Young defender Devon Toews gives Islanders hope for future

Author: Mike Ashmore,
Date: Jan 20, 2017

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.  With all the disarray that the New York Islanders seem to be in, it can be easy to forget that their top minor-league affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, have been fun to watch all season long.

If nothing else, they’ve certainly been entertaining.

Although the perils of first-year forward Josh Ho-Sang and NHL All-Star goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s first trip to the AHL since the 2007-08 season have been well documented, rookie defenseman Devon Toews’ early success has gone somewhat unnoticed.

Toews — he’s of no relation to Chicago Blackhawks superstar center Jonathan Toews — was the Islanders’ fourth-round draft pick in 2014, and has tallied four goals and 20 assists in his first 36 games to earn a trip to the upcoming AHL All-Star Game in Allentown.

“I thought it would be a little tougher to adjust, and it has been a different game than college, and it’s been more games,” said Toews, who played collegiately for Quinnipiac University and left after his junior season.

“But I think playing three years in college and the hard practices we had at Quinnipiac have kind of prepared me for it, so I’m feeling pretty good. I played the same system for three years at college, and you really ingrain that in your head. Here, I’ve learned some different habits and some of the older guys around me have really helped me adjust.”

Toews was highly decorated with the Bobcats, especially in that junior season, one where he posted a 7-23-30 line in 40 games. He earned All-ECAC Second Team honors last year, and was a finalist for ECAC Defenseman of the Year honor, something he in part credits to tireless work while at Quinnipiac with then-defensive coach Reid Cashman.

“I learned a lot of things from him every week, and we would find little habits,” Toews said. “We’d come in, try to change them and work on that during the week. I think that helped mold my game a little bit. “I’ve always prided myself on being a two-way kind of player and providing offense, and I think my offense aside, my game has grown a little bit. I’ve been able to generate more points over the past few years, but haven’t sacrificed any of my defensive abilities through that.”

The next step for Toews is to earn his first call-up to the NHL, a moment that seems to be coming sooner rather than later. However, when the topic turns to that, the 22-year-old remains both humble and focused

“I think I just need to stay consistent and just play my game,” he said. “I’m not too worried about it, I just want to contribute here, get us back on track and get into a playoff spot.”

As for Halak, he’s played well for the Sound Tigers, posting a 1-1-1 record, 2.15 goals against average and .927 save percentage in his first four games with the team.

“I think Jaro’s been absolutely fantastic,” said Bridgeport bench boss Brent Thompson after Halak’s first regulation loss, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Utica on Saturday. “I think his work ethic is good, and this is the first game we have not gotten a point (that he’s played). Since he’s been here, we’ve had points in three of the four games and he’s played very, very well.”

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