While we all anxiously await the start of training camp; who better to ask about our prospects than the play by play voice of the Sound Tigers, Phil Giubileo. This is Phil’s 8th season with the team and he also reports for AHL Live. Phil was nice enough to answer some questions about the upcoming season in Bridgeport and tackles some of the question marks with the big club.
Q: What can Islander fans expect from the Sound Tigers this season?
A: Regardless of the final opening night roster, I would expect a hardworking team that will rely on defense and goaltending in order to win games. In the AHL, the big goal scoring teams often have a heavy veteran presence, and this is a young team.
However, there are a number of 2nd year forwards who now have a season in the AHL behind them, and generally this is when you’ll start to see a leap forward in their play. I would expect Kirill Kabanov to have a breakthrough season if he stays healthy, as well as further development from John Persson and Johan Sundstrom up front. Additionally, I think that Joey Diamond will not only be a fan favorite, but he showed last season that he can play in the AHL and put up some quality numbers.
I would be surprised if Brock Nelson and Matt Donovan were NOT on the Islanders opening night roster. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if Ryan Strome does begin with the Sound Tigers on opening night. I think back to the short time that Travis Hamonic was with Bridgeport during his rookie season, and I can see something like this possibly happening.
However, I can also see Strome as an Islander on opening night. I think they’ll give him every chance to start the season in the NHL. If he does spend time with Bridgeport, it will definitely give them some early season scoring punch. I would also expect a veteran or two to be added, but the team is pretty selective about adding veterans who can contribute while not impeding the development of their prospects.
The blue line should be fun. They’re young, but they’re also big! Andrey Pedan and Scott Mayfield are considered strong prospects by the organization and they’ll provide a physical impact from the start. I really like Mike Dalhuisen’s potential. He’s very physical, and that part of his game will come out as a pro.
He also has a bomb of a shot, so don’t be surprised if he gets some time on the PP. In terms of experienced players, Aaron Ness is entering his 3rd season, so he’ll be a top-pair, and if Calvin de Haan is healthy, he could be one of the best defensemen in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if a veteran is added for depth at some point during the offseason.
Q: Give Islander fans one prospect in Bridgeport who might be flying under the radar that you feel has a real chance of making an impact.
A: In terms of making an impact in the AHL this season I think that if Johan Sundstrom stays healthy, he will be a big time force for the club on both ends of the ice. However, for someone under the radar, if Alan Quine does end up in the AHL (instead of back in the OHL as an overager), I think he can be someone who can put up some points. He was a 3rd round pick of Detroit in 2011 but wasn’t signed, and the Isles drafted him last month. The Red Wings usually don’t miss often on mid-round picks, so I think there’s definitely some potential there.
Q: A lot in the media have written off Calvin De Haan as a viable prospect due to his rash of injuries. Tell us what a healthy De Haan brings to the table and can he push for a roster spot with the big club.
A: I think de Haan has the talent to push for a spot, but because he’s missed so much time, I would think that barring a phenomenal camp and outplaying Matt Donovan by a wide margin, he would end up in Bridgeport to start. A healthy de Haan has a mostly finished game on both ends of the ice.
He’s very smart, makes good decisions and is poised. For a young blue line this is an important asset, as you’ll see a fair number of rookie mistakes by some of the newcomers over the first 10-15 games of the season, which is going to happen when you make the jump from college or juniors to the professional ranks in most cases.
Q: There are many questions surrounding the goalies in this organization. Who do you feel has the highest ceiling and is there a potential franchise goalie in the system?
A: Kevin Poulin right now has the inside track as far as being the backup to Evgeny Nabokov this season, but I do think that Anders Nilsson has the potential to be a franchise goaltender down the line. He has an asset that you simply cannot coach (size), and if he’s over the hump from the ailments that sidelined him last season (and it appears to be the case), then I think he can start in the NHL at some point. He’s still very young, and for the most part, just has one season on North American soil. An opportunity to start 50 or so games in Bridgeport will determine if he has what it takes to reach the next level.
Also, as far as AHL potential goes, I really do like Kenny Reiter. He’s not the biggest guy out there (neither was Wade Dubielewicz), but his AHL goals against and save percentage numbers were pretty good last season (although still searching for that first AHL win). He’s a winner (won the Frozen Four at Minn-Duluth), and there’s something to be said for that. He does have the makeup though to be a potential #1 AHL goaltender at some point in his career.
Q: Finally I have to throw in one fun question. If you are in a dark alley surrounded by thugs which current or former sound tiger do you want standing next to you.
A: There are so many choices! One thing I can say is that the Sound Tigers have never been lacking for toughness over the years. I’ve seen many firsthand, from Kip Brennan and Pascal Morency, to Micheal Haley, Jeremy Yablonski, Joel Rechlicz, Matt Martin, Trevor Gillies, and Brett Gallant (and a fair number of others who could hold their own). And you really can’t go wrong with any of them standing alongside when you need some toughness. However, if I only could pick one, it would definitely have to be Trevor Gillies. He’s intimidating enough to where most people will simply back off—but if they’re not smart enough to walk away, I would feel pretty safe!
For more on the Sounds Tigers and all things AHL please follow Phil on twitter at @philgpbp
Pictures courtesy of Cathy Petriw. For great hockey pictures follow @crosscheckCathy on twitter.