By Bill Strong @nyiforlife
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers open this weekend with 2 home games (Saturday and Sunday) hosting the St. John’s Ice Caps. St. John’s is the American League affiliate of the of the Winnipeg Jets.
Bridgeport, the New York Islanders top farm team, will feature many of the parent club’s top defensive prospects this season. With the recent additions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy this past weekend, a few of the younger defenders who might have started the season with the big club will begin this playing year learning their trade on The Bridge.
The goaltending duties will fall to Former Sound Tiger Kevin Poulin, who had played the majority of the past 2 seasons on Long Island. Poulin, a Montreal native, won 11 of the 28 games as primary backup to the departed Evgeny Nabokov (now in Tampa) last year, with a GGA of 3.29.
Joining Poulin in net will be the recently-acquired David Leggio, who spent last season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. Leggio, an accomplished AHL netminder, went 23-18-3 with a goals-against of 2.63 and 2 shutouts last season.
Also involved will be Kent Simpson, who was included by Chicago as part of the big Islanders’ trade for D Nick Leddy on October 4. The former Rockford IceHogs player adds to a strong group of AHL goalies for Bridgeport.
As mentioned, the Tigers’ defense will be crowded with top prospects. The Islanders should be sending their 1st round pick (15th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft Ryan Pulock for some seasoning once he is over his injury. The team’s 2012 first rounder (4th overall) Griffin Reinhart, made the big squad out of camp but it is not out of the realm of possibility that he will also see time in Bridgeport this season. Both men are highly-rated players who need to gain experience before they are counted on for big roles with the Islanders.
Kevin Poulin, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Aaron Ness, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Anders Lee, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Mike Halmo, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Returnees on the blueline are Scott Mayfield, Andrey Pedan, and the Sound Tigers new captain, Aaron Ness. Loic Leduc, all 6 feet 7 inches of him, should see playing time as well. Ness and Mayfield also have NHL experience filling in for injured players with the Isles over the past season.
Expect Kevin Czuczman and Matt Donovan to bounce from Bridgeport to Long Island and back again this year as injury recalls.
There should be a lot of jockeying for position amongst the forwards this season. Fan favorite Mike Halmo, John Persson, and Johan Sundstrom all saw time with the big club last year. Halmo especially made a good impression and scored his first NHL goal on April 1st against Florida. He played in 58 games for the Tigers, notching 38 points on 18 goals and 20 assists.
Sundstrom played 40 games with the Sound Tigers and another 11 for the Isles.
Kael Mouillierat returns to Bridgeport after being with the WInnipeg Jets in St. John’s last year. He is a slight player who is not afraid to stand in front of the opponent’s net and get banged around if need be. Mouillierat has some good offensive ability and lit the lamp 20 times and added another 33 assists in 60 games last year with the IceCaps.
Anders Lee was a late cut in camp with the big club. He was simply a victim of a number’s game after auditioning to play with Kyle Okposo and captain John Tavares during pre-season. Lee impressed with the Islanders last year with 9 goals in 22 games. He spent most of last season with the Sound Tigers, going 22-19-41 in 54 games.
Harry Zolnierczyk was signed from the Penguins organization to add depth.
Finally, the most important return to Bridgeport could be coach Brent Thompson. He spent the last couple of seasons running the Islanders defense as an assistant coach. Thompson is known to be a very good motivator and teacher of young players and with the Islanders lineup set, there is no rush to get some of the younger guys involved before they may be ready. Thompson, the Sound Tigers, and their fans should benefit from roster stability this season that the tea has not enjoyed in the recent past.
Related: Bridgeport Sound Tigers 2014-2015 Schedule