The New York Islanders come into this season having missed the playoffs last season by just a point, and now, the Metropolitan division has got even tougher.
Jack Capuano was fired during the season after the Islanders struggled, with Doug Weight taking over on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. Weight got the Islanders very close to the playoffs and got the job full-time starting this season.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Islanders this season.
The Islanders, led by John Tavares who’s one of the best players in the league. He’s entering the final year of his contract, and with no extension in place yet. Many seem to think he’s waiting to see how the team does this season and how the arena situation plays out before committing to a long-term deal. He’s surely going to have another great season after a beautiful 2.52 5V5 points per 60 last season.
Tavares will be playing with Jordan Eberle this season after the team acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers over the summer for Ryan Strome. Eberle will be one of the better wingers Tavares has played with in his career as he had 20 goals, and 51 point season last year.
Anders Lee is one of the most underrated forwards in the game, and he had one of the quieter 30 goal seasons last year. He’ll play on the top line with Tavares as well, and that line could turn into one of the best top lines in hockey.
Below that, they have Joshua Ho-Sang who made his NHL debut last season, and the Islanders are ecstatic to have him for a full season now after 10 points last year.
Brock Nelson had a 20 goal season for New York, and he’ll be in the top six. His 2.13 5V5 points per 60 were the best of his young career, and he’ll only continue to get better.
The Andrew Ladd contract is bad long-term, and it takes him well into his 30’s. Ladd did score 23 goals last season though. They’re banking on him to continue to do that until he starts to regress.
Rookie Matthew Barzal seems likely to be on the team to start the season as he’s had a great training camp for them. All in all, this forward group has a lot of capable players that can score.
The defense took a little bit of a hit during the summer when the Islanders traded Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames. The trade had been building for the past couple years, and they ended up losing one of their top four defensemen.
Their top pairing will again be Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. Leddy is their best defenseman, and that trade continues to look great each season. He set a career high in points last season with 46. Boychuk, on the other hand, is getting older and his point totals have been decreasing. He has five more seasons left on a $6M cap hit that will take him well into his late 30’s. The decline is going to come fast for him if it hasn’t already.
On the middle pairing, Calvin De Haan is a stud and is making over $3M this season before he’s a UFA next season. He had five goals and 25 points last year and is strong defensively in his own zone. He’ll likely be looking for a raise on his next contract. De Haan will be paired up with Dennis Seidenberg who has a lot of miles on his tires. Despite being 36, he had 22 points last season in 73 games in his first year with New York.
The bottom pair will likely be Thomas Hickey and Adam Pelech. Pelech played 44 games last year and had 10 points with a CF% of 46.6 which isn’t that good. We’ll see what he can do with a full season though.
New York has two number one goaltenders this season with Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak, and you can make a case for either one to start. Greiss played the most last season, getting into 51 games and posting a .913 save percentage. It was way down from his previous season of .925.
Halak played in just 28 games and spent part of the season in the minors. No one knows when the Islanders will name their starting goaltender, but it has to be coming soon with the season almost here.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move, if buyers what area might they need to improve?
The Islanders likely won’t be buyers as the Metropolitan division is just stacked this season. If they are, they could upgrade their forwards a bit in the bottom six. If they choose to sell, which seems likely, they could move out a couple of their pending UFA’s such as Jason Chimera, Dennis Seidenberg, Josh Bailey, etc.
What rookies could make the team?
Matthew Barzal is on his way to making the team, as is Joshua Ho-Sang after playing in just 21 games last year.
Which player could take a step forward this season?
Eberle can take a big step forward as he’ll be playing with Tavares this season and has the potential to rack up more goals and points.
Which players could regress?
Andrew Ladd could regress this season as he gets into his 30’s. Johnny Boychuk’s decline could come fast too as he’s already almost into his mid-thirties.
How will the team do?
New York will be fighting for a wildcard spot most likely this season with a lot of teams in the Eastern Conference. It’ll be hard to see them making the playoffs this year due to a tough division.