Wednesday, 1 August 2012

21. The Tampa Bay Lindning

Tampa finished 10th in the East last year: a disappointing 8pts out of a playoff spot. To be honest Steve Yzerman has done a fairly good job of shaping this team with the resources he's had to work with. All said and done 8pts out of a playoff spot isn't so bad for the team that allowed the most goals against (a full 17 more than 29th ranked Toronto). No question that the seemingly ageless Dwayne Roloson finally bit hard and fell flat on his face into retirement (I hope), but a HUGE part of that blame fell to the weak Tampa defense-core (which has been improved with vets Salo, and Carle). 

With the Rolocop powering down that left journeyman Mathieu Garon to man the crease. Firstly, I will say this, he posted a winning record of 23-16-4 (career record is in fact 139-122-26, well done Mat). Secondly, that's too many games featuring Mathieu Garon. His lifetime stat-line at 2.83gaa, and 90.4sv% just isn't good enough to be playing as much as he has. He's actually played 323 games in the greatest league on earth (which surprised me), but he's been unlucky to have played most of those games on bad teams. Ideally Mathieu is a guy who should be in a support role playing about 25 games tops.
The kid is HUGE!!!
During the upcoming season Garon might be once again forced into about half a schedule of work since the Lightning have sunk their hope into young 24-year-old Swede Anders Lindback. The preposterously huge Lindback stands at 6'6" and backstopped 38 games for the Preds in the last 2 seasons. He has a 2.53gaa and a 91.4sv% during that stretch. That isn't bad, and Shea Weber has been quoted as saying something to effect that this guy was stuck behind Rinne and should have been a starter from day 1. High praise. However, such a limited sample size is tough to judge. Rather smartly, Yzerman only locked him in for 2 years at an average cap hit of $1.8mil. If he busts, he busts. If he excels, he'll get a long term deal. It's a no lose contract for Tampa Bay.

One prospect who could perhaps be ready to take some of the brunt of Garon's starts is Dustin Tokarski. Tokarski is in a contract year, and has played 3 strong seasons at Norfolk of the AHL. This past year he was superb with a 32-11-0 record, 2.23gaa, and 91.3sv%. He's only had 7 career NHL starts, so it's tough to estimate how he would fair in a back-up role. In my opinion he should be given a handful of starts this year, but any more than that might be reaching. If one of Garon or Lindback goes down though, he might be the one to get the call.

Riku Helenius has had a TOUGH time adapting to the North American game. He's been kicked around in the lower tiers, playing for teams such as the Augusta Lynx, and the Mississippi Sea Wolves. With Tokarski cutting into the AHL time Helenius took off for his native Finnish league last year. He was a standout in that league posting a 1.64gaa for JYP in 33 games. When looking at those numbers though, you have to realize the Finnish league is not on par with the Swedish league or the AHL, so it's difficult to say if he was any better than when he was in the ECHL.  

Jaroslav Janus, a Slovakian junior standout, was one of the smart young men to enlist in the Canadian junior leagues. In order to acclimate himself he chose to migrate over to the OHL where he signed on with the Erie Otters.. and that was not smart. The Otters are, let's say.. not a powerhouse. So maybe his mentality was to get as many shots as is possible in order to improve his play. 

When mentioning goalies like this I always quote Patrick Roy's junior stats with Granby in the Quebec junior league. One of the greatest greats of all the greats was 58-89 with a 5.33gaa during his junior days.. they didn't even keep track of shots back then so it's hard to know how many he faced. It's just a nice tidbit for those who base a lot on junior numbers.. it really matters how hard a player works after juniors.

In any case, Janus played 34 solid contests for the Admirals last season (his second full professional campaign). He's not yet under contract for the upcoming season so it's hard to say if he's going to stay in the Bolts system or grab a flight to the KHL, or perhaps the Czech Extraliga.

Ferris State graduate Pat Nagle, played his first professional season last year. He played exclusively with the Florida Everblades in the 'E' because of the logjam in Norfolk. His 39 games of work were relatively successful, accumulating a 20-14-3 record, but surely he's in for a lot more seasoning before he gets a crack at an NHL job. 

I have to say that this goaltending outlook seems kind of shaky. 1 potential starter, 1 overworked back-up, 1 top-prospect, 1 failed top-prospect, and 2 average prospects. Put that combination behind last year's worst defense and you have a really REALLY good recipe for disaster. With the two veteran additions on defense and Lindback added to the fold surely the results will be better than last season, right? Well I'm not sold yet, but I think it has to be better. I give the Bolts goalies 5 blockers to the face of a possible 10.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

22. Been Slammin Jet Fuel, eh Ondrej?

I thought it was kind of a social faux-pas to be sober when in Europe? Soo why did Ondrej even get a ticket? Weird. Anyway let's get to the Jets.

At 24 years, Pavelec has already proven he can handle a starter's workload (175 games over the last 3 seasons, average of 58 per). The Jets brass seem confident he can be a starter for years as they dished a $3.9mil contract at him for the next 5 seasons. That's not a bad dollar amount for his games played, but his numbers haven't been up to par (2.91gaa, 90.6sv% last year on perhaps the best team he's played for in his young career). The Jets are still building for a brighter tomorrow though, so you'd think his inconsistent play will continue to settle behind a steadily improving defense. 

The 6th overall pick in 2004, Al Montoya has never lived up to the hype. He had a very brief flirtation with NHL quality play in 2011 with the Isles, but seemed to slip back into his old skin this past season. He seems quite erratic when looking at his stat sheet.. goals against averages shoot from 3.00+ all the way down to 2.39 with the Isles during that flirtatious year. He's been playing behind some pretty bad defenses so perhaps a year behind a young-up-and-coming defense will yield some quality starts. He'll be called upon for about 15-20 starts so long as Ondrej remains healthy, so the workload won't be quite so much as what he played last year on Long Island.

In AHL news Edward Pasquale's second pro-season was much better than his first. He played goal for the newly-minted St. John's IceCaps (who would have thought a franchise would name themselves after a frozen drink from Tim Hortons) and boy did he play it well. His regular season marks at 2.41gaa, and 91.1sv% added to his playoff numbers (where he ran the IceCaps to the semi's) of 2.42 and 92.3 give him a solid base to build upon. His contract will be up after this season so if I were him I'd be pushing Montoya for all he's worth.

With Pasquale securely installed in St. John's, his one-year-elder Chris Carrozzi had to find starts in the depths of the ECHL. He's definitely gotten in his minutes after entering 77 games for the Gwinnett Gladiators, and Ontario Reign in the last 2 years. He's only posted a 2.90gaa and  90.4v%, but ECHL rosters and numbers are very VERY undependable. It just matters that he's getting starts regularly. Depending on Montoya's reliability either Pasquale or Carrozzi may get a crack at some big-league starts this season. 

After being recalled and assigned to and from Milwaukee about a hundred times (while only ever getting 1 start through 4 years) Mark Dekanich had enough. At 26 the former Colgate starter had punched his ticket in the AHL with the Admirals for 3 great seasons before an ankle injury derailed him last year. A 66-40-12 record with a 2.22gaa and a 92.0sv% are nothing to sneeze at in the 'A', but it's just the 'A'. He too will be pushing for some emergency starts as time is running out on establishing himself as something other than a quality AHL option.

Personally I would love to see Dekanich at least get into a couple starts for the Jets, guys like him put in a lot of time and effort. However, he'll have a tough time beating out his new-younger teammates in St. John's. So long as Montoya doesn't implode there probably won't be any starts to go around in the back-up role anyway. In the end this all depends on Ondrej.. was that DUI just the tip of the behavioral iceberg? Jets fans better hope so. 

Due to the fact that Pavelec has been terribly inconsistent (I had him in a fantasy league..) I have to rank the Jets down the list. 4 blockers out of 10 to shatter the cheekbone..

23. Camrolina

The Canes are a pretty steady franchise, right? They always seem to be involved in the playoff race, yeah? Well.. no.. actually they aren't that successful in the regular season. Yes they usually have a winning record, but the fact that surprises me is that they've made the playoffs just 5 times in 14 seasons since the departure from Hartford. The impressive thing about the Hurricanes is their ability to make the most of those opportunities. 3 of those 5 playoff appearances have been runs to at least the conference final: that of course includes a Stanley Cup win in 2006 (which was also their only 100+pt regular season).

For the upcoming season, the forward positions will be bolstered by the acquisition of two top-six forwards. Jordan Staal (brother of captain Eric), and freshly signed Alex Semin should provide the Cane-iacs plenty to cheer about in terms of offense. Semin on a team with no Ovechkin will be an interesting phenomenon to behold: this experiment will either be a huge success or a massive failure (I don't see an in-between scenario). With the added scoring punch the ride this season is surely going to be less hectic for the stalwart Cam Ward.

his commitment to those Vaughn pads is pretty remarkable.. gotta respect that

One last thing to note before getting to the goaltending.. even with Semin's massive $7mil one-year deal, the Canes are still $12mil under the soft cap. If this team ends up in a good position by the trade deadline they will be buying a rental player or two, no doubt in my mind.

Now then: Cam Ward's numbers have never been spectacular in the regular season, last year's 2.74gaa and 91.0sv% were actually right on par (almost exactly) with his career averages. While putting Wardo down for that, you must acknowledge his ability to win when it comes down to crunch-time. His two playoff runs have been exhilirating: posting a 2.38gaa and a 91.7sv% in 41 playoff games is a lot harder than doing it in the regular season. 

Two things are for sure: Ward will post good (probably not amazing) numbers, and he can start 65-70 games. The need for a back-up therefore, is quite low. That back-up role can almost certainly be filled by the two resident 'battlers'. That is, they battle the puck sometimes. Brian Boucher and Justin Peters. Boucher was absolutely excellent with the Flyers two seasons ago with a 2.42gaa and a 91.6sv%, but he found himself struggling in just 10 games with the Canes this past year (3.41gaa, 88.1sv%). It's hard to make the playoffs when your back-up isn't giving your starter 10-15 reliable rest days, and Boosh's play was simply unacceptable.

The younger candidate, 25-year-old Peters, had a nice run in 7 games last year (2.48gaa, Peters has had trouble with the main back-up role for Carolina in the past though (see 3.98gaa, 87.5sv% in 12 games the season before last). So it may be asking a bit to say he could take the job from a shaky Boucher. Some combination of the two could be a successful recipe for the Canes, but they better hope Ward stays off the Injured Reserve. If many of the starts fall to these two there will be trouble.

Since they drafted Peters in 2004 Carolina have only selected 5 goalies in the last 8 years. Only 1 of those 5 have been in a round higher than the 6th, that is the most recently drafted Daniel Altshuller a 69th overall pick. The Hurricanes feel pretty safe with 28-year-old Ward, and haven't had to utilize high picks on goaltenders.

That's where John Muse comes in. Muse is a 23-year-old Boston College boy, who's fresh off his first professional season split between the Everblades (16-6-3, 2.41gaa, 92.0sv%) and Charlotte (10-3-2, 1.81gaa, 94.1sv%). Exceptional numbers for a rookie pro. He seems to have been a bit of an afterthought on the powerhouse Boston College team that (over his tenure) boasted (among others): Cam Atkinson, Brian Dumoulin, Chris Kreider, Ben Ferriero, and Nate Gerbe. Afterthought or not undrafted 5'11" John Muse posted a 85-39-16 record with decent stats. Couple that with his recent professional performance, and the Canes just might have stolen an NHL-calibre goalie here. He's small by todays standards, but he might have a chance to pass Boucher and Peters on the depth-chart sooner rather than later.

1 massive minute eating starter, 2 below average back ups, and 1 surprisingly effective undrafted college rookie. It's not an ideal situation with the chance of either/both back-ups being inept, but Ward is as durable as goalies come. He's missed just 40 games in his career, which is about 6 per year while starting an average of 59 (that jumps to 64 if you don't count his rookie season backing up Martin Gerber). This is an above average goaltending sitch.. I give Carolina a resounding 6 rights and 2 massive uppercuts to the larynx. (8/10)

Monday, 30 July 2012

24. The Zach and Ryan Show

Since their debut season as a new expansion franchise Minnesota has always been that thorn in the side of Cup contenders. That's always how I've felt about them anyway, a very similar team to Nashville (that defense first dynamic). The New Jersey Devils proved that type of system can work for a team lacking superstar scoring talent. But you enter a whole new world of woe when you have no scoring talent whatsoever.. which is how the Wild's season played out last year. 177 goals for (17 less than the 29th ranked offense) just isn't enough to compete for a playoff spot. In my mind their 81pts (3rd worst campaign ever) is actually the worst season they've played to date: considering the other two worse seasons were their first in the league with a ramshackle expansion draft team.

That could all change this year with the infusion of new alternate captains Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. All of a sudden the Wild aren't a cap floor team anymore.. they're $1.3mil under the soft summer cap. While I would still rate the young defensive core questionably there is no doubt that this team looks much better than last year's. The goaltending duties however, will be handled by familiar faces.
Backstrom Annnnngryyyyyyyyy
Nik Backstrom's 4 year $6mil per contract will expire after the end of this season, and a lot of people are starting to doubt his durability. He's only played more than 60 games once in his 7 year career and to me that isn't enough to garner a $6mil contract. His first four seasons in the show he posted a goals against average around 2.10-2.20 and a save percentage greater than 92%. The past 3 seasons he's thrown up around a 2.50gaa and dropped to about a 91sv%. It doesn't seem like a lot, but that's the difference between a vezina contender and an average NHL goalie. At 34 I believe his game is deteriorating, but with a revamped team in front of him and a solid back-up behind him I think it's reasonable to expect 50-60 games and some better results this year.

At 28 and with just 117 NHL contests under his belt you have to think time is running out on Josh Harding. After missing an entire season with a right knee injury he did make a solid comeback last year helping out with 34 games of workload for a struggling Wild team. His numbers were very similar to Backstrom's of last year so it seems like the young and untested team in front of the veteran goalies was the problem. It wouldn't be out of the question to say Harding might challenge and take the starting job from Backstrom, but with that knee in mind it's hard to say definitively.

Are you wondering if there might be an even darker dark-horse to take the reins in Minny? Look no further than Matt Hackett, nephew of NHL vet Jeff Hackett. The 22-year-old now has parts of 4 AHL seasons under his belt (100-58-11 record) and got his feet wet going 3-6 with a 2.37gaa in parts of 12 games with the Wild last year. There's no doubt of his upside, so I think the Wild (who would now seem to be building a Stanley Cup contending team) would be wise to slide him into a back-up role and find a suitor for one of Backstrom or Harding.

Behind Hackett is Darcy Kuemper, a 6'5" Saskatoon product. Also a 22 years of age, he had trouble because of his position on the depth chart last year. He managed to get into 8 games for the Ontario Reign of the ECHL (where he was dominate btw 1.74gaa, 94.1sv%) and 19 for the Aeros in Houston (2.36gaa, 92.3sv%). Great numbers for a rookie professional season, and all the more reason for the Wild to get dealing on one of the NHL tendys. He needs more starts to assess his actual potential.

The youngest of the Wild goaltending prospects also participated in his first full professional season last year, but in Sweden. Johan Gustaffson (who probably owns the most stereotypical Swedish hockey-name) will likely be an AHL player this season where he'll make $60,000 as a 20-year-old. To be fair he might be ahead of Hackett and Kuemper on his development curve as he posted an outstanding 1.68gaa and a 93.2sv% in 29 games for Lulea of the Elitserien. I realize the Swedish Elite League isn't the NHL, but a teenager who posts that type of numbers playing men is something to keep an eye on.

The Wild have a great crop of goaltenders here. Backstrom's star is fading though, and Harding is questionable at this point because of his past knee issues. There's still a lot of noise about Harding, and a trading partner might not be too hard to find for a goalie who could possibly give a team 40 starts for $1.9mil. Then they have 3 very promising prospects, any one of whom could legitimately steal the show at training camp. However, because of Backstrom's inconsistency in recent seasons and Harding's right knee I can't justify going any higher than 7 rage-filled blocker haymakers to the orbital bone.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

25. A Dizzying Situation for the Ducks

It appears Anaheim are going for quantity over quality at this point. Throwing their eggs into seven different baskets! While Jonas Hiller remains the defacto starter he has been up and down with vertigo/dizziness issues (never a good sign) and poor goaltending was a big part of the reason the Ducks fell out of the playoff picture early last season. Hiller’s contract at $4.5mil runs out in two seasons so perhaps the Ducks GM Bob Murray is showing signs of nervousness about Hiller's health by accumulating so many goaltenders recently.

when Jonas is on his game, he's an elite level talent.. vertigo seems to be stealing his career from him
Beyond Jonas it appears Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers will be the back-up considering his cap hit will be 600k at either the NHL or AHL level. Despite his poor NHL numbers thus far in his career, Drouin-Deslauriers’ North American experience should give him first crack at the back-up job come training camp. Two very different Scandinavian tenders will be hot on the Frenchman’s heels however; Frederick Andersen and Viktor Fasth.

Andersen, the 22 year old Danish standout (it’s a rising hockey nation, trust me), spent last year dominating the Elitserien for Frolunda. He slid along at an impressive 1.62gaa in 32gp for the Swedish club. If Andersen makes the jump he’ll be making $1.7mil, but in the A he’ll see a significantly smaller paycheque which is why he’ll likely end up there. At 22 there's no reason for the Ducks to rush Frederick along, especially with 6 other tenders in the system.

Fasth, the 29 year old Swede, took a long road on the path to NHL development. Similarly to D-Deslauriers Fasth will make $1mil regardless of if he plays for Anaheim or the baby-Ducks. Fasth has basically played his way into the spotlight and an NHL contract over the last two years thanks to great work in the SEL with AIK (2.26 and 2.12gaa’s) and getting a call from the Swedish National team for the past two World Championship rosters. He’s been excellent for the yellow and blue as a starter on the international stage with a sub-2.00gaa, but that’s to be expected for a hockey-power with Sweden. At 29 you'd think Fasth has his eye on the big-time and wouldn't take kindly to losing out on the back-up role.

The American prospect John Gibson will likely return to the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers as the Ducks have enough goalies to fill the holes without rushing him to the bigs. It appears Gibson needs the seasoning anyway as his limited action in the World Juniors was less than spectacular for the American side. Gibson has been a highly touted prospect though, so it's not unreasonable to expect a bounce-back campaign.

As Anaheim’s approach appears to be acquiring a ton of goalies of different nationalities, Igor Bobkov fits the mold. Six goalies, six nationalities. At 21 Bobkov will be a professional this season, and he already has the leg up on the competition with a handful of AHL starts at Syracuse. His numbers in the OHL weren’t great for the Kingston Frontenacs, but in limited action in 4 starts with the Crunch he showed some upside with a 2.68gaa against men. With four professionals already ahead of him on the depth-chart it's going to be hard for Bobkov to find a prominent role. I see ECHL time on the horizon (or perhaps KHL). 

Marco Cousineau (who ruins the perfect seven for seven on different nationalities) has struggled to find starts at a reasonable professional level. After starting for the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL (perhaps where Bobkov ends up this season) two years ago he ended up with the Allen Americans of the CHL last year. No player with NHL aspirations wants to sink this low, but for goaltenders finding starts is the most important thing. It appears that Marco did enough last year to earn a contract from the Ducks, but becoming more than an afterthought amongst the other 6 contenders will be a challenge for the 22 year old.

Viktor Fasth is perhaps the most intriguring part of the goaltending puzzle this upcoming season in Anaheim. At 29 he could be ready, willing, and able to wrestle the starting job from an unsteady Hiller. The combination of those two and the added support from D-Deslauriers will give the Ducks enough to have similar results as last season, but that really wasn’t quite good enough. 5 blockers to the mouth of 10 because of Hiller's health problems.

Friday, 27 July 2012

26. Shaking Like Little Leafs

After quite literally years of sucking the Leafs appear to be a cap-concious team lately (They're $9mil under), which is nice to see considering I don't believe they're finished the rebuilding process just yet. The reality though is that they haven't made the playoffs in 3000 days.. that's what someone tweeted the other day anyway, I believe it. With nearly the same team heading into this season as last, there shouldn't be any way they can do any worse right? Welllll that's up for debate.
Could be a lonley lonnnnng year for Optimus Reim

The reason that's up for debate is their goaltending situation. Barring the blockbuster trade for Luongo (which is unlikely considering the Leafs assests), GM Brian Burke has decided to go with youth. James Reimer's 71 career games played is the most of any Leafs tender.. excuse me? On top of that he has concussion issues which plaugued him last year (after what looked like a pretty greasy side-swipe by Brian Gionta.. I'll give Brian the benefit of the doubt since he's not your typical dusty player). The other Brian, Brian Burke, has repeatedly said he has the utmost confidence in Reimer and that he is a starting calibre goalie. Well Burkie's job is likely on the line this season after so much futility so he better be right or he's getting canned.

The second most NHL experience on the Leafs goaltending roster is none other than Ben Scrivens. The Cornell University product (where he was outstanding btw) will also be the elderstatesman come training camp. That's right, turning 26 this September will mean Scrivens is the oldest of all the Leafs goalies as of right now. His 12 games of experience in the show don't give me a whole lot of confidence in him as a potential back-up. With Gustavsson not panning out (and now off to the Wings where he will undoubtedly shine as most players do upon joining the franchise) the Leafs are left with Scrivens or one of two Scandinavian prospects in the back-up role.

23-year-old Mark Owuya of Stockholm is the youngest and seemingly most promising of the Maple Leaf tendys. After a season as a pro starting for Djurgarden in the SEL (32 games, 2.18gaa, 92.7sv%) he was signed by Burke and the Leafs to a free agent contract. Since he came in as a longshot last year he had to battle hard for his starts, first in Reading (16-5-3, 2.63gaa, 93.0sv%) and then with the Marlies (11-5-1, 1.94gaa, 92.9sv%). As a North American rookie those are fantastic numbers. He clearly hasn't had difficulty adapting to the smaller rink and if I was Burke I'd be giving him a nice long look at training camp.

The fourth and final tender is Finn, Jussi Rynnas. Compared to Gustavsson, who was "the monster" at 6'3 (ridiculous) this guy really is a monster at 6'5. If you're 6'5 and Scandinavian you can get a contract as an NHL goalie prospect.. just saying these guys are huge! In exactly the same situation as in 2011 with Owuya, Rynnas signed with the Leafs in 2009 after a professional season in Finland playing for Assat. Now with two seasons of pro experience for Reading (8-5-1), the Marlies (21-24-4), and two games with the big boys (0-1, 4.24gaa, 82.5sv%) it's make or break time for the big fella. 40 total NHL shots gives him the 3rd most experience of Leaf goaltenders..

Reimer has the best nicknames in the NHL.. Optimus Reim, the Rei-minister. This is the reason I want him to succedd. However, the bottom line is.. these guys are just too hard to judge with so little professional experience. They could be outstanding! But the more likely situation is that they're underwhelming. I hate to do this to all you Leaf fans out there, but I ranked the Islanders a 4/10 and the Leafs are worse off. Maybe even as bad as the Blue Jackets! Who I didn't even give a number! I'm sliding the Leafs 2 quick uppercuts and a jab to the nose.. they go down easy (3/10).

Thursday, 26 July 2012

27. The Isles Pay $382,000 per DiPietro Start

Rick DiPietro's career stat line looks like he played in the 80's (2.86gaa, 90.3sv%). What's worse is the Islanders continue to pay Tricky Ricky $4.5mil per season despite the fact that he's only played.. *drumroll*.. are you ready for this? It's pathetic.. even I didn't think this situation was this bad.. 47 games in the last 4 years!!!!!111!1!!!!!11! WHAT!? Are you kidding me Rick? *crunching numbers* That means Charles Wang has paid this dummy $382,978 and 72 cents for every game he's played in the last 4 seasons. I won't even get in to how terrible a goalie he is.. it's not worth the typing.

Signing Ricky was among the worst moves in franchise history (lets not get into that discussion..); among the best moves you ask? Claiming a disgruntled Evgeni Nabokov from the Wings. After basically being fired from the KHL (yes they can do that.. imagine if the NHL was like that!) Nabby came over and showed he can still stop a puck. A goals against of 2.55 and a 91.4sv% are practically miraculous behind a defense that boasts Andrew MacDonald as it's go-to-guy. That's not a knock on Andy (whom I believe is very underrated), but he shoudn't be relied upon so heavily. Back to the matter at hand.. Nabby is as durable as they come at 36-years-old and should be good for at least 40 solid starts. Unless his age catches up with him.. which is a big unless.

If the Islanders can get 50 or so starts out of Rick and Nabby they shouldn't have any trouble continuing to ease Anders Nilsson and/or Kevin Poulin into some 'chell action. Another of those hulking Scandinavian tenders, at 6'5 Nilsson presents an intimidating frame. He didn't see as much action last season as I would have liked though (just 25 games in Bridgeport and 4 on Long Island). It's very likely he'll need another season of grooming, but who knows he's a high quality prospect who might be able to make the jump sooner than expected.

The reason for Nilsson's lack of starts was fellow 22-year-old prospect Kevin Poulin of Montreal, Quebec. Poulin got the jump on Nilsson after some good numbers in his first pro-season (last year) including a 4-2-1 record for the Isles after an emergency call-up. He had the yeomans share of the starts in Bridgeport with 49, and he didn't do such a bad job (26-18-4, 2.79gaa, 91.2sv%). If I had to guess however, I'd say Poulin might be displaced by Nilsson come training camp.

1 massively terrible pin-cushion of a mistake, 1 aging superstar goalie, along with 2 solid prospects means the Islanders are in murky water. I feel I've put a relatively positive spin on this situation, but it isn't ideal. I'd shell out 4 straight rights to the orbital bone to Garth Snow for this assortment of tendys. That rating is simply because of the total uncertainty surrounding what DiPietro ann Nabokov can produce. If it comes down to starting Nilsson or Poulin in 30 or 40 games it could be trouble (4/10).