Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini, Frans Nielsen, Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau, Chris Campoli, and Bruno Gervais.
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What we have listed here are the members of the upcoming youth movement for the New York Islanders. Some of these names carry pressure filled shoulders, while others are looking forward to making their first real mark in the NHL, but I think it is important that we go into next season expecting something other than Calder Trophy competition.
Bruno Gervais needs to drastically improve his play. He was able to step up his play a game here or there, but overall he has shown that he may only be a 6th or 7th d-man. When he played in Bridgeport he was a constant threat from the blue line. He played great defense and was one of the top offensive leaders in the league. That has developed into an NHL player that hasn't scored a regular season goal since 2005. This obviously forced me to scratch my head when Snow gave him a four year deal. Sure, I want him to turn into that defenseman we saw when we drafted him, but so far he hasn't shown any signs of what's to come.
On the other hand, Chris Campoli has been emerging nicely over the past few years. He managed to be one of our more consistent point producers on the back-end while favoring a dislocated shoulder that he had to surgically repair mid-year. Coming back into the fold with his body being completely healthy, we can only expect him to keep progressing.
Although there will be lots of focus on Kyle Okposo, the real player that should have an eye on him at all times is Jeff Tambellini. This year should be make or break. Regardless of the fact that his contract is for two years, in my opinion if he does not put up somewhere in the 15-20 goal range, the organization should find some way to trade him before his stock value completely crashes.
Blake Comeau has shown the maturity of a seasoned vet and is someone that we can expect to contribute nicely next season. He doesn't appear to be that player that will put up a point every night, but he's someone we can count on to give his all every shift. My prediction is somewhere around a 25-35 point year.
Sean Bergenheim may be in that range as well, but maybe even more can be expected of him. Of all the forwards he has been in and out of this lineup the most throughout his career, going back to the Stirling days. He really came on strong towards the end of last season and has shown he can be that player who riles up the opposition. He's not afraid to throw his weight around, nor is he afraid of driving hard to the net. If he can bring the same energy to the rink as he did under Ted Nolan we should be able to expect more. Keep in mind he is one fast skater, and with Head Coach Scott Gordon's new method of "overspeed", this may be a very good year ahead for Sean.
Frans Nielsen will probably start off getting third or fourth line minutes. He has been in and out of the lineup over the past few years but never maintained a steady position. This isn't a knock on Frans, but he just did not start developing into a scorer until the past year or so with Bridgeport. He has been paired with Tamby for most of his Bridgeport career, and Tamby cites him as the reason why he's had the success he's had in the AHL. After putting the time and effort in he was rewarded with a four-year deal. I expect him to likely have a similar year as Bergenheim did this year. Nothing more than 20-25 points in his first full-time role.
Kyle Okposo. The player we've been talking about since the day we drafted him. He knows who he is and what is expected of him. But let's discuss this, what is really expected of him? Per TSN's "30 teams in 30 days" articles, Okposo should be expected to compete for the Calder Trophy. With all the hype around him that is very possible, he may do just that, but do I honestly think he will? No. I'm sure he'll have a good first year in the NHL, maybe putting up between 30-40 points (40 being generous) but nothing more. He is NOT the next Sydney Crosby or Patrick Kane. He will probably turn out to be an excellent power forward for the Isles organization, but next year will most likely only be the start of a maturing process that will take a few years before he blossoms into the player we all expect him to be.
As you can see, I don't see any of these young guys turning into all-stars by season's end. To be honest, none of us should think like that. Am I saying to toss in the towel? Not at all. But a youth movement means exactly that. We're giving the inexperienced time to gain experience so they can, one day, become the players we need them to be.
We have to be patient. Let the kids make the mistakes that players like Guerin, Witt, Weight, Martinek, and Comrie shouldn't be making so they can learn from them and know what to do next time.
We just have to sit back and just enjoy watching hockey.
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