New Kids in Town: Islanders Rookies of 2014

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The Islanders iced a lot of rookies this season, partly to fill holes created by injuries and in some cases to further develop some of the bumper crop of prospects accumulated over the past several years. Some of the newcomers were just there for a look, and were moved back to the minors again, while others stuck around for much longer. Their respective contributions varied greatly; some will almost certainly be back with increased roles, while others will be back in the minors for more seasoning.

 

Here, then, in no particular order, is a look at the Islanders rookies who saw action with the big club in 2013-14, some of the numbers and a quick analysis of how they looked out there, plus their prospects for returning next season and beyond.

 

Anders Lee, LW – 14 games played, six goals, 11 points. Big (6’3”, 227 lbs) and solid on his feet, Lee is one of the most intriguing rookie prospects on the team. With his size and scoring ability along with a willingness to crowd the crease he has power forward potential, a la Phil Esposito. He has tantalized with impressive per-game numbers in brief stints over two seasons, leaving everyone eagerly looking forward to seeing him skate for a full year with the big club. Next season should be a big one for him.

Ryan Strome, C – The highly anticipated arrival of Strome seems to have been worth the wait. Through 29 games Strome has accumulated five goals and 13 points. Showed flashes of his massive potential, and built up steam as he appeared in more games. Speedy and amazing hockey sense. With his rookie campaign under his belt and an additional 3-4 minutes of ice time per game, the results next season should be impressive. Based on Strome’s initial stint, it appears that all the hype was right on the money, and that he’s here to stay.

Anders Nilsson, G – The towering netminder appeared in 14 games (12 starts) for the Isles and compiled a record of 5-5-2, making him the lone Islander goalie without a losing record this season. The rest of his numbers, however, were mediocre (3.32 GAA, .885 sv%). If the 6’ 6” 217 lb tender figures out how to use his massive size to his advantage, combined with his excellent reflexes, he could develop into a very capable NHL backup.

Mike Halmo, LW – 12 games played, 0 points, 23 PIM. Halmo is a small but enthusiastic banger with a lot of heart. He didn’t contribute anything offensively through 12 games, but that’s not what his team looks to him for. He’s what’s commonly referred to these days as an energy player. He could find a spot in the bottom six down the road, though the Isles are flush with this type of player so he’ll have to find a way to stand out.

Aaron Ness, D – 20 games played, one goal, three points. Has soft hands and good offensive instincts, and has put up decent numbers at the AHL level. He didn’t look out of place during an early season call up. But At 5’10” and 182 lbs Ness is very small by NHL standards, especially for a defenseman, and may be hard pressed to skate a regular shift in the NHL.

Brock Nelson, C – 64 games played, 12 goals, 24 points. Barring a major surge by someone, Nelson will handily lead Islanders rookies in scoring. Tall and lanky with a good set of hands and lots of two-way potential. Nelson started the year on the Isles roster, and despite some ups and downs – a healthy scratch on occasion, per-game ice time varied from 20 mins down to just 9:50 – he hung in there and was always ready when called upon. He’s not afraid to grind in the corners and use his size in front of the net. Overall Nelson enjoyed a very solid rookie year, and should play a prominent role next season.

Johan Sundstrom, C  – Seven games played, one assist. Projected as a playmaker, Sundstrom needs to fill out his lanky frame a bit and show more willingness to get involved in the play. Still, seven games isn’t much of a measuring stick, and with less than eight minutes of ice per game, he’s obviously being added to the mix slowly.

Calvin de Haan, D – 48 games played, three goals, 15 points. Steady and reliable, makes a good first pass. Averaging over 21 minutes per game, which is remarkable for any first year player, let alone a defenseman. Previous issues with injuries have not been the case this season, as he has enjoyed good health and a successful transition to the NHL level. Is quickly becoming one of the go-to guys for the Isles, has shown the beginnings of becoming a very good two-way defender, and figures to be a key regular next season.

Matt Donovan, D – 44 games, two goals, 12 points. Donovan continued to develop physically this year, which helped him stick with the big club for long stretches. He enjoyed a three-game points streak in early March before being benched. Has shown an offensive flair from the blueline rarely seen on this squad in recent years. Will probably be an NHL regular next season.

Kevin Czuczman, D – Five games played, one assist, ten PIMs  Has great size and boasting a modest offensive touch, Czuczman hasn’t played an especially physical game thus far but seems to be learning the NHL game requires some down and dirty and appears willing to oblige.

John Persson, LW – Two games, 0 points.  Has good size, two-way acumen. Two games isn’t much time to show what he can do, but it’s a good sign they thought he was at least ready for a look.

JP (@Joe_SoWhatElse)

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