An independent blog on the New York Islanders, the NHL and AHL by a guy from New York.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: Scott Gomez named Assistant Coach and Kieffer Bellows to Portland

The New York Islanders officially announced the hiring of Scott Gomez as an assistant coach. Gomez will join Doug Weight’s evolving staff along with newcomer, Luke Richardson to try and help the Isles find an improved approach to their game. Gomez and Weight were teammates for Team USA at the World Cup and Olympics in 2004 and 2006. Gomez was rumored to be on the Isles radar for an assistant’s spot over the last several weeks and has apparently wanted to make the transition from a successful career on the ice to behind the bench for the last few years.

"You're not playing much at the end there, but you're still helping the young guys and giving back what was given to me by all the great vets I had," Gomez said. "I worked for the NHL Network, NBC, did some TV and they were wonderful to me, it was great, but at the end of the day, I still have that passion and I wanted to get into coaching."

Isles fans are well acquainted with the play-making skills of Scott Gomez since his break out seasons with New Jersey after a Rookie of the Year award, All-Star appearances, a Calder Memorial Trophy, along with assisting in a 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup win. The 37-year-old Gomez played 1,079 NHL games with the Devils, NYR, MTL, SJS, FLA, STL and Ottawa during an impressive 16 year NHL career and hopes to bring his knowledge and know-how to the Islanders bench and help players develop and improve to reach their full potential.

"Scott brings an immense amount of hockey knowledge to our coaching staff," Weight said. "His offensive instincts, expertise on the power-play and the way he could control the game with his skating and smarts, are all key elements that we want implemented into our group. He played in the league as recently as the 2015-16 season so he can relate to today's NHL player in an effort to bring out the best in each member of the team."

Per Arthur Staple, “If/when #Isles add Kelly Buchberger to staff, will have four coaches with over 1,000 NHL games played. Can't imagine that's happened before.”

More insight from Gomez himself in the "The Player's Tribute" can be found here.

Kieffer Bellows left BU to sign with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Bellows was the Isles 1st round pick,19th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and is a highly thought-of prospect that New York hopes will help fill out an improving group of elite young forwards. Bellows was also a member of the United States Development team, where he helped Team USA defeat Canada for the gold in the 2017 tournament.

Elite Prospects describes Kieffer Bellows as a “skilled power forward who can dominate games. Possesses high end puckhandling ability as well as a crisp, accurate release on his shot.” He is known for being a tenacious, competitive and physical presence on the ice. Bellows is a methodical checker and strong skater who is hard to deter from his pursuit of the puck. So basically, as a complete prospect, Bellows has a nose for the net and the tools to score goals in bunches.

“We’re very fortunate that Kieffer has chosen to come to the Winterhawks this season,” said Winterhawks Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston in a press conference Tuesday. “He has an impressive resume as a player, but also is learning how to win. Kieffer has a good scoring touch, and comes from great bloodlines with the NHL experience of his father, Brian Bellows, who won both a Stanley Cup and a Memorial Cup.”

Kieffer Bellows is the son of former NHL RW, Brian Bellows who played from 1980-1999 with Minnesota, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Washington in 1200 games.

“I’m very honored and privileged to be a part of this organization,” said Bellows Tuesday. “I can’t thank my mom and dad enough for helping me get to this point in my life. I’m very excited to help this team as much as I can.” Bellows is obviously excited to show what he can do in the Canadian Juniors with Portland, under the close watch of Islanders brass.

Isles Notes:

“The New York Islanders will not play four regular season games at the renovated Nassau Coliseum next season, despite an agreement to do so by developer Bruce Ratner in his 2013 lease with the county, according to National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly,” per Newsday.

Calvin de Haan collects a silver medal at the IIHF Worlds. Dennis Seidenberg awarded the best Defensemen of the tournament.

Arthur Staple on Kovalchuk possibility, “if the trade cost is minor — and I could see the Isles insisting that Mikhail Grabovski’s cap hit go the other way — I would think the Isles have some interest.”

Matthew Barzal and the Western Hockey League Champion Seattle Thunderbirds were eliminated from the Memorial Cup following a 7-0 tournament ending loss vs. Saint John. Barzal helped the T-Birds to a memorable Western Conference Championship and their best season in team history.

Barzal on JT, "I learned a little bit from John Tavares when I was down there, just watching how he leads, by example."

NHL Notes:

Available 2017 Summer Free Agents List.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: Tavares, Belmont, Richardson & Barzal

So I’ve heard rumors on a few fronts that the Boomer and Carton show on WFAN mentioned the John Tavares extension is apparently done (terms), as well as an Arena deal, for the Islanders to make their future home at Belmont Park, and nothing has been confirmed because the team can't go public right now. Rumors of JT’s contract extension were speculated to be around the 8yr, $10M range a couple of weeks ago. Tavares is key to the Islanders success and everyone knows that his signing is the primary focus of the organization this summer. More rumors of the Islanders continued uncertainty at the Barclays Center is also an undying topic of discussion. Those rumors swirled around the team or host, Barclays Center opting out of their deal while currently in the contract renegotiation period. Rob Taub Tweeted, “Craig Carton on @BoomerandCarton just now said the #Isles building in Belmont could be ready by the start of the 2019-2020 season.” We must keep our collective ears open and wait for more details over the summer, at the Drafts and probably the Free Agency period to open before the Islanders give confirmation.

The New York Islanders confirmed Arthur Staples’ earlier hunch of adding Luke Richardson to their coaching staff is indeed true. Richardson will serve as an Assistant Coach under new Head Coach Doug Weight. Weight and Richardson were team mates while playing for the Edmonton Oilers in the early 90’s.

"Luke brings a tireless work ethic and outstanding character to our organization," Weight said. "He'll have his hands on every aspect of the team, including our systems, skill development and team culture. Luke's coaching experience, including four years running an organization as Head Coach in Binghamton, make him an excellent addition to our staff."  Let’s hope his hands can help the Isles horrible ability to convert on the man advantage and improve a 28th ranked PP unit. And he should certainly help bring more accountability to the Isles blue liners and infuse a new perspective within the D-group.

Richardson spoke about the need to achieve, per Staple, “We’ve talked about that a lot — we both want to win, we want to have success and neither of us would just hand someone a job because we knew them,” Richardson said. “Success is the biggest part for me. That’s the reason why I left my last job (with Binghamton in the AHL). At the minor-league level, winning and developing players have to work hand in hand. It can be hard to have the success you want.” Richardson wanted to be in consideration for the head coaching job with Ottawa that went to Guy Boucher. He also tried for the Sabers vacancy that went to Dan Bylsma and was also interviewed by the Ducks to replace Boudreau, that went to Carlyle (per Mike Halford of NBCSports.) Richardson has something to prove and he feels good about doing it with New York.

Richardson was an experienced NHL defensemen who played just over 1,400 games for six different teams (35 & 166 for 201 points) in his 21-year career with playoff experience and International medals (Gold and Silver) for Team Canada. Per Islanders press release, “Richardson coached Canada's National Men's Team to the 2016 Spengler Cup Championship. He also helped Team Canada to a runner-up finish as an Assistant Coach at the 2016 Deutschland Cup. The Ottawa, ON, native spent four seasons as Head Coach of the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators from 2012-2016. Richardson was an Assistant Coach with the Ottawa Senators from 2009 to 2012.” Richardson was named the AHL’s Eastern Conference all-star coach in his second-year coaching Binghamton. Rumors also have Kelly Buchberger or Scott Gomez being considered as assistant coaching candidates. “Buchberger was seen watching Mathew Barzal with Weight during the WHL playoffs. Barzal was a beast as Seattle defeated Regina. 17th.” - Staple

On the player-acquisition front, the Isles-Kovalchuk rumors have not gone away. Elliotte Frieman mentioned the possibility in his “30 thoughts” column for Sportsnet. “It makes sense for them, although they will have to convince him they are going for it now. Russian sources believe Kovalchuk had serious interest in the Rangers, but a) I’m not sure of their interest, and b) I’m not sure they could pull it off if they wanted to. Sounds like Florida has also inquired. But, if he was interested in the New York area, why wouldn’t the Islanders try?” I’m not sure the Isles have the cap room to experiment on Kovalchuk’s chemistry with a team that needs to fine tune their roster right now.

Mathew Barzal, 19 was named MVP of the WHL playoffs for the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL). Barzal helped the ‘Birds clinch their first ever berth in the Memorial Cup. He will lead his team against the Erie Otters (OHL) today with hopes getting one step closer to win a Mastercard Memorial Cup Title. The tourney host, Windsor Spitfires(OHL), Saint Johns Sea Dogs (QMJHL) are also competing in the tournament. Barzal (7 & 18 for 25 pts in 16 playoff games) was the New York Islanders 16th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. “I’ve had a couple of ups and down this year, getting sent back, losing the World Juniors,” said Barzal. “It just feels so great, especially to win with this group of guys.” Mathew Barzal should make a strong push for the Isles roster for next season along with Ryan Pulock, Michael Dal Colle and an eager to return, Josh Ho-Sang.

I’m sure we will be privy to more events going down over the next week or so. I’ll be off the grid for a short while, recovering from surgery, but I’ll try to remain active on Twitter.  Consider following me if you don’t already under the @Knight_of_Cups_ tag.

In the meantime, the Islanders continue to be on the clock heading into the 2017-18 season.

Time-check please.

Isles Notes:

Islanders vs. Rangers preseason game set for September 22nd at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

Per Elliotte Friedman, “Could see Detroit with interest in Calvin de Haan from the Islanders, who would be worried about losing him in the expansion draft. He’s been very solid at the Worlds.”

Thomas Hickey is also a name that is thrown around for the expansion draft.

IIHF Notes:

With Team USA (Lee & Nelson) and Team Germany (Seidenberg & greiss) eliminated by Finland and Canada, Isles prospect Ilya Sorokin wasn’t in net today, but his Team Russia was also eliminated from the tournament in a 4-2 loss to Calvin deHaan and Team Canada in the Semi-Final round.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: Linus Soderstrom Signs ELC with Islanders

The New York Islanders signed one of their top goaltending prospects (4th round, 95th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft) to a three-year entry level deal today. 20-year-old, Swedish Phenom, Linus Soderstrom is fresh off a 2017 Swedish Elite League Championship for HV71 as a SHL rookie in an exciting, game 7, 2-1 sudden death O.T. finals win. Now he gets a shot to eventually show the Isles what they have in him on North American ice, although its still unknown where he will play professional hockey to start next season. Agent Christian Sjögren eluded to the fact that Soderstrom was close to an NHL contract on 4/29 and Isles country took notice with Arthur Staple later confirming the possibility of a signing.

In international play, Soderstrom represented his native Sweden at the 2015 and 2016 WJC, and the 2014 U18WC. “He was named the tournament's best goaltender in 2016, posting the top goals-against average (1.42) and save percentage (.947).” per Cory Wright.  Soderstrom had a 1.34gaa (best in the league) and a .943SV% for 22 regular season games in Sweden. During his Championship run, he started all 16 games, going 12 & 4 with a 2.11gaa and a .922Sv%, besting Färjestad, Malmo and finally Brynäs en-route to a SHL title for HV71.

“NHL has always been a big goal for me,” Soderstrom said while speaking to the media after his agent mentioned an impending NHL deal. Dan Saraceni & Patrik Bexell did an awesome feature for Lighthouse hockey on Soderstrom’s real story. As if it’s not enough to excel on the international and professional hockey stage, Soderstrom battles Asperger Syndrome, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders in the process and has excelled through a strong support system, personal drive and an unyielding will to compete.

Currently, Christopher Gibson, Stephon Williams and Eamon McAdam are on the roster for Bridgeport and each has made some waves as an AHL netminder. Thomas Greiss just signed and extension and Jaroslav Halak will be in the final year of his contract with New York.

Soderstrom is sure to participate in the Isles Blue and White Scrimmage on 6/29 and then possibly training camp, having a chance to make an impression with new head coach, Doug Weight and his evolving staff. As a fan of goaltending and a huge supporter of the orange and blue, I will be behind Soderstrom and really hoping for his success. Not just because of his affiliation, but also because of his indomitable spirit and force of will.

He will be fun to cheer for, right from day 1.

Isles Notes:

Per Arthur Staple, “No word yet on new assistants, but believe that Luke Richardson will be joining Doug Weight's staff. Possibly one other coaching addition.”

“Nothing official from #Isles, but it appears first offseason change has been made -- assistant coach Bob Corkum won't be back.”

Per Newsday, Captain John Tavares had surgery to repair injured right hand last month.

(AP) NHL has designated list of injured players exempt from upcoming Vegas expansion. (F) Mikhail Grabovski.

Islanders have the 15th pic in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Arthur Staple reminds us, “their four best prospects: Barzal (No. 16), JHS (28), Beau (28), Pulock (15).”

New York Islanders Blue & White Scrimmage is scheduled for June 29th, 2017.

Arena news, per Newsday, “Barclays Center starts process toward possible opt-out of Islanders, sources say."

Worcester Railers Announce Affiliation with New York Islanders.

MWC Notes:

Brock Nelson and Anders Lee named to Team USA. Nelson serves as Alternate Captain.
5/10 – “Team USA's 3-0 win on Wednesday was all-Islanders. Brock Nelson scored a pair of goals and Anders Lee potted one, as the two Islanders accounted for all three goals in USA's 3-0 win over Italy at the IIHF World Championship.” – Cory Wright

Legends as players, Bill Guerin & Chris Drury move into management with the U.S. Men's National Team.

Per Chris Botta, "Someone Isles ownership should speak with: close Weight pal and Penguins AGM Bill Guerin. Smart hockey man, strong leader."

Dennis Seidenberg & Thomas Greiss named to Team Germany at the World Championships in Cologne & Paris.

Prospect Ilya Sorokin selected to the Russia Men's National Team for the 2017 MWC.

“Sorokin contract was a 'renegotiation’. ‘Ilya Sorokin (1995) on new terms renegotiated one-way contract with CSKA for one year" - Stabile

NHL News:

Per Pierre LeBrun, “Devils GM Ray Shero says he has confirmed with agent Jay Grossman that Ilya Kovalchuk definitely wants to return to the NHL next season. Kovalchuk can't officially sign an NHL contract until July 1. So lots of time for all this to play out. But the Kovalchuk sweepstakes are on.” 

Would you want the Isles to acquire Kovalchuk or is he not worth the Cap space?

AHL Notes:

The AHL Board of Governors has approved a new divisional alignment for the 2017-18 season.