2016-17 New York Islanders Season Preview
By: Matt Giusti
New York Islanders
Head Coach: Jack Capuano
2015-16 Record: 45-27-10 100 pts ( 4th in the Metropolitan Division )
Playoff Result: Eliminated in the 2nd Round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 5 games
2015-16 Team Stats: 2.8 goals per game ( 11th in the NHL ), 2.6 goals against ( 13th in the NHL ), 18.3 power play % ( 17th in the NHL ), 84.5 penalty kill % ( 4th in the NHL )
2015-16 Scoring Leaders: 1. John Tavares C ( 78 GP-33 G-37 A ), 2. Kyle Okposo RW ( 79 GP-22 G-42 A ), 3. Frans Nielsen C ( 81 GP-20 G-32 A ), 4. Nick Leddy D ( 81 GP-5 G-35 A ), 5. Brock Nelson C ( 81 GP-26 G-14 A )
2015-16 Goaltending: Thomas Greiss ( 41 GP-23 W-11 L-4 OTL-2.36 GAA-.925 SV%-1 SO ), Jaroslav Halak ( 36 GP-18 W-13 L-4 OTL-2.30 GAA-.919 SV%-3 SO )
Top Prospects: 1. Mathew Barzal C, 2. Ilya Sorokin G, 3. Ryan Pulock D, 4. Michael Dal Colle LW, 5. Kieffer Bellows LW
Key Additions: Andrew Ladd LW, PA Parenteau RW, Jason Chimera LW
Key Departures: Kyle Okposo RW, Frans Nielsen C, Brian Strait D, Matt Martin LW
Forwards: In 2015-16, the New York Islanders won their first playoff series since 1993 and captain John Tavares left his fingerprints all over the series clinching win vs. Florida. Tavares tied the game with less than a minute to play and then scored the game-winner in double-overtime. The 25-year old Tavares also enjoyed another very productive regular season, netting 30 plus goals for the 2nd straight season. Tavares is one of the premier forwards in the game today and will top 70 points again barring any injuries.
The New York Islanders lost longtime players Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, so the Isles went out and signed Andrew Ladd to help ease that loss. The 30-year old Ladd had a down season by his standards, as he finished a minus player (-13) for the first time in 3 seasons. Still the Isles know they’re getting a tremendous leader and all around player in Ladd. It also doesn’t hurt that he will be playing on the wing with Tavares, which should help boost his scoring. For the 2nd season in a row, center Brock Nelson topped his career high in goals, scoring 26 in 2015-16 after scoring 2o the previous season. Nelson will depended on now a lot more with the previously mentioned departures of Okposo and Nielsen. The same could be said for guys like Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome, who will also be leaned on a lot more to produce. And producing is not something these two have done consistently in their NHL careers.
When the Islanders lost forward Matt Martin to the Leafs in free-agency, it broke up possibly the most productive 4th line in the NHL. That line besides Martin consisted of Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, and boy they were a pain to play against, literally. To replace Martin, the Isles brought in proven veteran Jason Chimera from the Washington Capitals. The 37-year old Chimera will bring more of an offensive punch than Martin, as evidenced by his 20 goals and 20 assists that he put up in 2015-16.
The Islanders have a lot of gritty two way forwards that love to play physically, but the question will be whether this unit will score enough goals. A breakout season from Ryan Strome would help with that, along with guys like Nelson and Anders Lee taking on bigger roles. There are some questions, but I like the makeup of this Islanders forward unit.
Defense: In 2015-16, the New York Islanders defense ranked near the top 10 (13th) in goals against and had the 4th best penalty kill. Based on the fact that they have everyone back from that unit and the development of a couple players, there is no reason not to think that the Islanders can be even better. The Islanders have gotten nothing but a great return from defensemen Nick Leddy since acquiring him from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014. The 25-year old Leddy has combined to score 15 goals and 62 assists over the past two seasons. While a little less gifted than Leddy on offense, Johnny Boychuk has been very good for the Islanders despite battling some injuries the past two season. The 32-year old Boychuk has an absolute cannon for a shot, which is a big help when on the power play.
Islanders defensemen Travis Hamonic has had a tough year, as rumors of family trouble had him request a trade to a team in Western Canada to be closer to them. Hamonic would later rescind his trade offer and it looks like he will be an Islander for awhile. And that is great news for the Islanders, as the 26-year old Hamonic has proved to be such a valuable asset since breaking into the league in 2010-11. Hamonic might just be the perfect guy to show a youngster like Ryan Pulock how succeed at the next level. The former 15th overall pick in 2013 Pulock was very effective in limited action for the Isles in the regular season and the playoffs. Many scouts project Pulock to be a very good puck moving offensive defensemen, which will make the Islanders defensive unit very scary.
Add in guys like Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Hana, the Islanders defense as whole is going to be very good. As it goes with a lot of teams, health will be a major factor in how good they will be. But I like the mix of solid stay at home defensemen and offensive defensemen. I really think the Islanders are going to better the totals they put up in goals against and the penalty kill.
Goaltending: Thomas Greiss was brought in by the New York Islanders to be the backup goalie to Jaroslav Halak. But Halak battled various injuries and when Greiss was pressed into a starting role, he was awesome. Greiss not only pushed the Islanders into the playoffs, but he also was instrumental in the Islanders advancing past the 1st round for the first time since 1993. Now Halak seems to be healthy now and has looked good in the World Cup of Hockey Pre-Tournament games for Team Europe, but Halak has been injury prone so expect Capuano to use both of his goalies a lot. Either way, the Islanders have two solid goalies that they can rely on this coming season.
Season Prediction: The Islanders cleared a major hurdle by winning a playoff round this past year. Coming into the 2016-17 season, the expectations will be higher despite some changes to the makeup of the team. Goals may be at a premium if certain players don’t step up, but I like the defense and goaltending.While I don’t think the Islanders are better than Washington or Pittsburgh, there is no reason why they can’t finish 3rd in that stacked Metropolitan Division.
3rd in the Metropolitan Division