Correction: Ullstrom last played for HV71, not Linkoping. Thanks to reader Magnus for the tip.
When the Islanders took Kirill Kabanov in the 3rd round back in June at the entry draft, everyone knew the risks. They understood why the kid fell from a sure fire top-three pick in the preseason rankings. I even described all the trials and tribulations the young Kabanov went through over the past couple of seasons.
Despite talking about how much he has to change, and how he will work his hardest to make the Islanders as soon as possible to show how much he appreciates that they took a chance on him, Kabanov has gotten off on the wrong foot.
Kabanov was not allowed to participate in the on-ice drills in day one due to disciplinary actions handed down by the team after he showed up late for team physicals.
I give the Islanders a lot of credit here. They could have very easily looked at this situation and swept it under the rug, but they know exactly what they are dealing with. Punishing Kabanov is exactly what should happen given his history. The hope obviously is that by doing that, you show how serious you are and let him know that just because he is as skilled as the top players in the draft, he will not be handed anything.
I feel one of the best quotes regarding the situation came from Scott Gordon. When asked by Newsday's Mike Rose if he was disappointed about Kabanov not participating, Gordon simply replied "not as disappointed as he's going to be." He would go on to say that this was something that the Isles "talked to him about and he's got to learn to follow the rules."
One thing the fans have learned about Gordon in his two years here is that he doesn't put up with things like this. He isn't afraid to mix lines up to get others going or bench guys who are struggling mightily. Some people have disagreed with the way the Isles handled this today, but in my eyes they did exactly what they had to do. Kabanov has to step up and show he wants it if he truly wants to prove everyone wrong.
While we have to wait another day to see Kabanov, the other prospects took part in the long practice. There was a lot of coaching from Gordon, and by all accounts it had the feel of a clinic. Some of these young players will be with the big club next week, including 5th overall pick Nino Niederreiter.
Niederreiter admitted that he had some trouble early on, but by the end of the practice felt more comfortable. It's good that he picked up on the system rather quickly because as Chris Botta says in his interview with Gordon, Nino's chances of making this team for at least the first nine games is very good.
Niederreiter, who just turned 18 last week and was one of the youngest players available in the draft, is already a big kid at 6'3" and 202 pounds, so he absolutely has the size needed to be able to go through the rigors of the NHL season. The only concern there would be conditioning and skill level. It is best not to rush prospects along, but the Islanders have enough developing young players, many of whom are poised for breakout seasons, where they can play Niederreiter in a 3rd line/power play role to start off and not have to worry about putting too much pressure on him immediately.
Time will tell what will happen, but it is best for all parties if Niederreiter gets through the camp and impresses. It will put a great deal of confidence in him and the coaching staff, and things could only go up from there.
Another prospect that I was looking forward to hearing from was forward David Ullstrom. After the two-hour practice, he said that he felt content with the way he performed. Ullstrom is a guy I have been intrigued with since the Islanders took him in the 4th round of 2008. He's a big kid with some good skills to boot. Last season in Sweden, he was able to put up 5-11-16 in 47 games for Linkoping, which are actually good numbers for a 20 year old. For many of the leagues overseas, developing prospects is not anywhere near the top of their list. For him to be able to stick with the big club all year, and put up those points in very limited minutes is really promising. I think that he is somewhat of a diamond in the rough, and I feel there is a very good shot we'll see him by seasons end. The Islanders have been looking to add a forward, but seeing as they have not up until this point, they will look at some of these young players. Size is something they are always in need of, so even if it's later in the season, we will get a look at Ullstrom at some point.
The team will return on the ice for the 2nd day tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have some updates on some of the other players. A few that are of interest are Kabanov, Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic and Casey Cizikas.