Welcome to Sound Tigers Report!
I am an original New York Islanders season ticket holder (yes - from 1972, I attended the first ever game at the NVMC - can anyone guess what that was?), who now lives in Connecticut.
With the wealth of talent at Bridgeport this year, will go to to some Sound Tiger games (from now on, will call them the Tigers, which would be a much better name for this team - second best choice, the Sounders) and provide a perspective on the players and their potential.
As opposed to just one more game summary, will approach this with a scout's mentality.
Individual observations on the players, with a main focus on figuring out who might help the big club on the Island and when, and a little bit of game commentary beyond that (but not much - Fornabaio does that very well, visit him often at the ConnPost).
Brief Game Observations
First off, there were about 1000-1500 people actually in the stands on 'kids opening' day. The kids had a good time. The game itself wasn't the best, all three goals were fairly ho hum.
Bridgeport rallied to tie the game with less than a second on the clock, but the goal was waved off due to a hand pass in a mad dash goalmouth scamble - how on earth did the referee see that.
In general, Manchester looked like they have a decent team, who can shutdown teams well - as does Bridgeport, but an all too typical Sunday afternoon/end of weekend/less than 100% energy AHL match largely ensued.
Overall, Bridgeport was probably the better team - with only a couple of exceptions, just about any of these guys could be useful on the Island at some point - this is a deep team, but not one that will fill the net every night.
Player by Player Observations
Potential Stars in the Making
Mikko Koskinen - solid save maker - tall & strong - pretty much refuses to come out of his crease (call him Anti-Ricky) - was beaten on two doorstep/pinball type plays that anyone could have had trouble with, though perhaps crease scramble reaction time is a weakness
Koskinen should work on coming out of the crease just a little bit more, and be a bit more aggressive when the puck is in the crease, but he had savvy and confidence - he is a #1 netminder in the making
Probably benefits from at least half a season at the Port - could be ready for primetime if needed by mid season - definitely with the big club next year.
Travis Hamonic - this kid has poise, vision, strength, intelligence, touch.
He should be called up to the Island immediately. Likely to be our best defenseman since Denis Potvin. He is that good.
Get psyched for de Haan - Hamonic in 2011/12. Make that very psyched.
Suggesting that he should be called up now, as his specific skillset doesn't fit on an AHL team. He will be a very important cog in the wheel, but he won't learn much playing inferior competition was very much the impression from this afternoon. The play is too slow in the AHL.
He needs to start spending time in the big show, where the play is faster and he can make the important mistakes that he will make, as Denis Potvin made as a rookie. Only with a season like that under his belt in the big show, will he then be truly ready for 2011/12. And there would be plenty of good stuff this year for the Islanders to benefit from as well. Not sure I agree with the assessment that he has to be top 4 - why not 5 or 6?
Matt Martin - ready for primetime right now. In fact, with Tavares going down, would expect him to be called up tomorrow. Martin dominated with vision, strength, and I believe it was he who scored the game tying call that was called back. Some big hits, with goal scoring potential. Should be an excellent 3rd or 4th liner for years. Call him up please.
Kevin Poulin - excited to see him play one of these days soon
Players with Solid Potential
Mark Katic - has speed and poise - should be considered a solid D prospect - the Islanders have a bit of a logjam at this position in general
Jesse Joensuu - still trying to put it all together - probably the next LW in the depth chart after Martin gets called up - could use at least 20 games to get his sealegs and then probably a useful part, but unclear if he can be more than a 3rd line player. We'll probably get a chance to see, but probably the right decision to start him in Bridgeport this year once more.
David Ullstrom - has excellent skill and ice vision - perhaps the biggest upside of this group with potential, but seems to still be finding his way a bit - success at this level should be the right step for Ullstrom - may need most if not all of the season down here, but good chances to be a solid player going forward. This is what the AHL was made for.
Robin Figren - what a difference a year makes - seemed lost last year for whatever reason, but retains skill, and hustled well, almost scored a second goal today - may still have a chance for the big show if he keeps it up
Michael Haley - seems to be putting it all together. As was observed in training camp, there was a lot of decent talent and not much really to differentiate many of the players. Same is true of many of the Bridgeport forwards. Just about any of them could fit a spot on the big club, Haley included, if needed in a pinch, as he indeed played a few games last year in the big show. Probably still his role.
Justin DiBenedetto - sort of a mix of Figren & Haley, hustling quite a bit, understanding this may be his last chance to shine, may have an upside - a solid, full season in Bridgeport could help.
Needs to stand out from this dense crowd to get a chance.
Joel Martin - may not mean much, but looked decent in warmups, and glowing reviews from others, here's hoping he gets some playing time in the ECHL and as goalies need time to develop, in a few years, who knows?
Dustin Kohn - paired with Hamonic, they were a nice duo, but Kohn doesn't particularly stand out himself, and is likely at best 11th or 12th in the overall D depth chart - which top 10 looks something like this
and with de Haan coming in 2011/2012, and Streit hopefully back in March, his future may well be elsewhere
Not that he doesn't have potential, but see just above - perhaps the Islanders should consider trading some of their depth on D.
Dylan Reese - see Dustin Kohn - pretty much the same story - kudos to Garth Snow for stacking so much talent
Best of the Rest
Rhett Rakhshani - solid, and getting his chance, but has to show more to be considered a real NHL prospect - will get his chances
Mark Wotton - the captain does a nice job - he is where he belongs, nothing wrong with that. Has played roughly half a total season in the bigs, and it shows. Could play for the big club in a pinch, but with the depth, his role is teacher.
Tony Romano - nice hometown story, and not a bad player. Hustles, has some skill, not out of the question if he keeps developing.
Rob Hisey - has some skill, not enough size - will be a good player for this team
Tomas Marcinko - didn't do that much today, but was in the mix often, can he be more than a solid 3rd line player in the A is the question
Jeremy Yablonski - gotta love the old time hockey - he would play without a helmet if he could I'm sure - had the obligatory fight which lasted a long time. Plays with heart - he's a winner at this level, great pickup.
Jean Bourbeau - solid player who didn't do that much
Brett Motherwell - needs to find some more speed
(Didn't dress - Poulin, Hilbert, Klementyev, Taylor)