This post originally appeared on The Hockey Writers
Through 17 games, this season the Islanders are off to one of their best starts in franchise history sitting at 11-6. The Islanders willingness to add payroll this off-season for the first time in over a half decade is a key reason the team is experiencing success.
The same can be said for the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Previously, the Islanders simply didn't put the proper amount of funds into Bridgeport to give them the best ability to be successful which wasn't fair to the team or the fans. However, this season, the team went out and signed guys like Harry Zolnierczyk and Kael Mouillierat to large AHL deals which have really paid off for the team. Through 15 games, Bridgeport is off to arguably their best start in franchise history sitting at 10-4-0-1, good enough for the best record in the entire eastern conference. With 60 goals scored as a team they also lead the entire AHL in goals for. Were going to look at a couple of players who have been key contributors for the Sound Tigers early on this season, and then look at how similar elements have led to success for both the Islanders and Bridgeport.
Kevin Poulin was a 5th round pick by the Islanders back in 2008 and at one point was viewed as a potential goalie of the future for the Islanders. However, over the years that started to change as Poulin struggled in the Islanders system both in the AHL and the NHL. His struggles got so bad that before Anders Nilsson announced that he would be going to Europe to play it was thought that the Islanders were going to cut Poulin and keep Nilsson. Well, early on, Poulin is showing the Islanders may have been right to give him another chance as through 9 games Poulin has a 2.04 GAA and a .939 save percentage both of which would be the best numbers he has posted at any level in his career. If he is able to continue this play throughout the season, that would certainly bode well for Bridgeport's success as well as his potential future with the Islanders.
Quine was a 6th round pick by the Islanders just two years ago and is probably someone most fans haven't heard of. If he manages to continue to play at the level he has been at though, it won't be long before everyone knows who he is. Through 15 games this season, Quine leads the Tigers with 16 points and is on a 10 game point streak. That is the highest point streak in the AHL thus far this season. Quine is quickly emerging as a key player for the Sound Tigers moving forward.
Pulock, a first round pick in 2013 seems to be developing nicely for the Islanders in his first professional season with the Sound Tigers. Through 15 games this season, Pulock has dazzled fans in Bridgeport like he did in juniors for 4 years with his blistering shot already registering 6 goals and 10 points. On top of the offensive contributions, Pulock has also been solid defensively posting a +8 +/- rating thus far which is always good to see from a defensive prospect. Both the Islanders organization and Islander fans have high hopes for Pulock and if his early play is any indication the Islanders might have a gem here.
Zolnierczyk isn't someone who is new to the league as he has been around in the AHL since the 2010/2011 season. In that time, he has also played 57 games in the NHL with the Flyers in a 4 liner/pest role and managed to put up 9 points and 83 penalty minutes. Last season, he had a break out year in the AHL putting up 36 points in 57 games including 18 goals. So far this season, he has proven that last season wasn't an admiration as he has put up 15 points in 15 games good for second on the Sound Tigers. Zolnierczyk, as an older guy provides good leadership for the Tigers both now and going forward.
Similar Elements Contributing to Their Success
Although the Islanders play in the NHL and Bridgeport in the AHL, they are more alike than people realize. Prior to this season, the Islanders brought in Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson to solidify the goal-tending, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin to solidify the secondary scoring, and Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy on defense. These guys, some more than others have been vital to the Islanders early season success. Muck like the Islanders, Bridgeport seems to have solidified their goal-tending with the improved play of Kevin Poulin. Harry Zolnierczyk improved the teams offense, and they are getting contributions form a new guy on defense in Ryan Pulock much in the way the Islanders are from Leddy and Boychuk. You haven't been able to say this very often over the last 20+ years but it seems like it is a good time to be an Islanders fan.