Saturday, September 28, 2013

One To Watch: New York Islanders

No longer a laughing stock but still earning respect, the New York Islanders have built a pretty decent stable of young players after years of less than mediocre results at the NHL level. The Islanders have prospects on the way at every position so the pieces are there for the once floundering organization to finally right the ship for the long haul. 

GM Garth Snow, a goaltender in his NHL days, selected a pair of NCAA netminders in June - one coming off a fantastic freshman season, the other hoping to make his own mark in college this coming year as a rookie. Stephon Williams was terrific for Minnesota State and Eamon McAdam could become Penn State's starter as the program moves to the Big 10 conference. 

Forwards in the system include Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Taylor Cammarata and Kirill Kabanov. But with the amount of blueliners the Islanders have drafted over the last four years, my pick today shouldn't come as any surprise. 

2012 Choice: Scott Mayfield - The big defenceman had just completed his freshman year at Denver and I wanted to know what steps forward his development would take as a sophomore. This year may prove even more interesting for Mayfield after turning pro last spring. This year Mayfield will play in Bridgeport and hope to adapt quickly as the organization is flush with defencemen on the way.

My selection for Islanders prospect of 2013-14 to be One To Watch comes after the jump. 

Griffin Reinhart (D)
Edmonton Oil Kings
6'4, 205 lbs
Drafted 4th overall in 2012

Photo: CHL Images
Call it selfish but I watch the Oil Kings more than any other team in hockey so I'm listing Griffin Reinhart here purely for my own interest. Edmonton's captain is expected back with the WHL club this year but reports suggest it may be awhile before that happens - if it happens. 

I like Reinhart and I believe he'll play in the NHL for a long time. That said, I don't think that NHL career needs to start this year. No one can convince me that there would be no benefit for him to playing one more year in the Western Hockey League. I'm sorry but I don't think that he's ready to play in the NHL yet. If the ability was there for the Islanders to reassign him to the AHL, then he'd be gone for sure. But that's not the case so I'm expecting him to be back in Edmonton. 

Reinhart's offensive production dropped slightly from 36 points to 29 last year in pretty much the same amount of games. I think it is fair to say that, while he had a good year, it was not the season that people expected from Reinhart. He did not take a big step forward in his development and I wonder if being named captain last fall may have played a roll at all in his on ice performance.

Photo: Andy Devlin
The opportunity is there for Reinhart to return to junior, help the Oil Kings contend for a third consecutive Eastern Conference title, represent Canada at the 2014 WJC in Sweden and possibly play well into May. A lot would have to go right for all of that to happen but the possibility is realistic and would all be beneficial for his development. 

But will the Islanders keep him to start the season on the Island, perhaps get into a few NHL games? If that's the case, how long before he is returned to Edmonton? 

Once back with the Oil Kings, there isn't a guarantee that he'll still be the captain as the are those who believe passing the 'C' to Curtis Lazar is the right thing to do and wouldn't bother Reinhart at all. Might that happen and would that allow the defender to just focus on his play and not the extra stuff that falls to the captain?

Photo: Getty Images
Will Hockey Canada take him to Sweden despite his current 3-game suspension stemming from the 2013 event in Russia? With a tweaked format after the round robin, Canada may feel they can't justify taking a guy over that can't contribute until the medal round. 

A lot of questions and story lines to watch for this year involving Griffin Reinhart and that's why he's my One To Watch for the New York Islanders in 2013-14. 

Up Next: The Carolina Hurricanes       

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