Philadelphia Flyers 2022-23 Season Preview

The Flyers might be the saddest team in the NHL. Not only are they really bad, but Philadelphia still has a ton of crushing contracts that restricted them from going after hometown kid Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason. Even worse, these bad contracts aren’t from over two years ago or anything. They were signed within the last calendar year, and looked bad then, too. Now, the fanbase and media will have to deal with John Tortorella’s antics. Only one kid can save them now: Connor Bedard.

Offseason additions: D Tony DeAngelo, F Nicolas Deslauriers, D Justin Braun, F Artem Anisimov (PTO), F Antoine Roussel (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Oskar Lindblom, D Keith Yandle, G Martin Jones, F Nate Thompson.

Forwards

The recent news that Sean Couturier will miss most of, if not all of the season has put another wrench into the team’s plans. It also significantly weakens them down the middle, as the only reliable top-six center is Kevin Hayes. While he was limited to just 48 games last season, Hayes had his best scoring pace as a Flyer, with ten goals and 31 points. Injuries and personal loss clearly affected Hayes, who had the second-worst xGF% on the forward core. Joel Farabee scored 17 goals with 17 assists in 63 games in his third NHL season. The young winger had 50 penalty minutes, which is sloppy given his play style. Farabee and veteran Cam Atkinson were the leaders on the team in GF/60, as Atkinson scored 23 goals with 50 points in his first year with the Flyers.

Aside from Atkinson, only one other Flyer scored over 20 goals, and that was James van Riemsdyk. Both veterans hadn’t hit that mark since 2018-19, failing to do in the shortened seasons. At age 32, van Riemsdyk led the team with 24 goals. The team’s leader in points last year was Travis Konecny, with 52. However, he scored just 16 goals with 77 penalty minutes. Just like Farabee, Konecny isn’t physical enough to have spent that much time in the penalty box. Scott Laughton now has a good opportunity to move up into the top-six with Couturier out. He averaged almost 16 and a half minutes of ice time a night last season, a career-most. Laughton also had 30 points in 67 games while killing penalties.

Coming back from Florida for captain Claude Giroux at the deadline was Owen Tippett, a highly-touted sniper who has struggled to score at the NHL level. Tippett had seven points in 21 games after the trade, with a total of ten goals and 11 assists in 63 games for the Flyers and Panthers. In 12 AHL games, Tippett showed that he can still play, with 18 points. Bobby Brink, a second-rounder in 2019 who could have been a first-rounder, had four assists in 10 NHL games after coming from the University of Denver. In 41 games there, Brink scored 14 goals with 43 assists for 57 points. The 2021-22 season should have belonged to Morgan Frost. The 2017 first-round pick instead failed to take the next step forward, with just 16 points in 55 games. Frost was even sent to the AHL for 24 games, finishing with 19 points there. Another option for this line is Noah Cates, who went straight to the NHL after scoring 24 points in 37 games for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The results were actually not bad, as Cates scored five goals with four assists in 16 games.

The easy move of the offseason to dogpile on was the curious decision by Philadelphia to sign grinder Nicolas Deslauriers to a four-year contract. While he did score eight goals last season, Deslauriers really doesn’t bring any offense, but he does bring brawn. Split between the Ducks and the Wild, he had 113 penalty minutes with 263 hits. The Flyers signed veteran Artem Anisimov to a professional tryout, and he looks to have an inside track for a roster spot. Anisimov, who played under Tortorella in New York, had 19 points in 27 KHL games last season. He last played in the NHL in 2020-21, with nine points in 19 games for Ottawa. Adding onto the physical nature of Deslauriers is Zack MacEwen, a waiver claim who played in 75 games last season. He had just nine points, but MacEwen also had 110 penalty minutes with 159 hits. If Anisimov does not secure a contract, then the favorite to be the fourth line center is Patrick Brown, who had nine points in 44 games last season.

Defensemen

With all the issues that the Flyers have dealt with, it goes largely unstated how underwhelming Ivan Provorov has been. The offensive production hasn’t developed as much as the team would’ve liked, as Provorov hasn’t come close to the 17 goals and 41 points that he had in 2017-18. While he does get a ton of ice time, Provorov was the second-worst regular defender in goals against per 60 and was fourth in goals for percentage. In hopes to spark more offense out of him, he could be paired with Tony DeAngelo. The controversial defender was outstanding for Carolina last year, although they mostly sheltered him from any tough defensive situations. DeAngelo had 51 points in 64 games, while quarterbacking the team’s power play.

The second pairing features two polar opposite players: the analytical darling versus the analytical nightmare. Travis Sanheim was the best player on the defense by expected and actual goals for percentage. He saw his largest share of ice time last season, mostly playing next to Rasmus Ristolainen. While the metrics never liked him, Ristolainen’s offensive output has also declined. He had just 16 points in 66 games last season. He does exactly what you would expect from a six-foot-four defender: he hits and blocks shots. Ristolainen had 125 blocks and 230 hits last year.

Former first-rounder Cam York got his best look at the NHL yet in 2021-22, finishing with ten points in 30 games. It was an encouraging sign for York, who also had 12 points in 34 AHL matches. As of now, he is the guy to look forward to on the back end. After getting a draft pick from the Rangers at the deadline, the Flyers brought back Justin Braun on a one-year deal. Braun is still very capable in his own end, although he did struggle when his role was reduced in New York. If Braun does play, then he would be taking time away from Ronnie Attard, who had four points in 15 games at the end of last year. At Western Michigan last season, Attard had 36 points in 39 games. He is trying to win a spot over Nick Seeler, a physical player who got into 43 games last year.

Goaltending

Following an atrocious 2020-21 season, Carter Hart was able to rebound a little bit. He still had a rough 3.16 GAA with a .905 save percentage, but it was miles better than the .877 save percentage he had the year before. Of the 50 goalies with at least 1000 shot attempts faced last year, Hart’s goals saved above expected ranked 34th. Last year’s AHL starter, Felix Sandstrom, is naturally the choice to be the NHL backup after Martin Jones left in free agency. He has only five NHL games under his belt. Sandstrom had a .902 save percentage in 44 AHL games last season.

Projected Lines

Joel Farabee – Kevin Hayes – Cam Atkinson

James van Riemsdyk – Scott Laughton – Travis Konecny

Noah Cates – Morgan Frost – Bobby Brink

Nicolas Deslauriers – Artem Anisimov – Owen Tippett

Scratched: Zack MacEwen, Patrick Brown

Ivan Provorov – Tony DeAngelo

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Cam York – Justin Braun

Scratched: Ronnie Attard

Carter Hart

Felix Sandstrom

Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Season Preview

The Senators may actually be a competent team this year! I know, it sounds scary. But an exciting offseason has brought hope to Ottawa for the first time since they lost to the Penguins in the 2017 Conference Finals. They still are far away from serious contention thanks to a questionable defensive core, and the investigation into the 2018 Canadian World Juniors team could dismantle their hope. But as training camp opens, the vibes are good for this franchise.

Offseason additions: F Alex DeBrincat, F Claude Giroux, G Cam Talbot, F Tyler Motte, F Jayce Hawryluk, D Jacob Larsson, F Derick Brassard (PTO), F Michael Dal Colle (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Connor Brown, G Matt Murray, F Colin White, F Chris Tierney, G Filip Gustavsson, F Tyler Ennis, D Michael Del Zotto, D Victor Mete, F Adam Gaudette.

Forwards

During the season, the Senators finally named Brady Tkachuk captain, making something official that felt inevitable since the team drafted him in 2018. 2021-22 was Tkachuk’s best yet, as he scored 30 goals with 67 points, living up to the offensive ceiling that we hadn’t yet seen at the NHL level. Of course, Tkachuk also has physicality that even the average fourth liner would be jealous of. He had 117 penalty minutes with 270 hits last year, while finishing tenth in the league in shots. Ottawa found out who their new number one center is last season, as Josh Norris scored 35 goals in 66 games. Norris has an 18.8 percent shooting rate in 125 career games and also scored 16 goals on the power play. While they only got 46 games out of him, six-foot-three winger Drake Batherson scored 17 goals with a career-high 44 points, solidifying his position on the top line. Batherson’s 2.79 xGF/60 led the team at even strength.

Perhaps the Senators overreacted when they gave Tim Stutzle an eight-year extension worth over $8 million a season this offseason. But as a 20-year-old, his total numbers were very good. He scored 22 goals with 58 points in 79 games. He will be moving to center full-time in all likeliness, but with two much better linemates. Alex DeBrincat has been one of the league’s best goal scorers since he debuted with Chicago in 2017-18. Last season, he set a career-high in points with 78, 41 of those points being goals. DeBrincat is an elite sniper that can help the team in all situations, and he is only 24. The other big forward addition this offseason was Claude Giroux, the somewhat hometown kid (Hearst, Ontario is far from every NHL franchise) who finally left the Flyers last year. He scored just three goals in 18 games for the Panthers, but had 20 assists. His total numbers were 21 goals and 44 assists, showing that he is still an effective weapon. He should fit in well with Ottawa, where he is not expected to be the guy.

Alex Formenton was heavily associated with Batherson as both came up in the Senators’ system, but Formenton’s first full season wasn’t as dominant. He did score 18 goals with extraordinary speed. He also led the league with five shorthanded goals. At even strength, his 2.97 xGA/60 was the second-worst on the team. With a low PDO, he had an ugly GF% of 39.3 percent. Last year was supposed to be Shane Pinto’s exciting rookie season after a successful career at the University of North Dakota led to his NHL debut. But he played in just five games, limited by a shoulder injury. The hope is still there for Pinto to take the third line center role. After coming over from Tampa Bay for Nick Paul, Mathieu Joseph completely exceeded expectations. Playing in 11 games, he scored four goals with eight assists. He enjoyed an elevated role after being buried in Tampa Bay. Joseph finished with 1.8 points per 60 minutes when you combine his two stints, which would have been sixth on the team last year.

To improve the fourth line, the Senators recently signed forward Tyler Motte. A part of a deep playoff run in 2019-20 and 2021-22, Motte scored twice in 15 games for the Rangers in the postseason last year. He had 15 points in the regular season and can be a valuable penalty killer. Veteran Austin Watson scored 10 goals last year, the second-most of his career. He also set a career-high in hits, with 213. Ottawa sent a seventh-round pick to the Sharks in October for Dylan Gambrell, who did his job as a fourth line center. While Gambrell only contributed seven points in 63 games, he was on the ice for under two goals against per 60 minutes. Parker Kelly is in the mix for a role after playing in 41 games last season. He scored seven goals while laying 131 hits. The Senators have brought in Derick Brassard on a professional tryout. Brassard has played for ten teams in his career, with the Senators being one of them. He had 77 points in 139 games for them and was on that 2017 team. He played in 46 games for the Flyers and Oilers last year, scoring eight goals with 19 points.

Defensemen

Thomas Chabot continued to be an absolute workhorse for the Senators last season, averaging at least 26 minutes of ice time a night for the third consecutive year. He only played in 59 games and had 38 points. He has found a consistent partner on the top pairing in Artem Zub, a Russian defender who had 22 points in 81 games last season, his second in the NHL. Zub led the team in blocked shots with 124, and his 155 hits was the most by an Ottawa defender.

There are still two more years left in the albatross of a contract that Lou Lamoriello signed Nikita Zaitsev to ages ago. Ottawa stopped pretending that he was an elite defender in 2021-22, as Zaitsev’s ice time was cut significantly. He brings very little offense, and even the defensive numbers aren’t great. He undoubtedly does bring physicality, with triple digit blocked shots and hits in each of his six NHL seasons. The crown jewel of the Mark Stone trade, Erik Brannstrom, played in a career-high 53 games last year, with no goals and 14 assists. Brannstrom’s small stature is always going to play into his defensive ability, and he had the second-worst xGA/60 on the team’s defensive core.

The debut to get excited for this year is Jake Sanderson’s. Selected fifth overall in the 2020 draft, Sanderson had 26 points in 23 games at North Dakota last year, setting himself up for at least a shot at the NHL level. The team brought in a potential veteran partner in Travis Hamonic at the trade deadline. Hamonic is not the same player that once yielded a first and two second-round picks in a trade, but he can at least be serviceable. He played in 43 games for the Canucks and Senators last year, with 10 points and 81 blocked shots. If both Brannstrom and Sanderson lock up spots, then veteran Nick Holden will be the odd man out of the lineup. He played in 76 games last year after a trade from Vegas, scoring 19 points. Holden, along with Zub and Zaitsev, was one of three Senators with at least one hundred hits and blocked shots last season.

Goaltending

The Ottawa goaltending could go right this year, but it has the risk attached to go horribly wrong. The lead goalie is expected to be Anton Forsberg, who was way better than he had any right to be. Forsberg had a .917 save percentage in 46 games last season while Matt Murray was out. He had 11.5 goals saved above expected, which was the twelfth best in the league. His new goaltending partner, Cam Talbot, was on the opposite side of the GSAx spectrum. Talbot was the fourth-worst in the league in that stat, at -17.3. He had a .911 save percentage for Minnesota, and has a pedigree that Forsberg simply doesn’t.

Projected Lines

Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson

Alex DeBrincat – Tim Stutzle – Claude Giroux

Alex Formenton – Shane Pinto – Mathieu Joseph

Tyler Motte – Dylan Gambrell – Austin Watson

Scratched: Parker Kelly, Derick Brassard

Thomas Chabot – Artem Zub

Erik Brannstrom – Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Sanderson – Travis Hamonic

Scratched: Nick Holden

Anton Forsberg

Cam Talbot

New York Rangers 2022-23 Season Preview

Last year’s Rangers team saw their mini-rebuild completely pay off, mostly thanks to one man. Their underlying numbers were overall average, but they received some of the best goaltending we have seen in a long time. Igor Shesterkin didn’t win the Hart Trophy, but there was certainly a case there. New York saw a ton of rentals leave this offseason. Are their skaters strong enough to get them back to the Conference Finals, where their 2021-22 season ended.

Offseason additions: F Vincent Trocheck, F Ryan Carpenter, G Jaroslav Halak, G Louis Domingue, F Jimmy Vesey (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Ryan Strome, F Andrew Copp, F Frank Vatrano, F Tyler Motte, G Alex Georgiev, F Kevin Rooney, D Patrik Nemeth, D Nils Lundkvist, F Greg McKegg, D Justin Braun.

Forwards

Last season was a magical one for Chris Kreider, who will have trouble replicating it due to how amazing his year was. Kreider scored 52 goals with 77 points in 81 games. His previous career-highs were 28 goals and 53 points. While he did have a 20.2 percent shooting rate, its inflation wasn’t the only reason why Kreider went off. He led the league with 26 power play goals and 11 game winning goals in the regular season, and scored 10 more goals in 20 postseason games. Maybe Kreider’s dominance stunted the ridiculous scoring rates that Mika Zibanejad had been on during the two shortened seasons. He still scored 29 times, and focused on being more of a playmaker. Zibanejad had 52 apples to set a career-high in points with 81. The Rangers rocked a kid line in the playoffs that was very successful, but they need to break it up as their depth took a hit. This would mean that Kaapo Kakko would go back to the top line. The second overall pick in 2019 is yet to live up to that status. He had just 18 points in 43 games last season, even after an increase in ice time. Kreider, Zibanejad, and Kakko were the only Ranger forwards (minimum 500 TOI with the time) with an expected goals for percentage over 50 during the regular season.

While he still had 16 points in 20 games, Artemi Panarin’s playoff performance was underwhelming, aside from a huge goal to win the first round versus Pittsburgh. He clearly wasn’t as dominant as he can be. Panarin almost averaged an assist per game in the regular season, with 74 in 75 games. He added 22 goals to break his career-high in points by one. Panarin’s regular center, Ryan Strome, could not be retained in free agency. The replacement will be Vincent Trocheck, who comes in on a seven-year contract. Trocheck was a fantastic second-liner in Carolina, scoring 21 goals with 51 points. He had 78 penalty minutes, which is too much for a player with his skillset. That is not to say that Trocheck is not physical. He had a career-high 185 hits last season, and has triple-digit checks in each of the past seven seasons. A trade request put Vitali Kravtsov in an awkward situation last year. He didn’t play at all in North America, but is in Rangers training camp for now. Kravtsov went back to the KHL, with 13 points in 19 games, and 10 in 15 playoff matches.

Kakko’s disappointment on the score sheet has often been compared to Alexis Lafreniere, the top pick in the 2020 draft. However, Lafreniere provided solid production in his sophomore season. He scored 19 goals with 31 points, then had nine points in the playoffs. He also had the fourth-best xGF% on the forward core. That was right ahead of Filip Chytil, who has had either 22 or 23 points in each of the past four seasons. He broke into the league at age 18, but has just settled into the third line center role, which isn’t a terrible thing. However, he has won just 40.5 percent of draws in his career. If New York does keep the kid line together, then Sammy Blais is a top contender to play on the top line. He was a part of the Pavel Buchnevich trade with St. Louis that has backfired on the team, although that is not on Blais. He had four assists in 14 games before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season.

The Rangers traded a draft pick before last season for Ryan Reaves, and got exactly what they wanted from him. Reaves had just 13 points in 69 games, but all of those points were an added bonus. Reaves had 279 hits, second among forwards to just Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot. He also had just 43 penalty minutes, continuing a promising trend from the end of his Vegas tenure, as he was still a physical force while limiting time spent in the box. The Flames signed former Rangers fourth line center Kevin Rooney, so naturally he was replaced by Ryan Carpenter, a deadline acquisition by Calgary. Carpenter had 12 points in 67 games for the Flames and Blackhawks last year, with 136 hits. New York traded for the rights of Barclay Goodrow last offseason, then signed him to a six-year deal. The offensive production in his first season was more than the Rangers were even looking for, as he scored 13 goals with 33 points, both career-highs. More importantly, he was a leader and a physical presence while contributing to the penalty kill. After having a limited role with the Panthers and Coyotes, Dryden Hunt earned a regular spot with the Rangers last season, dressing for 76 regular season games and three more in the postseason. He had 17 points with 153 hits. While Julien Gauthier dressed for 49 games last season, he had the lowest average time on ice among Rangers with at least 15 games played. The former first-rounder had seven points.

Defensemen

He wasn’t able to defend his Norris Trophy, but Adam Fox still finished fifth in voting for best defenseman. He set a career-high with 74 points. His 63 assists alone would have been the record, although the shortened season in 2020-21 plays a factor into that. Fox is also the best defensive-defender on the team, along with partner Ryan Lindgren. While he only had 15 points, Lindgren had 141 blocks and 129 hits, plus a 2.29 xGA/60.

The Rangers finally named their first captain since Ryan McDonagh was traded, and it was surprisingly Jacob Trouba. In his third year with the team, Trouba’s 39 points was the second-highest of his career. He is also a force to be reckoned with on the ice. He had 88 penalty minutes with 177 blocked shots and 207 hits. The most untapped potential on the defensive core comes from K’Andre Miller, a six-foot-five monster who has a lot more to offer offensively than his 20 points from last season suggests. Miller was never eased into the NHL, getting a large share of ice time in both of his seasons.

The only lock on the third pair for now is Braden Schneider, a 21-year-old who played in 43 games in his rookie season last year. Schneider added 11 points with 52 blocked shots. Miller, Lindgren, and Schneider were the only three Ranger defenseman with under two goals against per 60 at even strength. The other spot is a competition between Zac Jones and Libor Hajek, with other entries encouraged. Jones has much more upside, with the 2019 third-round pick scoring 35 points in 52 AHL games last year. He has six assists in 22 career NHL games. Hajek has played in 94 games over the past four seasons, but the results have not been good. He had a 41.67 xGF% in 17 NHL games last year, and a 40.33 percentage in 44 games the season prior.

Goaltending

Shesterkin’s 2021-22 season was so good that it feels impossible for him to replicate. He had a 2.07 GAA, a .935 save percentage, a 44.9 GSAA, and a GSAx of 37.2. He led the league in all four of those categories, and it wasn’t particularly close. Shesterkin easily won the Vezina Trophy, and was third in Hart voting as well. He continued to carry the team in the postseason, with a .929 save percentage. He now has a veteran to share the workload with in Ranger killer Jaroslav Halak. The 37-year-old Halak played in 17 games in a forgettable Canucks stint in which he had a .903 save percentage.

Projected Lines

Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko

Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Vitali Kravtsov

Alex Lafreniere – Filip Chytil – Sammy Blais

Barclay Goodrow – Ryan Carpenter – Ryan Reaves

Scratched: Dryden Hunt, Julien Gauthier

Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox

K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba

Zac Jones – Braden Schneider

Scratched: Libor Hajek

Igor Shesterkin

Jaroslav Halak

New York Islanders 2022-23 Season Preview

Right when people started to believe that the Islanders were legit, they regressed to a mediocre team. While the team’s goaltending was still amazing, they failed to score and their defense was surprisingly sloppy. A dependance on veterans clearly failed, and could have been what caused Barry Trotz’s surprise firing. But GM Lou Lamoriello doubled down on his team, mostly staying with the team he had. There could be some addition by subtraction, but last year’s players will have to be the ones to make up for the season.

Offseason additions: D Alex Romanov, D Dennis Cholowski, F Nikita Soshnikov.

Offseason subtractions: D Zdeno Chara, D Andy Greene, F Austin Czarnik, F Michael Dal Colle, D Thomas Hickey.

Forwards

Mat Barzal will be a restricted free agent again at the conclusion of the season, and he needs to earn his worth. He won’t have the excuse of being hampered by Trotz’s system anymore. Last season really was disappointing for Barzal, as he scored a career-low 15 goals with 59 points in 73 games, losing the top center spot for a good part of the season. Islander fans love to hate Josh Bailey for a multitude of reasons, which all became elevated as he struggled last year with his foot speed declining. Bailey still finished with 44 points, his most since 2018-19. The final numbers for Kyle Palmieri in his first season on the Island were 15 goals and 33 points, which were both underwhelming. He had just one goal with six assists in 29 games before the all-star break, but responded with 14 goals in 40 games following it. Add in the fact that he was oddly deployed and had an incredible amount of goals disallowed in the second half, and there is confidence for Palmieri to bounce back in 2022-23.

The best forward on the Islanders was easily Brock Nelson last year, as he scored 37 goals in 72 games. While a 21.6 percent shooting rate played a big role in that, Nelson was the only one on the team scoring at times. Only Auston Matthews had more goals scored above expected. That is a testament to his sniping ability, as well as his luck in last season. Anders Lee scored 28 goals after coming back from a torn ACL, an encouraging sign for the Isles’ captain. The team missed his presence in front of the net on the power play, where he scored nine goals. The biggest letdown on the team was easily Anthony Beauvillier, who scored just 12 goals with 34 points in 75 games. This came right after he had 15 goals in 47 games in the shortened season of 2020-21. He was the only real tradable asset for the Isles this offseason, so Beauvillier’s survival on the roster is good news for him.

A hand injury sustained in the 2021 playoffs clearly hindered Jean-Gabriel Pageau last season, especially in the beginning. Scoring 11 goals with 24 points in his final 32 games saved Pageau’s total stats, but he wasn’t the two-way player the Islanders needed. He still received a Selke vote and set a career-high in hits with 171. Another player who is out of excuses with Trotz gone is Oliver Wahlstrom, who got off to a hot start but was often invisible after that. Wahlstrom scored 13 goals with 11 assists in 73 games. He was often healthy scratched, and didn’t get a ton of ice time when he did play. New York signed Zach Parise for third-line production, and they had to have been pleased with the results, as he was extended for the 2022-23 season. Parise finished with 15 goals and 20 assists. He was the most consistent player night in and night out, and even at age 37 was the only player to play in all 82 games for the team.

The infamous Islanders’ fourth line had cracks through it last year, disrupted by injuries and poor play. They never were relied on for offense, but produced a lot less than what was wanted. Casey Cizikas took too many penalties last year, especially for how essential he is to the team’s penalty kill. He had 16 points in 73 games and won a career-best 55.6 percent of draws. Cal Clutterbuck’s 2.03 xGA/60 was the best on the team, directly ahead of Cizikas and Matt Martin. Clutterbuck had 229 hits in 59 games, while scoring nine goals, his most since 2015-16. Even with two more years left under contract, Matt Martin might be getting phased out of the lineup. He played in 71 games last year with 235 hits. But the striking thing is that he was healthy scratched at times, a treatment that the Isles didn’t give his linemates. The team also gave enforcer Ross Johnston another four-year deal, which wouldn’t make sense if he got no playing time. Johnston racked up 90 hits and 44 penalty minutes in 32 games last year. Former first-rounder Kieffer Bellows got his best look at the NHL last season, dressing for 45 games. He had 19 points with 103 hits, securing a $1.2 million contract for this upcoming season. The problem for him is a roster spot, as he seems like the odd man out.

Defensemen

The 2021-22 season was a sad one for the Isles, but Adam Pelech kept going. He didn’t have as much support as in years past, and still was on the ice for just 1.91 goals against per 60 at even strength. Pelech also set a new career-high in points with 28, while blocking 128 shots. Injury separated him from Ryan Pulock, as well as a decision to keep them apart as the rest of the defense labored. Pulock was never his best self last year, and couldn’t take on as high as an ice time share as the team needed him to.

Luckily for Pulock, the emergence of Noah Dobson eased him in. The six-foot-four Dobson still had some defensive struggles while playing with Zdeno Chara, but Dobson’s offense was amazing. He had 51 points in 80 games and took over the power play quarterback role that the Islanders have been needing for years. Of Dobson’s 38 assists, exactly half of them were on the man advantage. He should have some more support next to him this year, as the team sent their first-round pick to Montreal for Alex Romanov. The 22-year-old Romanov had 144 blocked shots and 227 hits in his second NHL season, while earning a second-pairing role for a lowly Canadiens team. Romanov’s offense isn’t exactly what the Islanders were looking for, but he is skilled enough defensively to make him a huge upgrade over Chara.

Within the next 365 days, Scott Mayfield is going to sign a contract that surprises a lot of people. He has been a physical, right-handed shot defenseman who has played mostly on the second-pair for a contender over the past three seasons. Before knowing his name, teams would be lining up for that type of player. There will be an open competition for the last two spots on the team for a defenseman. One will start, while the other is the seventh-defender. Robin Salo struggled in his first 21 NHL games last year, but demonstrated impressive skating and has the offensive potential that the team is looking for. Sebastian Aho got a much better look last year, but had 41.1 xGF% in 36 games. A 2016 first-round pick by Detroit, Dennis Cholowski signed a two-way deal with the Isles this offseason. After being picked in the expansion draft, Cholowski had three assists in 11 games for the Kraken and Capitals last year.

Goaltending

If it wasn’t for Ilya Sorokin, last season could have gotten ugly for the Islanders. Sorokin was third in goals saved above expected at 21.55. Only Igor Shesterkin and Frederik Andersen were better. The standard numbers are actually even more impressive, especially when you consider how much of a mess the team in front of him was. Sorokin posted a .925 save percentage with a 2.40 GAA and seven shutouts. He finished sixth in Vezina voting, which was a crime. The Isles decided not to trade Semyon Varlamov this offseason, even with the veteran entering the final year of his contract and with multiple teams needing goalies. Varlamov struggled as he returned from an injury, with a 2.91 GAA and a .911 save percentage. He still managed a positive goals saved above expected.

Projected Lines

Josh Bailey – Mat Barzal – Kyle Palmieri

Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Anthony Beauvillier

Zach Parise – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom

Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck

Scratched: Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows

Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock

Alex Romanov – Noah Dobson

Robin Salo – Scott Mayfield

Scratched: Sebastian Aho

Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov

New Jersey Devils 2022-23 Season Preview

We are at the annual part of the year where we get hyped up about the Devils. They always seem to be a winner in the offseason, only for things to go completely wrong once the puck drops. Last year, it was some of the worst team goaltending we’ve seen in a long time. The expectations for New Jersey aren’t as high as in years before, but a season of health can do them wonders. They just have to execute.

Offseason additions: F Ondrej Palat, G Vitek Vanecek, D John Marino, F Erik Haula, D Brendan Smith, D Thomas Hickey (PTO), F Zach Senyshyn (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Pavel Zacha, D PK Subban, D Ty Smith, F Janne Kuokkanen, F Jimmy Vesey.

Forwards

While injuries shortened in to just 49 games, Devils fans got the season they were waiting for out of Jack Hughes. In his third NHL year, Hughes scored 26 goals with 56 points, while finishing top-10 in Lady Byng voting. He’s a center, but you have to wonder how long Hughes will stay there for. He has a 35.4 percent face-off win rate in his career. He intermittently played with Jesper Bratt, who was the team’s best player all season long. He had 73 points in 76 games in a huge season that broke him free from the middle-six forward that he was before. In his sophomore season, Yegor Sharangovich scored 24 goals while adding 22 assists. Both Sharangovich and Hughes saw the effects of the team’s goaltending first-hand, with a goals against per 60 over four despite a solid-enough xGA/60.

Captain Nico Hischier was healthy last year after various injuries limited him to 21 games in 2020-21. The result was a career-high 60 points while playing top line minutes split between a seemingly infinite number of linemates. Obviously injuries could change things, but the Devils need to give him stability on his wings. Something to look for this year is how Ondrej Palat adjusts from the dominant Lightning to the Devils in his age-31 season. Palat had 49 points in 77 regular season games, but made his money in the postseason. Palat scored 11 goals with 10 assists for 21 points in 23 games as Tampa Bay went to the Cup finals once again. Dawson Mercer was well in the Calder race in the beginning of the season, but cooled off as Moritz Seider and Trevor Zegras ran away with the discussion. Mercer still finished with a very encouraging rookie campaign, scoring 17 goals with 42 points while playing in every game.

New Jersey is taking a gamble by trading Pavel Zacha, a key member of the team for the last few seasons, to Boston for Erik Haula. The Devils will be Haula’s seventh team, as the veteran is coming off one of his best seasons. He filled in for David Krejci on the Bruins’ second line, and scored 18 goals with 44 points. Behind Hischier and Hughes, his role will be diminished. But Haula brings two-way value that is ideal for a third line center. When the Devils bought low on Tomas Tatar before last year, there was hope that he could outperform the 30 points in 50 games that he had in 2020-21. However, he just matched it while playing in 26 more games. You could look at his on-ice shooting percentage to cope, as Tatar’s 6.86 was the second-lowest on the forward core to only Jimmy Vesey. After a tough 2020-21 in which he had just 11 points in 50 games, Andreas Johnsson had 17 points in his first 19 games. The rest of the year wasn’t as good, as he finished with 35 points in 71 games, scoring just four more goals after that initial hot streak.

If anything goes wrong, the Devils have the option of Alexander Holtz to play in the bottom-six. He had two assists in nine NHL games, with 51 in 52 AHL games. Until them, the fourth line will likely be a familiar mix of young players that the Devils have tried before. Jesper Boqvist had his best season yet, scoring 10 goals with 13 assists in 56 games. He doesn’t bring the size or physicality that his potential linemates have. Center Michael McLeod won over fifty-seven percent of draws, while producing 20 points and 145 hits in 77 games. After losing him the expansion draft, the Devils claimed back Nathan Bastian on waivers following 12 games in Seattle. Bastian scored 11 times in 60 games with 194 hits after he returned. We will have to see where Miles Wood fits in. He was limited to just three games last season after he scored 17 goals in 55 games the year before. Right now, it appears as if he will have to win out a spot. An intriguing option is Fabian Zetterlund, who had eight points in 14 NHL games last season. He dominated at the AHL level, scoring 24 goals with 52 points in 58 games.

Defensemen

The big splash of last offseason for New Jersey was signing defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a seven-year deal. His first year with the Devils was his age-28 season, and Hamilton had been nominated for the Norris Trophy in five consecutive seasons. In a year limited to 62 games, he was definitely disappointing. Hamilton had 30 points, while finishing fourth on the team’s defense in xGF%. He was lower than his partner, former Avalanche Ryan Graves. Taking on a bigger role after a trade to New Jersey, Graves blocked 135 shots with 28 points in his first year as a Devil.

When the Devils gave Jonas Siegenthaler a five-year contract extension this offseason, some understood the decision, while others were befuddled. The truth is that since coming over from Washington in 2020-21, Siegenthaler has been a fantastic defensive-defender. He limited opponents to a 2.17 xGA/60 at even strength last year, while no other defender on the team was under 2.5. In fact, he was the third-best defenseman with at least 500 minutes of ice time at even strength in xGA/60 relative to his teammates. Playing alongside him was Damon Severson, who enjoyed an offensive outburst. He tied his career-high in goals with 11, while setting a new high with 35 assists.

The Devils sent Ty Smith, who was once regarded as the future of the team’s blue line, to Pittsburgh for John Marino. He will likely see his role be diminished as the Devils are stronger on the right side of defense than the Penguins, but Marino has been a very good second-pairing player since debuting in 2019-20. The Devils won the draft lottery again this offseason and had the second overall pick, with which they selected Slovakian defender Simon Nemec. He’s not a lock to make the team, but Nemec has already played in the Olympics, and had 26 points in 39 games in Slovakia. He added 17 more points in 19 playoff games. Veteran Brendan Smith signed with the Devils after providing depth for the Rangers and Hurricanes over the past few seasons. He’s a big body who contributed 73 hits and eight points in 45 games for Carolina in 2021-22.

Goaltending

Seven different goaltenders had multiple starts for the Devils last year, and the highest save percentage among them was .902. That was held by veteran Jonathan Bernier, who missed most of the season with an injury. As of now, he is under contract but doesn’t appear to fit into the team’s plans. The team crucially needs Mackenzie Blackwood to live up to the hype he had when he was a second-round pick in 2015. Blackwood was limited to 25 games last year, and had a rough .892 save percentage and a 3.39 GAA. He had the sixth-worst GSAx in the league last year. Of the five guys worse than him, only Joonas Korpisalo had less games played. The Devils sent two draft picks to Washington for another pick and Vitek Vanecek at the draft. While he still was average at best, Vanecek would have been a huge upgrade for New Jersey last year. In 42 games for the Capitals, he had a .908 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA.

Projected Lines

Yegor Sharangovich – Jack Hughes – Jesper Bratt

Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Dawson Mercer

Tomas Tatar – Erik Haula – Andreas Johnsson

Jesper Boqvist – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian

Extras: Miles Wood, Fabian Zetterlund

Ryan Graves – Dougie Hamilton

Jonas Siegenthaler – Damon Severson

John Marino – Simon Nemec

Extras: Brendan Smith

Mackenzie Blackwood

Vitek Vanecek