2019-20 was almost a dream season for the Islanders, after beating up on John Tavares and the Maple Leafs twice, while finishing one point out of a division title, then sweeping Pittsburgh in round one. The almost part kicked in when they were eliminated in round two by Carolina. In his second offseason in New York, GM Lou Lamoriello once again made all the picks he was given, signed some players, but no stars, and seemingly missed out on the top free agent available for the second straight season.
Additions: Semyon Varlamov, Derick Brassard
Subtractions: Robin Lehner, Valtteri Filppula, Luca Sbisa
After winning the 2017-18 Calder Trophy with an 85 point season, Mat Barzal regressed, with 18 goals and 62 points, and he almost didn\’t score in the entire month of March. After scoring a career high 40 goals in 2017-18, Anders Lee, in his first year as captain, scored 28 goals. But the silver lining was that his plus minus went from a career worst -25 in 2017-18 to a career high +20 in 2018-19. Pass first winger Josh Bailey has never scored 20 goals in a season, but his 40 assists and 56 points were both second on the team to Barzal. Brock Nelson picked the perfect time to have a career season. He scored 25 goals, with a career high 53 points and a +20 rating, in a contract year. He got a $6 million payday. Jordan Eberle re-signed, though his 19 goals and 37 points were career worsts, not including the shortened 2012-13 season. Always a great defensive center, Casey Cizikas had a career best year. He scored a career high 20 goals, and was a +22 player, finishing 21st in Selke voting. Anthony Beauvillier scored 18 goals. Over the last two seasons, the 22 year old has scored 39 goals. In his first year on Long Island, Leo Komarov had a career high 20 assists and plus 18 rating, and even though he wasn\’t hurt, he didn\’t score a goal after January 20th. Derick Brassard signed a one year deal to be the third line center. While he was very solid from 2013-14 to 2017-18, he was on three different teams last season, and didn\’t seem to fit in with any of them, with 14 goals and a -19 rating. Cal Clutterbuck\’s 23 points were tied for his most in his six seasons with the Islanders. He is rehabbing from back surgery, so his availability is up for question. In his return to Long Island, Matt Martin had 275 hits, and six goals, the latter his most since his first stint with the Islanders. Former fifth overall pick Michael Dal Colle got his real first shot at NHL action. He had seven points in 28 games. Andrew Ladd missed the playoffs with a torn ACL. He had 11 points in 26 games, and owns one of the worst contracts in the league. Tom Kuhnhackl re-signed after nine points in 36 games in his first year with the team.
Ryan Pulock has turned himself into the team\’s number one defenseman, with a career high 37 points and +21 rating. His partner, Adam Pelech, also wildly improved, with 21 points and a +22 rating, both career highs. Nick Leddy had three consecutive 40 point seasons, but his 26 points in 2018-19 were his lowest since 2012-13. At least his league worst -42 rating in 2017-18 evened out at zero. Devon Toews was impressive in his rookie season, with 18 points in 48 games. Scott Mayfield had his best season, with 19 points and a +18 rating. Johnny Boychuk\’s 74 games played were his most with the Isles, but his three goals were his lowest with the team. When Thomas Hickey was injured, Toews stepped in, and Hickey never got his spot back. He had four assists in 40 games, and figures as the seventh defenseman.
Semyon Varlamov was signed to a hefty four year, $20 million deal to replace Vezina finalist Robin Lehner. A former first rounder and Vezina finalist in 2013-14, Varlamov had a .909 SV% and 2.87 GAA in Colorado last year. Thomas Greiss had a great bounce back season, with a .927 SV% and 2.28 GAA. Goalie coaches Mitch Korn and Piero Greco have an amazing track record.
Enforcer Ross Johnston had four points in 17 games, with 23 penalty minutes and he averaged under eight minutes a game. Before the team signed Brassard, Tanner Fritz had a legitimate shot at being the third line center. He had one assist in eight NHL games, and 37 points in 57 AHL games. Defenseman Grant Hutton had six points in nine AHL games after coming from Miami University (Ohio), where he had 21 points in 37 games.
Up and Coming
Defenseman Noah Dobson was drafted 12th overall in 2018, and he\’s a top 12 prospect in hockey. He has won the Memorial Cup two seasons in a row, with 42 points in 40 playoff games over the last two years. He had 42 points in 56 regular season games, and he has a shot at making the NHL team. Josh Ho-Sang has always been blocked in the NHL. In his 53 game NHL career, Ho-Sang has 24 points. He had 43 points in 56 games in the AHL. Sebastian Aho, a defenseman, had 46 points in 67 AHL games. He had four points in 22 NHL games in 2017-18. First rounder Oliver Wahlstrom had a rough year at Boston College, then went to the AHL and had seven points in 10 games, playoffs and regular season combined. Kieffer Bellows had just 19 points in 73 games, disappointing for the 2016 first rounder.
2019 draft class
Round 1, 23rd overall: Simon Holmstrom
Round 2, 57th overall: Sam Bolduc
Round 5, 147th overall: Reece Newkirk
Round 6, 178th overall: Felix Bibeau
Round 7, 209th overall: Cole Coskey
Barry Trotz had a great first year as Islanders Head Coach. In his career, he has a .567 winning percentage, over 20 years. But, he has only gotten past the second round in the playoffs once, when his Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Lou Lamiorello has only made one trade in two years as Islanders GM, trading goalie prospect Eamon McAdam to Toronto for Matt Martin, on July 3, 2018. He re-signed Lee, Eberle and Nelson, but couldn\’t keep Lehner or Tavares, or bring Artemi Panarin to Long Island. His best moves were getting Trotz to coach the team, and originally signing Lehner.
Anders Lee – Mat Barzal – Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd – Derick Brassard – Leo Komorav
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Extras: Michael Dal Colle, Tom Kuhnhackl, Tanner Fritz, Josh Ho-Sang, Ross Johnston
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews – Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Extras: Thomas Hickey, Sebastian Aho
Extras: Chris Gibson, Jared Coreau
The Islanders might not look amazing on paper, but they have some quality players and amazing coaches. I predict they\’ll finish 3rd in the Metropolitan Division, making the playoffs.