The Islanders dipped into the college free agency market Friday, signing defensemen Aidan Fulp and Travis Mitchell to two-way, two-year entry-level deals beginning in 2023-24.
Fulp, a right-handed defenseman out of Western Michigan, was a finalist for the NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year Award this season as a junior and had four goals and 34 assists in his college career. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds.
“Western Michigan was the best experience I could have asked for,” Fulp said in a press release issued by the school. “I am forever indebted to the coaches, staff and my teammates for making my time here so special. From top to bottom, the organization is nothing short of professional with a major emphasis on player development.
“I will cherish the relationships and memories I have made at WMU for the rest of my life. The last three years have helped me get one step closer to my dreams, and for that I am forever grateful.”
Mitchell, a lefty out of Cornell, is listed at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds and just finished his senior season with six goals and 13 assists.
“Excited to sign my first NHL contract with the @ny_islanders !” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post. “Thank you to all my family, friends, teammates and coaches for the help and support along the way.”
Whether either player will eventually get as far as the NHL club remains to be seen, but the Islanders have found some success with overage prospects.
Most notably, William Dufour was drafted as a teenager in the fifth round in 2020 and is currently one of the organization’s best prospects. Matt Maggio, the team’s fifth-round pick last summer, is raising eyebrows with a 111-point season in the OHL.
Though both players play a different position and were acquired via the draft, perhaps that portends well for the duo of college defensemen.
Sebastian Aho participated in Friday’s practice and, though Lane Lambert sounded optimistic about his status, the Islanders coach wouldn’t commit to Aho being ready for Saturday’s game.
“He had a pretty good practice today,” Lambert said. “We’re going to make that decision here after we’re finished.”
Instead of going straight to Tampa following Tuesday’s win in Washington, the Isles opted to come home and fly south after practice Friday.
“We’ve been on the road quite a bit lately. It’s always nice to have practice in your own building when we have very few of them,” Lambert said. “They’re few and far between, it’s always nicer to have it here than it is on the road.”
Ilya Sorokin was the first goaltender off the ice Friday, indicating he could be in line to start against the Lightning.
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