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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Skinny on the New Guys: From B to Z

Well it wasn't Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, or even Matt Niskanen or Dan Boyle, but the Isles did sign seven players on Tuesday, making it one of the most prolific signing days (at least in volume) in Islander history.

Three players signed straight NHL deals: center Cory Conacher, goaltender Chad Johnson and defenseman T.J. Brennan. 

Four others received two-way contracts, and will likely spend at least part of the upcoming season in Bridgeport: Kael Mouillierat, David Leggio, Jack Skille and Harry Zolnierczyk.

Six of the players signed are veterans of college hockey (although the Isles still have never signed a player from the NATIONAL CHAMPION UNION DUTCHMEN).

Here's some Skinny on all of them:

Chad Johnson is expected to join the list of goaltenders who have played for both the Islanders and Rangers. Johnson, who played his college hockey for Alaska-Fairbanks, just turned 28, backed up Tuukka Rask admirably in Boston, going 17-4-3 last season (2.10 GAA, .925 save percentage).  One of those 4 losses was to the Isles, who beat him 3-1 in early November at the Coliseum in the game before their season turned for the worse in Washington.  Johnson beat the Isles at the Coliseum in a wild game a couple of weeks before the Olympic break.  With the signing earlier this summer of Jaroslav Halak the Isles have potentially their best goaltending tandem in years.

TJ Brennan is an interesting signing and the only one of the 7 players signed today who did not play collegiately. Brennan had a tremendous 2013-14 season for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.  The former 31st overall pick of Buffalo (2007), Brennan won the Eddie Shore Award as the best defenseman in the AHL, with eye-opening offensive totals of 25-47-72; he also added 14 points in 14 playoff games.  Winning the Eddie Shore Award is no guarantee of future NHL stardom, or even success, although a future NHL coach won the award and then won 4 Stanley Cups behind the Isles bench.

Two seasons ago Cory Conacher finished sixth in the Calder Trophy balloting as the NHL's best rookie -- late in the campaign he was traded from Tampa Bay to Ottawa. While Bishop flourished in his new surroundings, Conacher did not, and after moving to Buffalo in March, he was not qualified by the Sabres.  Conacher had 29 points in 47 games as a rookie and 26 points in 79 games last season.   A distant relative of Hockey Hall of Famers Charlie, Roy and Lionel Conacher, Cory, the all-time leading scorer for Canisius College and a former AHL MVP, is a type 1 diabetic.

Kael Mouillierat, a Center,  played his college hockey at Minnesota State. He will turn 27 just before training camp.  Kael spent part of the 2011-12 season with the Sound Tigers.He scored 20 goals in 60 games for St. John's last seasons, helping the Ice Caps reach the Calder Cup finals.

Goaltender David Leggio has yet to play an NHL game.  The former Clarkson University star has put together four consecutive winning seasons in the AHL, amassing a 111-80-6 career record.   Leggio will turn 30 at the end of the month.

Eight picks before the Isles selected Ryan O'Marra in the 2005 Entry Draft, RW Jack Skille was selected 7th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks.  Skille, now 27, has played 194 NHL games (24-29-53).  Jack split last season with Springfield and the Blue Jackets, scoring 4 goals in 16 regular season games with the Jackets; he also played all six of their playoff games vs Pittsburgh.  Skille played two years for the University of Wisconsin before turning pro and represented the US in U-18 and world junior championships in four consecutive years (2004-2007) but has yet to match that stardom at the pro level.

Harry Zolnierczyk has 57 games of NHL experience with the Flyers and Penguins but has yet to match his success on the collegiate level.  The former captain of the Brown Bears had some success with the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins last season, going 18-18-36 in 57 games; he also got into 17 games for the Baby Pens in the Calder Cup Playoffs.  If he appears in a game for the Isles he will become the final player in Islander history, at least alphabetically  (Alexei Zhitnik currently holds that "honor").

Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since January 21, 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

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