Written by: Eric Conway

With the Islanders not in action tonight and their dwindling playoff hopes fading each day, I figured Isles fans could use a little optimism.  So I decided to do some research on a few Islander prospects not yet in the professional ranks.  Here are a few prospects I came across that are hidden gems and may be able to step in and make an impact at the NHL level.

Rhett Rakhshani:

Not the biggest person on ice standing at only 5’10 and weighing in at 180 pounds, this workhorse has tremendous vision on the ice.  He hails from Orange, California and played his junior hockey for the National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He is currently a senior at NCAA powerhouse, University of Denver where he is not only the team leader in points, but also the captain of the team.  Rhett has compiled an impressive scoring line of 20 goals with 28 assists for 48 points in 36 games this season.  Denver is presently ranked the number one team in the nation.  Rhett is a smooth skater with very good hands.  Selected in the 4th Round #100 overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, Rakhshani has the potential to become a differenece maker for the Islanders in the very near future.

Blake Kessel:

I know what you’re thinking, a compact speedster with an absoulute cannon of a shot just like his brother Phil.  Sorry Isles fans, but Blake is not built like his older brother Phil, in fact he is bigger.  And he plays defense.  Standing at 6’2 and weighing 204 pounds, Blake has the prototypical frame of an NHL defenseman.  Now Blake does take after Phil in one regard, both possess cannon shots.  Blake played his junior hockey in the United States Hockey League for the Waterloo Blackhawks where he scored 30 goals to go along with 65 assists for a total of 95 points in 118 games.  Those are nice numbers for a defenseman in his two years of service for the Hawks.  He has continued his development suiting up for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats the past two seasons. During his sophmore season, Blake has continued to be relied upon offensively, collecting 8 goals and 25 assists for 33 points in 33 games.  With two more years of college eligibility left, look for Blake to be in the running for a Hobey Baker award as he inches ever closer to becoming an elite offensive defenseman at the next level.  Selected in the 6th Round #166 overall in the 2007 draft, this kid may end up being a late round steal if  he continues progressing at this expedient rate.

David Toews:

Sticking with the brother theme, the Islanders selected Jonathan Toews’ younger brother in the 3rd Round of the 2008 NHL draft.  If he is anything remotely close to his brother, then we have a legitimate prospect on our hands.  For the last two seasons, David has accumulated 9 goals in addition to 16 assists for 25 points in 53 games while wearing a University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux jersey.  Not a big guy at 5’11 and 185 pounds, David gives defensemen nightmares with his work ethic and skating ability.  Check out this snipe he had against Merrimack College.

Photo Credit: nydailynews.com