With the NHL Entry Draft just a month away, Islanders Nation is breaking down some of the prospects the New York Islanders have acquired in past years to see what players the team should pick up this year.
This past season, the Islanders transformed from the worst defensive team in the NHL into one of the best, from 293 goals allowed to 191. The sudden defensive prowess combined with Devon Toews’ outstanding rookie season put a spotlight on the Isles’ defensive prospects throughout the year. So, let’s see who else is waiting to join the Isles’ blue line.
Whereas last week Islanders Nation focused on scoring defensemen, this week’s prospect watch is turning the spotlight on strong, two-way defensemen.
Both Parker Wotherspoon and Mitchell Vande Somple of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers know how to carry the puck, throw hits, and (mostly) stay out of the penalty box. In 64 games last season, Wotherspoon had 23 points (6 goals, 17 assists) and 51 penalty minutes. Assuming all are minors, that’s about 25 penalties all season, just one every third game. Vande Somple scored 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 70 games. He served 28 penalty minutes, which is only 14 penalties all season, again assuming all are minors.
Although these numbers may not look spectacular at first glance, especially compared to Dobson, Wilde, and Aho’s breakdown last week, they show Wotherspoon’s and Vande Somple’s abilities to keep back on defense, to hold the blue line rather than constantly join the play. Both prospects also have an amazing ability to read plays and create opportunities. Wotherspoon and Vande Somple were each drafted in 2015 by the Islanders and have had plenty of time to develop in the minors.
Keeping in mind that the AHL is a minor league, it’s interesting to note that Wotherspoon’s and Vande Somple’s stats were higher than Boychuk’s and Mayfield’s in fewer games. Both of these two Islanders defenseman had 19 total points. Boychuk scored 3 goals and 16 assists in 74 games, while Mayfield scored 4 goals and 15 assists in 79 games.
With the example Toews set this season, it’s not hard to imagine that the young two-way defensemen with puck smarts will flourish further in Trotz’s system.
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