Stephon Williams was drafted in his third year of eligibility, following an impressive freshman year at Minnesota State University, by the New York Islanders.
Not one of the 35 goaltenders ranked by the Central American Scouting group, Williams was taken as a late round sleeper by the franchise; going 106th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 Entry Draft, he was one of multiple netminders taken by the Islanders that year. A safety pick, if you will.
His sophomore season didn’t do much to make a case for him moving up the depth chart, either. He lost the starting job to freshman Cole Huggins, although the reclaimed his title as the clear starter the following season — although the Islanders had taken a chance on him, it didn’t look like he would pan out.
Williams seems to have rediscovered his game, though, and the six foot three Alaska native is back on track for an impressive career — which is likely why he’s chosen to forfeit his final season of NCAA eligibility to sign with the Islanders.
Per Brian Compton of NHL.com, the 21-year-old netminder has been inked to a two year entry-level deal, and is joining the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL on an amateur tryout contract for the remainder of the spring.
Bridgeport currently has only one clear starter. Like Adam Wilcox (who was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday and assigned to the Syracuse Crunch for the remainder of the spring), Williams will be provided the opportunity to quickly climb the depth chart within the Islanders’ system due to a lack of strong goaltending depth in the lower rungs of the system. Kevin Poulin, a 2008 fifth round pick of the Islanders, has struggled in his few games at the NHL level — although he currently holds the starter job in Bridgeport and will likely be Williams’ strongest competition below the two NHL netminders — and C.J. Motte, who was signed to an entry-level contract of his own this spring, hasn’t been around long enough yet to really show whether he’ll be a strong competitor in the long run. Kent Simpson is the main starter for the ECHL Stockton Thunder, but hasn’t yet made the transition to the AHL level — if Williams can finish out the spring with a stronger showing than the former second-round pick, Simpson may be trapped in the minors.
While Williams had weaker stats over his three seasons in the NCAA than Motte did with Ferris State University, Motte went undrafted (likely due to his smaller stature) and could see Williams receive early favor from the team if the Alaska native shows he’s willing to work and transition smoothly between the NCAA and the pros.