Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang were the Islanders’ first-round picks in 2014, fifth and 28th overall. Ho-Sang is probably the biggest name among the 50 young men at this week’s prospect camp and Dal Colle is still a valued player on the team’s prospect chart.
Later in that 2014 draft, the Islanders made a pair of fourth-round selections who each took an enormous step towards being NHL players sooner rather than later.
Goaltender Linus Soderstrom went 95th overall and defenseman Devon Toews was taken 13 picks later. The 6-4 Soderstrom made the jump to the Swedish Hockey League last season and all he did as a 20-year-old was post the best goals-against average in the league (1.34 over 22 games) and then lead his team, HV71, to the SHL crown in a seven-game championship series win.
Toews left Quinnipiac University after his junior year and was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie team last season, with five goals and a team-leading 41 assists for Bridgeport.
Both have gotten plenty of notice from higher ups in the Isles organization.
“He started as a backup goalie with his club team and by Christmas he was the starting goalie, which I actually thought would happen,” Isles head scout Vellu Kautonen said of Soderstrom. “He’s getting better every week, every month, every time I see him. His focus has always been there, he competes. They won the club championship and he was a big part of it. His numbers were great. One more year in Sweden and I think we have an NHL goalie.”
Toews is already 23, older than both Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, who have had some NHL experience. But Doug Weight said Toews is right in the mix heading into September’s training camp among the Isles’ young group of defensemen looking to earn spots in the wake of Saturday’s Travis Hamonic trade to Calgary.
“He’s played himself into a great conversation,” Weight said of Toews. “We have some great depth on D and it allows you to do some things like we saw last week. Confident kid, great skater, puck mover. When you play like that you’re going to get a look for sure.”
Soderstrom is signed for one more season with HV71 and, with NHLers not going to the Olympics in February, his terrific season could have him the conversation to be part of Team Sweden in that tournament.
“We have some great goaltenders who’ve come home to play, like Viktor Fasth and Jonas Gustavsson, so I’m not really thinking about that,” Soderstrom said. “I’m just really focused on next season. You don’t think about anything else, the Olympics or the NHL, because that can only distract you. I want to be focused and my only goal is to help my team win next season.”