A day after the Islanders placed Kevin Poulin on waivers, the 25 year old goaltender was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lighting. With Jaro Halak and free agent signing Thomas Greiss, Garth Snow had hoped to have Poulin clear waivers and be the top goalie and get extended playing time in Bridgeport this season.
The Islanders do have the right to reclaim Poulin first if Tampa Bay puts him on waivers, but that is unlikely. Ben Bishop who led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final last season is entrenched as the starter, but impressive backup Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent surgery in September that will keep him out for 2-3 months.
The end of Poulin’s career with the Islanders means that 22 year old Stephon Williams, in his first pro season is now the Islanders #3 goaltender.
So who is the new backup to the backup?
Williams was drafted in the 4th round (106th Overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft out of Minnesota State. In his freshman season, he was 21-12-2 with 4 shutouts and had a 2.00 goals against and .924 save percentage. Minnesota State reached the WCHA Final Five quarterfinal and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Williams took a step back during his sophomore campaign, due mostly to hip surgery, appearing in only 12 games in his sophomore season as freshman Cole Huggins handled the bulk of the goaltending for Minnesota State. His junior year saw him return to prominence as he went 25-6-3 with 5 shutouts and had a 1.65 goals against and .925 save percentage in 35 games for Minnesota State as the Mavericks were one of the top teams in college hockey.
Williams signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Islanders in April 2015 following his junior season at Minnesota State, making his pro hockey debut with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He was 3-1 with a 2.12 goals against and .936 save percentage in five games for Bridgeport. Prior to signing his entry level contract, IslesBlog’s Pat Smith ranked Williams #2 in his Cawledge Hockey Prospects Report.
To read more about Williams along with fellow friend and Isles goaltending prospect Eamon McAdam, read Arthur Staple’s feature from June on the pair.