Weight: 174 lbs
Birthdate: May 18th, 1990 (Age 21)
Birthplace: Roseau, Minnesota, United States
Acquired: Draft, Round 2, 40th overall, 2008 NHL Entry Draft
2010-2011 Team: University of Minnesota Golden Gophers/Bridgeport Sound Tigers
2010-2011 Stats (UM): 35 GP - 2 G - 12 A - 41 PIM
2010-2011 Stats (BPT): 13 GP - 1 G - 3 A
2011-2012 Team: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Team Role: Top 4 D-Man
Last year: After spending his 3rd year at the University of Minnesota, Ness decided to forgo his final year of college play in order to go pro. Another strong season showing off his skills landed him an entry level contract with the Islanders and a 13 game stint with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Ness was a much needed acquisition for the Sound Tigers, who were abysmal for the majority of last season. When Ness came in, he provided a much needed boost if only to save face for the team, and the team went on a nice little run to end the season. Even as a smaller player, Ness was highly touted for his willingness to get physical along the boards with players who are much larger than him. Whether that will work in the NHL is a different story, but clearly Ness has a rather unseen side of him in his defensive play.
Expectations: Ness should be helming the Bridgeport power play this season with Calvin De Haan, assuming both get sent back to Bridgeport and don't make the NHL (highly likely). His hockey sense is absolutely off the charts and his athleticism is on par with the best of the best in his age group. His ability to make clear, concise cross ice passes in order to start a rush will undoubtedly come in handy for forwards such as Tyler McNeely and Casey Cizikas when attempting to set up a play. With his puckhandling and skating skills, he could end up playing top 2 minutes at points with Calvin De Haan or Matt Donovan.
Projections: 75 GP - 5 G - 24 A - 29 P
AT: Ness is easily one of my favorite prospects in the system, simply for the fact that he's looked at for his size and dismissed by some, regardless of the fact that his skills are off the charts. Seeing him play in the BPT games I saw showed he has the potential to be a top 4 PP QB in the NHL in the future. Small? Sure. Lacking the ability to be smart with the puck both offensively and defensively? Absolutely not. While he still needs to grow into his body some more and gain muscle mass, a 5'10" defenseman in the NHL isn't unheard of, and even more so one that can handle the puck as well as Ness does. If he has a strong season in Bridgeport this coming year, expect him to see some time in the NHL as a callup for the 2012-2013 season. As for right now, he needs to focus on refining his abilities and his body. The time shall come when he sees his time in the pros, and as long as he stays on track he needn't worry about that.
CH: Like Alex, I'm very interested to see how Ness adapts to a full season at the professional level. Smaller defensemen generally have a tougher road to the NHL, so Ness' adjustment certainly won't come easy. While he did have somewhat of an underwhelming collegiate career, it is possible he adapts better to the pro game. As a whole, Minnesota is struggling as a program right now, which could be a factor in Ness' slow development. In fact, the Isles pulled Kyle Okposo from Minnesota early because they weren't happy with his development. And we all know how that turned out. On a young D like the Sound Tigers have, Ness may be forced to play a more crucial role than he is ready for, especially on the powerplay. But overall, this will be a good development year for Ness as the Islanders try to figure out exactly what they have.