lee and that’s how long do you go in term on the contract? I am not one of those who believe that KHL success is a precursor to NHL success. There are few strong teams in the KHL and almost all goaltenders have terrific statistics. That being said, everyone in the organization is excited and frothing at the mouth to get him over here, so the jury is still out. I hope he turns into everything people are projecting him to be, as that will benefit a team that has been looking for stability in goal for a long time. Lehner is an interesting case. He had his ups and downs with Buffalo, then comes here under Trotz and shares the Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss along with earning a Vezina nod. That’s quite the season on a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal. We shall see if he shares the same mindset as Eberle. Keep in mind, he has a little leverage also over Lamoriello, who knows he doesn’t have a suitable replacement in the pipeline in the short-term. Market is very weak on goaltending this summer outside of Sergei Bobrovsky and he’s not an Islanders target at the moment.

Josh: The Islanders defense was outstanding last season, but do you believe that an upgrade is still needed? 

Andy: On defense, no. Offensively for sure. With Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde coming along with the maturation of Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews, they are in very good shape on the blueline for a long time. Not to mention adequate second and third pair guys as well in David Quenneville and Sebastian Aho. It’s one of the main reasons Nick Leddy and Thomas Hickey are on the trade block with at least one of them expecting to be moved at the draft.

Josh: Kieffer Bellows seemed to have a rough season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Is there any reason to be concerned about his development?

Andy: Not at the moment no. It’s a huge leap for some to the professional level and Bellows is a proven enough shooter that I have not heard of any concerns regarding his development. He might be best served with another year at Bridgeport to ensure he builds his confidence level before coming to the Islanders.

Josh: Do you believe that Oliver Wahlstrom has a shot to make the Islanders opening night roster?

Andy: A chance, sure. Likely? I’m not so sure. Lamoriello is on record as stating that he doesn’t like to rush prospects and holds a certain affinity for veterans to get him through the grind of an 82-game season and playoffs. We saw it this year in the way Ho-Sang was handled as well as Michael Dal Colle. I would much rather see Wahlstrom playing big minutes under Brent Thompson than third or fourth line under Trotz. I don’t think that benefits his development at all. That being said, if the Islanders strike out in the trade market and free agency, all bets might be off. His chances of breaking camp will be dramatically increased.

Thank You

Thank you Andy for taking the time to speak with me. Look forward to interview you again in the future!

player profiles – hockey-reference.com

 

Moscow

Top Ten Drafted Prospects Vol. 3 – Russia

Welcome back to my top ten drafted international prospects series.

Last time, we went over the top ten drafted American players and discovered a list highlighted by Quinn Hughes, Adam Fox, and Thatcher Demko. Today, we’re going to be going to Mother Russia and checking out the best they have to offer in terms of the future. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the top ten Russian prospects.

1. Kirill Kaprizov (LW, Minnesota Wild – 5th Round, 135th Overall in 2015)

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Kaprizov is without a doubt the most awaited drafted prospect in the league. The 21-year-old winger has been torching the KHL for a few years now, and has 51 points in 57 games for CSKA Moskva along with six points in six playoff games thus far. He is an all around offensive juggernaut, but he’s under contract in Russia until April of 2020. This means that Wild fans will have to wait until the 2020-21 before Kaprizov makes the jump to the NHL, which he reportedly plans to do once his contract expires.

2. Denis Guryanov (RW, Dallas Stars – 1st Round, 12th Overall in 2015)

Guryanov was drafted semi-off the board in 2015, but it’s looking like the Stars made a good decision. The 6’3 winger was brought over to North America for the 2016-17 season after struggling in his native Russia, and he’s gotten better every single season. This year, he’s put up 44 points in 45 AHL games and has appeared in 21 NHL games, recording four points. He will likely remain in the AHL for a little bit longer to polish up his game, but should make a mark as a top six power forward at the NHL level once he’s ready.

3. Vitali Kravtsov (RW, New York Rangers – 1st Round, 9th Overall in 2018)

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The New York Rangers went from probably not knowing what a draft pick was to having one of the better farm systems in the NHL, and Kravtsov headlines the list. While he wasn’t projected to go where he was taken, he’s looking like a very good prospect. Playing overseas for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL, the 6’4 19-year-old has 21 points in 50 games and also torched the World Juniors with six points in seven games for Team Russia. While it’s unknown how long he will spend in his homeland, he will eventually turn out to be a solid player for the Rangers if he develops smoothly.

4. Igor Shestyorkin (G, New York Rangers – 4th Round, 118th Overall in 2014)

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If you haven’t heard the name Igor Shestyorkin yet, you will in the near future. A running question for the New York Rangers has been who will replace Henrik Lundqvist when he retires. And they may have found their replacement here. The 23-year-old net-minder has appeared in 28 KHL games this year and has put up a record of 24-4-0 along with a mind-blowing save percentage of .953 and a goals against average of 1.11. These stats are beyond elite and are enough to make any team drool. You could make the argument that he’s playing for one of the league’s best teams in St. Petersburg SKA, but his GAA and save percentage tell their own tale. Whether or not he will translate these to the NHL is unknown, but he will certainly be given a look as the future starting goaltender in the Big Apple.

5. Ilya Sorokin (G, New York Islanders – 3rd Round, 78th Overall in 2014)

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Shestyorkin and Sorokin are pretty much identical in terms of their success overseas. While Shestyorkin has the slight edge statistically, Sorokin isn’t far behind as he sports a record of 28-6-0 along with a goals against average of 1.16 and a save percentage of .940. These stats are beyond elite just like Shestyorkin’s and will give the Islanders something to look forward to when he makes his jump to the NHL.

6. Ilya Samsonov (G, Washington Capitals – 1st Round, 22nd Overall in 2015)

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Samsonov along with the last two prospects are a perfect example showing the talent Russia has to offer between the pipes. Samsonov ranks lower than these guys simply because he has struggled a little bit in his first AHL season, but he still has potential to be an elite starter at the NHL level. He has a record of 17-12-1 with a save percentage of .894 and a goals against average of 2.77 with the Hershey Bears this year. Samsonov’s future in Washington is slightly questionable considering current star net-minder Braden Holtby is still relatively young at 29, but anything could happen.

7. German Rubtsov (C, Philadelphia Flyers – 1st Round, 22nd Overall in 2016)

Rubtsov’s season was unfortunately ended early this season after taking a hit in a November AHL game and requiring surgery as a result. On that note, he made waves in his short AHL stint and put up 10 points in 14 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Flyers are known for their drafting on the back-end with guys like Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, and Ivan Provorov, but Rubtsov goes to show that they still have quite a bit of talent up front as well along with guys like Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost.

8. Klim Kostin (C, St. Louis Blues – 1st Round, 31st Overall in 2017)

Kostin has been pretty effective at all levels this season. He has 20 points in 55 AHL games so far, which is pretty impressive when you take his age and lack of North American experience into consideration, and he put up six points in seven World Junior games while serving as Team Russia’s captain. He will likely see mainly AHL minutes for the next year or two, but he projects to be a solid offensive centre at the NHL level with smooth development.

9. Alexander Volkov (LW, Tampa Bay Lightning – 2nd Round, 48th Overall in 2017)

The Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping for the best from Alex Volkov. At the very least, they’re hoping he’s half as effective as this other Russian sniper they have on their team (some guy named Nikita Kucherov.. not sure if anyone has ever heard of him). Volkov has 36 points in 62 games for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and could see more time down there until he’s ready to be a full-time NHLer.

10. Alexander Alexeyev (D, Washington Capitals – 1st Round, 31st Overall in 2018)

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The Capitals love their Russians, plain and simple. It might have something to do with the fact that two of their best players are Russian, but regardless they keep going back to them and it seems to work for them. The 6’4 defenseman is playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL this year and has improved his production this year, putting up 43 points in 49 games thus far. He will more than likely spend one more season in the juniors before making the jump to the pros, but if the extra year of development makes him that much more effective in the pros, it will be worth it.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next time where we’ll go over the top ten drafted Swedish prospects.

stats from eliteprospects.com

feature image photo credit – pixabay.com

 

New York Islanders

31 in 31: Top Ten Prospects Vol. 19 – New York Islanders

Welcome back to my 31 in 31 top ten prospect series.

Last time, we took a look at the New Jersey Devils’ farm system, highlighted with some top end rookies such as Ty Smith, Michael McLeod, and Jesper Boqvist. Today, we’re going to continue our tour of the New York area and take a trip to check out the New York Islanders’ farm system. Without further ado, let’s dive in and have a look.

1. Noah Dobson (D, 1st Round, 12th Overall in 2018)

A projected top-ten pick, Dobson slid to 12th where the New York Islanders were more than happy to capitalize with the first of two first rounders. Initially, it looked like an absolute steal, seeing that Dobson was over a point per game player, stood tall at 6’3 and shot right. This year, however, he’s taken a step back for whatever reason. He’s scoring at half the pace he was last season with 16 points in 28 games so far this year, and he’s a whopping -33 in comparison to his +33 from last season. Whether you like the plus/minus stat or not, it’s still a big difference from last season. There’s still time for Dobson to turn it around, however, and I still consider him their top prospect despite early struggles.

2. Oliver Wahlstrom (LW, 1st Round, 11th Overall in 2018)

Before the NHL draft was even a thought, Wahlstrom went viral for his spin-o-rama goal in a penalty shot contest before a Boston Bruins game in 2009. He didn’t stop producing, and he earned a spot at 11th overall for the New York Islanders to select him at. Like Dobson, though, he’s experiencing some early-season struggles. He currently only has five points in his first 14 games with Boston College, but again, he’s still young and his draft position and skillset without a doubt secures him at second overall on my list.

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3. Ilya Sorokin (G, 3rd Round, 78th Overall in 2014)

If Sorokin was in North America right now, there’s a chance he wouldn’t even be on this list because he probably would have already been in the NHL. The New York Islanders drafted Sorokin in 2014 and since then he’s been putting up numbers that are plain filthy. There’s nothing else to it. In 25 games this season, he has a record of 17-4-3 with a goals against average of 1.25 and a save percentage of .939. He’s been in the KHL for eight seasons now, ever since he was 17 years old, and in each of his last five seasons he’s put up a GAA of under 2.00. His agent has declared that he won’t be in the NHL until his KHL contract expires, but needless to say there will be tons of hype surrounding him when he eventually makes his way over.

4. Bode Wilde (D, 2nd Round, 41st Overall in 2018)

Bode Wilde is a high risk prospect with a very high reward if he can figure things out. He has all the tools to be a very good defenseman at the NHL level. He’s a 6’4 right handed defenseman who so far has registered 33 points in 27 games. But apparently he has a lack of hockey sense and didn’t impress in interviews at the combine, and on top of that he de-committed from Michigan State University and opted to play for the Saginaw Spirit instead, likely resulting in him not getting an invite to World Junior camp for the United States. If he can work on his game and fix his issues, he will be a dangerous defenseman at the NHL level.

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5. Kieffer Bellows (LW, 1st Round, 19th Overall in 2016)

Since being drafted, Bellows has tried his hand in three different leagues. He played in the NCAA in his post draft year, then played in the WHL last season, and this year he’s made it to the pros and he’s playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. The 6’0 power forward has 12 points in 32 games thus far.

6. Josh Ho-Sang (RW, 1st Round, 28th Overall in 2014)

Ho-Sang has all of the tools to be a very good talent at the NHL level. But once again, he has attitude problems and hasn’t been able to maintain a spot in the bigs. He has put up 22 points in 26 games thus far and just got a call-up to the NHL once again, having put up one goal in four games so far.

7. Sebastian Aho (D, 5th Round, 139th Overall in 2017)

Not to be confused with Carolina Hurricanes star forward Sebastian Aho, the New York Islanders prospect is Swedish and is a left handed defenseman. He’s currently playing in his second season in the Islanders organization after spending his entire career in Sweden, and currently has 23 points in 29 games. The 5’10 LHD is a great puck mover and could use that to his advantage at the NHL level.

8. Devon Toews (D, 4th Round, 108th Overall in 2014)

Toews was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL draft and while his development has gone slowly, he’s been getting better every year and has a surefire chance to become a regular defenseman with the New York Islanders. Toews just received his first NHL call-up after a very good start with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, putting up 19 points in 24 games. The 6’1 defenseman will look to turn his call-up into a mainstay with the team.

9. Linus Soderstrom (G, 4th Round, 95th Overall)

Soderstrom is coming off of a pair of very good seasons overseas with HV71 Jonkoping of the SHL, but has unfortunately been forced to sit out the entire 2018-19 season thus far due to an injury that he’s been recovering from in Sweden. Once he heals up, he will likely suit up for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. He put up a record of 8-6-0 last year with a goals against average of .894 and a save percentage of 2.79.

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10. Mitch Vande Sompel (D, 3rd Round, 85th Overall in 2015)

Vande Sompel finished the 2014-15 season with 65 in 63 OHL games and he was picked in the third round. That just goes to show you how deep the draft was that year. He’s been working on his game every season and is currently in his second year with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, having put up 14 points in 30 games so far. He will likely finish off the season in the AHL and continue to hone his skills there.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next time where we will continue our tour of the New York area by checking out the New York Rangers farm system.

stats from eliteprospects.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals