Friday we continue our early season preview of the Islander forwards with Blake Comeau, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen.
1. Blake Comeau:
During the early part of the 2006-07 season Ted Nolan made some trips to Bridgeport and at that time felt Comeau had the best NHL potential in terms of overall hockey skills and the long-term ability to play at this level.
It turned out when his chance finally came in December last season he stepped in and looked like he belonged at this level with a solid defensive game, hard work in the corners where he was a visible player nightly who showed us exactly what Ted Nolan was talking about. By the time the season was over he was singled out by the former coach and the veteran players for his hard work and ability who even displayed an ability to throw a few big hits.
Only problem last year was Blake Comeau struggled when he was shifted to the right wing (his draft position in 2003) for a few weeks, his impact in games suffered and he looked somewhat unsure of himself but picked it back up late when shifted back to the left side.
Moving forward Comeau is a left wing with a lot of competition on that side and should be ahead of Jeff Tambellini on the depth chart to start camp but with a new coach he will have to prove himself again and will be counted on to produce more in a bigger role from the beginning on a club that needs scoring. Scott Gordon has seen Comeau play in the AHL when he was in Bridgeport.
For Garth Snow's plan to work in 2008-09 he needs a big year from Blake Comeau where he can produce twenty goals.
2. Kyle Okposo:
A lot of folks may forget if things went according to plan Kyle Okposo would be making his NHL camp debut if he stayed at Minnesota all season and then signed in the summer.
You look at a Kyle Okposo and can tell immediately he has the long-term ability to play at this level because he is visible in games already unlike so many young player who go through games and look unsure of themselves or are tentative. Okposo was creating chances or driving the net from his first game against Toronto, displayed a nice shot for his first NHL goal to beat the Devils and a big goal in the season finale, considering his age he should only get better if used properly on right wing.
It's fair to speculate the Islanders did not add a free agent right wing or resign Miroslav Satan because that will be Kyle Okposo's spot to win or lose entering camp but how will he work with Scott Gordon, who will be his center or left wing and can he produce enough at a point where it could be asking a lot are the big questions moving forward.
No lock Okposo stays with the club if he struggles early and at this point they have to look out for his best interest in the long-term.
3. Frans Nielsen:
Frans Nielsen is not an eighteen year old player or a prospect, he was selected in the same draft as Sean Bergenheim and has played among NHL players in a lot of tournaments for Denmark over the years and did not look out of place. He has had some games at this level over the last two years and had his first goal, a shootout goal and displays a good overall skill set where he is not shy about getting into the corners and working.
The Islanders gave him a four year contract and obviously feel he can help this club in the long-run. Entering 2008 but has a lot of competition for a spot at center or right wing which appears to be a fourth line spot entering camp but could improve depending on his impact in games.
Next up: The rest of the Forwards