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January 10, 2013 | 7:04pm ET
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.

Forwards

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.

Defense

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.

Goalies

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 starter's job.

Projected Outcome

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
 
Michael Grabner
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.
John Tavares
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.
Evgeni Nabokov
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.

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