Saturday, February 2, 2013

Islander prospects battle Ranger prospects

JT Miller is a prospect the Rangers are watching closely.



Last night, it was a battle of prospects between the Islanders and Rangers. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Connecticut Whale 5-4 in overtime at Hartford. Sean Backman notched the winner at 1:57.

Bridgeport rallied from two one-goal deficits. John Persson's power play tally in the third period tied the game 4-4. It was his 15th from defensemen Aaron Ness and Ty Wishart. Wishart had two assists. Three Tigers had multi-point efforts, including Backman (1-1-2) Persson (1-1-2) and Wishart (0-2-2). They also got goals from Jack Combs, Blair Riley and Matt Watkins. Kevin Poulin made 32 saves.

Regarding the Prospect Watch, Brock Nelson, Matt Donovan and Kirill Kabanov each had helpers. Nino Niederreiter was held without a point and only had one shot. It'll be interesting to see how El Nino responds following his trade request. The Islanders are doing what's best for his development. He's having a good pro year with 36 points (19-17-36) helping him become an AHL All-Star. He's only 20 and shouldn't be rushed with the big club off to a good start.

For the Whale, Blake Parlett, Micheal Haley, Brandon Segal and Kelsey Tessier scored. Haley has five goals and seven assists with 113 penalty minutes with Connecticut. He's tough as nails and has played in the NHL before with the Islanders. You wonder if the organization might consider recalling him if the Rangers continue to play soft. The fourth line is giving them zilch. At least with Haley, you know he can bang. Though he's a bit of a loose cannon.

Prospects J.T. Miller and Christian Thomas combined to set up Parlett on the power play for a 4-3 lead with 26 seconds left in the second. Miller was an integral part of Team USA's gold at the WJC 2013. He played well, setting up red hot linemate Johnny Gaudreau. Miller also did the little things, going to the net to screen goalies. The former No.1 pick is a smart player, who could see a cameo on Broadway soon. He's still adjusting to life in the pros. Yesterday, his two assists gave him 19 points (7-12-19) for the season.

Thomas is kind of forgotten. He was a second round pick in 2010. The son of former NHLer Steve Thomas possesses skill in a diminutive 5-9, 174 frame. He's had an up and down year in Connecticut, posting nine goals and eight assists in 44 games. He's just 21 and turned pro last year. The question is can he make the next level. We've seen other small players do it with other teams. The Rangers must show patience.

AHL vet Mike Vernace had two assists. Prospect Andrew Yogan added a helper as did Kris Newbury. First-year pro Kyle Jean had no points and was minus-one. He's cooled considerably since a hot start. The undrafted rookie center from Lake Superior State has eight goals and 10 assists. Goalie Cam Talbot faced 41 shots and stopped 36.

Some notables from Bridgeport this season are Donovan and Johan Sundstrom. Donovan has performed well on the blueline. He's a name Islander fans should be hearing from in the future. With 21 points (6-15-21) in his second pro year, he's a player with upside who can help the Islander back end. Sundstrom is faring well in his first season. The 20-year old Swede has 11 goals with 14 assists for 25 points and a plus-10 rating. He's tied with Nelson for third in team scoring. Nelson being a former second round pick who also flies under the radar due to '11 No.1 pick Ryan Strome.

When the Islanders hit Brooklyn, they'll be rich in talent and ready to be a playoff contender.

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