After missing the playoffs for five straight seasons, the
Islanders qualified for the postseason in the lockout shortened season, but
fell back to the Metropolitan Division basement last year.
Mikhail Grabovski – C Evgeni
Nabokov – G
Nikolai Kulemin – RW Radek
Martinek – D
Jaroslav Halak – G
Chad Johnson – G
Jack Skille – RW
TJ Brennan – D
They finished the season 34-37-11, which was the fifth worst
record in the NHL. Unfortunately they lost John Tavares to a torn MCL in the
Sochi Winter Olympics. Surprisingly the Islanders actually had a better record
without Tavares in the lineup. Before the Olympics they were 22-30-8 and went
12-7-3 after the 23-year-old was injured. That said, the franchise will be
ecstatic to have the former first overall pick back in the lineup in October.
He had 24 goals and 42 assists (66 points) in 59 games before the season-ending
injury. He will back at 100 per cent and make a push for the Art Ross Trophy.
The most important part of having Tavares in the lineup is getting Kyle Okposo
going. There was always a ton of potential there, but last season was the first
time we saw what Okposo can really do. He had a career-high 27 goals and 42
assists (69 points) in 71 games. As long as he is skating alongside JT he is a
candidate for 30 goals and 40 assists.
There will be some new faces at forward on Long Island this
season. This offseason they added Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin via
free agency. The two were teammates in Toronto from 2008-2013 and should
solidify this group of forwards. We expect them to play on the same line, but
will probably skate on a line behind the Frans Nielsen trio. Nielsen had a
career-year in 2013-14, posting 58
points (25G / 33A) in 80 games. That said, he stepped in after Tavares was
injured and posted 15 points (7G / 8A) in 20 games. Back on the second line
expect a small regression, but he still has a shot at 50 points.
This group of forwards is looking much better than it did in
past seasons and it should have an infusion of young talent as well. After
shredding the AHL last season (49 points in 37 games) Ryan Strome was recalled
and played pretty well for the Isles. He is a gifted play-maker with a boatload
of talent. This year’s fifth overall pick also belonged to the Isles and they
used that pick to select Michael Dal Colle. He already has an NHL frame at
6-foot-2, but needs to fill out if he is going to be a power-forward at this
level. He has an elite skill-set that allowed him to post 95 points in 67 games
with Oshawa (OHL). He is no lock to make the team, but should he crack the big
club he is a candidate to play with Grabo and Kulemin.
On the blueline the Islanders have some good young talent.
Their power-play is quarterbacked by veteran Lubomir Visnovsky, but then there
is Travis Hickey, 25, Matt Donovan, 24, Travis Hamonic, 24 and Calvin de Haan,
23. Donovan started the season with New York but was sent down and had 21
points (7G / 14A) in 27 games with Bridgeport (AHL) before being recalled in
January. He didn’t do much until the end of the season when he posted 11 of his
16 points in the final 22 games. Hamonic did not have his best season in
2013-14, but he had back-to-back mid-20 point seasons in the two previous 82
game seasons, so expect him to get back to that type of production. With Andrew
MacDonald in Philadelphia, expect all three of these young D-men to play larger
roles this season.
Update: The Isles were the lucky winners in the Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy sweepstakes. It was no secret the Bruins and Hawks were going to have to make a move
with their cap situations. These two will be great additions to this blue line.
In addition to Grabovski and Kulemin, the Isles completely
revamped their goaltending situation. They signed Jaroslav Halak to a
four-year, $16 million dollar deal and former Bruins’ back-up Chad Johnson to a
two-year contract. Halak has posted great numbers everywhere he has played. In
the last four seasons with the Blues and briefly with the Capitals last season,
he has gone 88-51-22 with a 2.24 GAA, .917 SV% and 21 shutouts. On Long Island
he should start 55-plus games but expect a small drop off in the GAA because he
is moving from an excellent defensive Blues team to a slightly less talented
Islanders squad. Same goes for Johnson. He was great in Boston last year (2.10
GAA / .925 SV%), but they are also a better team so his numbers may take a hit.
Season prediction: The Islanders will climb to 5th in the
Metropolitan Division, but still miss the playoffs.
View the Islanders’ entire roster and cap space heading into
the 2014-15 season.