September 16, 2010

Rookie Game 2: Boston 2, Isles 1 (OT)

The Islanders dropped the 2nd and final rookie game to the Bruins in overtime by a score of 2-1. Ryan Spooner scored both goals for the Bruins, while Tony Romano scored the lone goal for the Isles.

Tonight's effort was much better than the one we saw on Wednesday. Kevin Poulin was in net, and looked very strong. Just like Mikko Koskinen, Poulin has some very quick reaction time. He looked a little quicker with his lateral movement and had the ability to go into the butterfly stance a little quicker that Koskinen, but we could probably chalk that up to Koskinen being five inches taller and very thin. Poulin is at 6'2" and 205 lbs, so he has good size for a goalie. He is very quick with the glove saves, and that seems to be what he is most comfortable with.

Calvin de Haan had a better game, but there were still some bumps here and there. The fact that his play improved leads one to think that it is just rust from the lack of playing time, but he is getting there. The Islanders had a lot of powerplay opportunities tonight, and de Haan saw a lot of time from that. It seems like he is very hesitant to shoot the puck. There were a couple of times you could see how much space he was being given from the overhead camera the Bruins were using for the live feed. A good offensive defenseman has to shoot when given that much time and space. He will learn with time, but again you can clearly see he is still trying to shake off some rust. At this point, I'm not expecting de Haan to make the Islanders despite being one of the final cuts last season. He really should spend another year down in juniors to get all of the kinks worked out.

Travis Hamonic had a much better game, but was knocked out fairly early after getting into a fight, his 2nd of the tournament which meant a game misconduct. He definitely likes to scrap, and that was good to see. I'm glad he came around and was having a better go at it than he did on Wednesday. I'm very interested to see what he does in the real camp now.

For some reason, my recap of game one failed to mention David Ullstrom. I have been pretty impressed with what I have seen from him. This isn't a guy who's going to score a ton, but he has some talent, good speed and a huge frame. A number of times tonight, he could be found screening the opposing net on the powerplay. When he had the puck behind the net, he seemed to be able to cylce back and forth a couple of times and pass it up to create some scoring chances. He's got some really good tools to become a very effective top-9 forward, maybe a top-6 with some luck. I've been excited to see Ullstrom for a little while, and these two games left me even more curious with what we have here. Keep your eyes on him closely during camp in the battle for the open forward spot.

Justin DiBennedetto has some good skills as well. He's not the most skilled guy, and the probability that the skill he has shown translates into a regular top-6 in the NHL is slim, but he looked a lot better than what I saw last year. He's faster, smarter and much more "chippy." I like what he is trying to do with his game and how he is trying to change is. That could go a long way in making him an effective player and a contributor at the pro level.

Nino Niederreiter is a very strong kid. He has an excellent ability to be able to turn his back to a defender when he's carrying the puck, which enabled the Isles to set up shop in the offensive zone a few times tonight. He got knocked down a couple of times, but he's still trying to get his "NHL legs." He'll be in camp, and an obvious favorite to make the club for at least the first nine games of the season. If Niederreiter sticks to the game we saw him play in these two, he should have no problems. What will be interesting to see now is how he fares going up against even bigger, faster and stronger opponents in the NHL camp. If he doesn't have the same success, he won't take long to adjust. He has the size which gives him an advantage over many other young players, and the hockey sense to be able to make some adjustments on the fly.

Kirill Kabanov was doing much of the same as he did last night. The kid can be an offensive dynamo one day. It's a shame that he is so light, because he could really do a lot more if he were only about 10-15 pounds heavier. Perhaps after another season in junior he can become a contributor with the Isles, but he is on the right track skill wise. Hopefully he matures so that we can be sure that we'll definitely have the skill here, in North America.

Finally, Mark Katic had a very strong series. I didn't mention him Wednesday night either, but he showed quickness and a good offensive game. He has definitely gotten significantly bigger since the Islanders took him in the 3rd round in 2007, and playing in Bridgeport last season seems to have taught him a lot. He likes to jump in on offense, but he's very smart with knowing when to pick his spots. Twice I saw him get himself into trouble on pinches, and both times he was able to use his speed to get back. Both times he didn't put himself totally out of position either though, and that surely played a factor. Good to see that we could possibly have a little more offense coming up the ranks on the blueline.

These are only a few of the guys who had strong games, but they are the ones that people had the most interest in given their skill level and draft positions. It was nice to see some generally good performances from some of the Isles top young talent, and now we get to see how some of it will translate in the NHL camp.

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