The New York Islanders are ready to officially kick off a new chapter of its storied franchise history. The time has finally come for the team to bid farewell to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and call the Barclays Center home. The team is poised to begin its tenure in Brooklyn on a high note.
Not much happened in the offseason for the Isles. They signed backup goalie Thomas Greiss to a two-year contract and re-signed a talented young forward in Anders Lee to a four-year deal. Lee scored 25 goals last season in his first full year in the NHL. The team also finally signed Russian forward Kirill Petrov to a one-year contract after drafting him in 2008.
The Isles didn’t need to make any changes to their forward group that already includes superstar center John Tavares, and skilled veterans Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin. The Islanders also have amazing youthful talent on offense with players Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Lee and possibly rookie Michael Dal Colle.
Fortunately for the Islanders, Nelson, who was having contractual disputes, agreed to a three-year contract. If he didn’t sign by training camp, he likely wouldn’t have played this season. It would’ve been a waste of a season for Nelson, and the Isles would’ve been without a young top-six forward.
On defense, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk will enter their second season as the anchors of the Isles defense. Leddy is quickly becoming one of the top two-way defensemen in the NHL, and Boychuk should be as reliable as ever. Travis Hamonic is another very good hard-hitting defenseman . Calvin de Haan will be looking to shake off a season that will mostly be remembered as a sophomore slump. The rest of the defense is a question mark. Thomas Hickey will likely play a regular role. He has some talent, but not enough to cover up the fact he is undersized. Hickey, unlike Leddy, doesn’t have the skills to make up for his lack of size and him playing every day is not ideal. Ryan Pulock, a highly touted offensive-defenseman prospect could make the leap to the NHL this season.
Jaroslav Halak will be the Islanders starting goaltender again after a strong first season with the team last year. Greiss should provide stability for when Halak needs a rest, as Greiss is a reliable backup netminder used to the role.
Even if Nelson didn’t re-sign, the Islanders still have a very good offensive corps. The defense should cause fans a bit concern. Leddy, Boychuk and Hamonic are all proven and very good. De Haan and Pulock are unknowns, and Hickey might have trouble being effective for the entire season. I would’ve liked to see the team grab a solid depth defenseman in free agency to play in Hickey’s spot for the majority of the games while insulating Pulock into the league. It could still happen, as the team is reportedly in talks with veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky.
At the 2015 NHL Draft back in June, general manager Garth Snow picked up two very good studs at the forward position, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. While the two young prospects should take a few years to develop before joining the big club, the team restocked the cupboard with more young talent.
Despite my concerns on the team’s defense, the issue is solvable and the top-three defensemen should carry the load well enough. The forward group is still young and talented, and Halak is stellar between the pipes. The Isles are a well-balanced and hungry team that should perform well throughout the season to earn third place in the Metropolitan Division and possibly win that elusive first round of the playoffs.