All-Time Bridgeport Hockey Team: Defensemen

To continue our all-time Bridgeport hockey team to honor the 20th anniversary of the Bridgeport Islanders / Sound Tigers franchise, we rank the franchise’s best defenders. Here are our thoughts on the top seven defenders in Bridgeport Sound Tigers / Islanders franchise history for our team in any particular order.

Sebastian Aho

Aho maturing on the Bridgeport Blue Line
Photo courtesy of New York Islanders

The only Bridgeport player ever to be selected for three All-Star games, Aho was one of the best to come through Bridgeport in an era where many offensive defenders came through Park City. Aho arrived at Bridgeport in 2017-18 and impressed early, earning 22 games with the NHL team. In 40 games, Aho scored 29 points including 20 assists. In 2018-19, with a solid list, he scored a team record of 46 points by a defender and helped the team to the playoffs. In 2019-20, Aho was fantastic again, scoring 30 points. Aho has been up with the Islanders since 2020-21.

Aaron Ness

Almost meant to be ': Strange factors fall in line to get Ness to the Olympics
Photo courtesy of Connecticut Post

With the most points by a defender in the team’s history, Aaron Ness is considered one of the best to have ever worn a Bridgeport jersey and is certainly one of the greatest defensive players in Bridgeport’s hockey history. When he joined the Sound Tigers after his final year at the University of Minnesota, Ness scored four points on the short stay. He then came back for 2011-12 and helped Bridgeport win their second division crown. Ness scored 27 points and got an NHL call-up.

In 2012-13, with the NHL lockout imminent, Ness played all 76 games in Bridgeport, the only player to do so that season. Ness played about half the year with the Islanders in 2013-14 and returned to Bridgeport in 2014-15 as the team captain. Ness represented the Sound Tigers in the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic at Utica.

Since leaving the Islanders organization, Ness spent time with Washington, Arizona and now with the Providence Bruins, and he also represented Team USA at the 2022 Olympics.

Mark Wotton (C)

Bridgeport Sound Tigers Uniform Rankings - Drive4Five
Photo courtesy of Worcester Sharks / San Jose Barracuda

Mark Wotton is without a doubt the greatest captain in Bridgeport’s hockey history. After winning his first championship with the Hershey Bears in 2006, Wotton joined the Islanders organization and was immediately named captain of the AHL team. Wotton led a young defensive group most of his time in Bridgeport and later became a mentor to them. In previous years, players like Matt Martin, Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic and Kevin Poulin praised Wotton for his leadership, and Wotton would always make sure to stop by and say hello whenever the Islanders were in Winnipeg after his retirement in 2011.

The franchise leader in the game, Wotton scored 22 goals and 88 assists. He also had an ability to win overtime, which he did four times.

Wotton’s son Colby played for Regina in the WHL in 2020-21, while Mark coached for the Yellowhead Chiefs 18U AAA team.

Ryan Pulock

Nothing broke, Sound Tigers all-star Pulock got a break
Photo courtesy of Connecticut Post.

When Pulock arrived in late 2013-14, fans knew he was coming in with one of the heaviest shots in the team’s history. In 2014-15, Pulock was a major contributor to the youngest team in franchise history, scoring a team record of 17 goals in a single season by a defensive player. He has the most goals of a defender in the team’s history with 39.

In 2015-16, Pulock led a heavy veteran team. He was selected as the team’s all star, but was called up to the Islanders and stayed up until the playoffs. In 2016-17, Pulock was sent down to Bridgeport and played another 55 games with the Sound Tigers, scoring 15 goals before going up to the Islanders Forever, where he still is.

Matt Donovan

All-star Donovan is aiming to return to the NHL
Photo courtesy of Connecticut Post.

Another member of the early 2010s defense corps with Ness, Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic, Donovan arrived in Bridgeport in late 2010-11 after two years in Denver. Donovan scored 45 points in his 2011-12 rookie season, helping Bridgeport to a division title and be remembered for his winning goal against Connecticut.

His hard work earned a call to the Islanders and made him the first Oklahoma-born NHLer. In 2012-13, he spent the entire season at Bridgeport, where he scored 48 points, which is still career-high. In 2013-14, Donovan played 52 games for the Islanders, while also dressing in 27 for the Sound Tigers. The next season, he stayed up on Long Island, primarily as a healthy scratch, but dressed in 12 regular-season games as well as two playoff games for the Isles.

Donovan signed with Buffalo in the 2015 offseason and played for Rochester before heading to Sweden for two years. He returned to North America and signed with Nashville while playing for Milwaukee, appearing in the All Star for the second time in his 2019 career.

Donovan currently plays for Milwaukee Admirals.

Bruno Gervais

AHL Playoffs Preview: Heavy Underdog Bridgeport Hosts Toronto Marlies - Lighthouse Hockey
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

One of the fan favorites to get through Bridgeport, Bruno Gervais came to Bridgeport during the 2004-05 lockout, and was turned on as a top prospect for the Islanders. He scored 30 points that season and made him one that had everyone’s attention the following year. In 2005-06, Bruno began the season at Bridgeport, and in 55 games he set a record on the then team with 16 goals by a defender along with 25 assists, and was selected to represent Bridgeport at the 2006 AHL All Star Classic.

Gervais joined the Islanders in 2006, played in 27 games and served a long period with the Islanders from 2006-2011. He appeared in 2006-07 in three games at Bridgeport.

Gervais now works as a broadcaster for RDS and TVA Sports in Quebec and is a color commentator for Laval Rocket broadcasts on RDS.

Devon Toews:

Just a matter of time ': While Devon Toews awaits his turn from the Islanders' turn, past and present coaches see a bright future - The Athletic
Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Islanders

When he came out of Quinnipiac, Devon Toews did not have to go far to start his professional career. When he joined the Islanders organization in 2016-17, Toews had 40 assists left with five goals in his rookie campaign and was named an AHL All Star. The next year, injuries plagued his season and he only played in 30 games. In 2018-19, after 19 points in his first 24 games, Toews was finally called up and he held on.

After two years in New York, Toews is one of the few Bridgeport players to have achieved great success outside of the organization, scoring 53 points for Colorado this season.

Honorable mentions

Alan Letang, Adam Pelech, Calvin de Haan, Kyle Burroughs, Chris Campoli.

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