Season Preview: NY Islanders
By Patrick Kearns, TheFourthPeriod.com
The Islanders have spent the last decade with pretty consistent finishes at, or
towards the bottom of the division. They have been fortunate to compile a
multitude of top draft picks that are finally beginning to make an impact on one
of the up-and-coming teams in the league.
The future is certainly bright for the team that will be playing moving to
Brooklyn in the next couple of years. Islanders fans are hoping that a new part
of town will revitalize the franchise, but in the meantime, the development of
their young players should remain a top priority.
John Tavares, who recently signed a long-term contract extension to remain the
face of the franchise, is a key figure in the future of the Islanders. The team
needs to put the proper talent around him now, which is what they have been
doing through the draft for the last couple years. Matt Moulson, who is quietly
becoming one of the more underrated players in the game with back-to-back
30-goal seasons, will likely make up most of the offense in conjunction with
Tavares. Michael Grabner will also need to return to his goal-scoring form and
use his speed to create chances. The team's top two offensive prospects, Ryan
Strome and Nino Niederreiter, may not contribute to the team this year, but are
expected to help round out the top-six.
The Islanders boast a strong young core of defenseman, including Andy MacDonald
and Travis Hamonic, who are both considered the future of the team's blueline.
If those two can continue to develop as expected, they will be a formidable
top-pairing that can contribute at both ends. They both showed flashes of top
pair ability last year. Captain Mark Streit, who has been an offensive stalwart
on the back end for years, will lead the young team and will need to be almost
act like an on-the-ice coach, as well as an impact player.
When the Islanders first acquired Evgeni Nabokov, it appeared as though he would
never suit up for the team. But after last season's contract extension, and Rick
DiPietro always find ways to hurt himself, he will likely be the team's No. 1
guy going forward. Of course, there's always the proverbial if... as in, if
DiPietro can stay healthy, he should give Nabokov stiff competition for the
The Islanders are not ready yet, but they are getting there. If all their
players develop at the right rate, they will be extremely competitive in the
next couple of years. For now, however, they have an outside chance at sneaking
into the playoffs, but will need to exceed expectations to do so.
3 Players to Watch
Grabner scored 30 goals two seasons ago after the Islanders nabbed him off
waivers from the Florida Panthers. Last year, his goal and point totals
dipped, but the he is still young at only 25-years-old, and is one of the
fastest players in the NHL.
Obviously, all eyes will be on Tavares this season; he's the best player on
the team, and one of the best players the franchise has seen since its
dynasty days. He will need to carry the load offensively for the team if
they want to make an impact in the league this season.
There is a chance the Islanders could go the route of buying out DiPietro's
mega-contract this summer, which would make Nabokov the clear-cut No. 1
goalie. Regardless, Nabokov will likely be called on to make most of the
starts in net this season, and it is imperative for him to perform at a
consistently high level.