The New York Islanders polished off the 2015-2016 season with a 45-27-10 record, good for fourth in the Metropolitan Division and just a point behind the New York Rangers. The Islanders scored 232 goals and allowed 216, with John Tavares leading the charge offensively. It was their first season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and they managed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
New York took down the Florida Panthers in six games, earning their first playoff series victory since 1993. But they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, thus ending their post-season hopes and setting the stage for their off-season plans.
Without a doubt, the Islanders made some changes. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Tom Nilsson are among the departed, while the new-ish faces include Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and PA Parenteau. The moves give them a new look up front, with Ladd and the returning Parenteau providing some top line skill and Chimera bringing a quality forecheck game.
This is Tavares’ team. The 25-year-old had 70 points in 78 games last season, with seven of his 33 goals coming on the power play. Tavares averaged nearly 20 minutes of ice time a game and impressed in the post-season, averaging 22:53 of ice time a game and coming up with 11 points in 11 games. Tavares is the epitome of a franchise player and he’ll continue to pile up points for years to come, which will always give the Islanders that essential identity.
Ladd had 46 points in 70 games last season and is a tremendous team player. He instantly makes the Islanders better. The 30-year-old had 10 power play goals last season and two short-handed markers. He’s a great winger and pairing him with Tavares would be dynamite. Ladd won’t shoulder the offensive load, but he won’t have to in New York.
33-year-old Parenteau likes to control the puck. He put up 41 points in 77 games last season, including seven power play goals, and he managed 168 shots on goal. He likes to dish the puck, which makes him a power play asset and a great setup man. Parenteau could be a nice supplement for Tavares or he could slot in on a second line and create chances for Brock Nelson. He’s seen success with the franchise player before, coming up with 120 points over two seasons alongside the captain.
Speaking of the 24-year-old centre, Nelson had 40 points in 81 games – including 26 goals. At 6’3, 206 pounds, he has excellent size for the game and plays a two-way game with an emphasis on clearing the action in the corners. While Nelson doesn’t have high-end physicality, his frame can make a difference and he’s generally strong around the net.
Travis Hamonic gives the Islanders a big-minute defenceman with shutdown ability. He averaged 23:49 of ice time a game in the regular season and put up 21 points in 72 games. The 26-year-old has a booming point shot and can play a physical game, but he’s not the most disciplined player in the world and can be prone to bad penalties.
Nick Leddy is a terrific skater and he can lead the rush out of his own end, which opens up options for the forwards. The 25-year-old had 40 points in 81 games last season, averaged 22:37 a game and put up three power play goals. He topped out over 27 minutes a game in the playoffs and had four points in 11 games. His mobility serves him well and he doesn’t shy away from the physical side of things.
Johnny Boychuk gives the Islanders another heavy point shot, which creates chances on the power play. He had 25 points in 70 games, including nine goals, and he averaged 21:22 of ice time a game. Defenceman Calvin De Haan plays a reliable, steady game. The 25-year-old is a good skater and he moves the puck well. He had 16 points in 72 games last season and will continue to pile up the ice time.
Jaroslav Halak is pegged as the starter, but he’ll have to stay out of injury trouble in order to keep the post. The 31-year-old went 18-13-4 last season, with a 2.30 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. He posted three shutouts. Halak reads the play well and responds to pressure with a certain sense of tenacity. He’s also a great team player.
German netminder Thomas Greiss shouldered the load last season and came out well, with a 23-11-4 record. He posted a 2.36 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. Greiss is capable of putting up good numbers in the NHL, but there’s still a sense that he struggles under large workloads. He can split time with Halak without breaking a sweat, but asking more could be tricky.
The Islanders have made great waves with their young core and the prospect pool features some encouraging signs. Mathew Barzal is at the top of most lists and for good reason. The 19-year-old just about made the team out of camp last season but was sent back to the WHL for more conditioning. Barzal made waves in Seattle and seems ready to take the jump to the NHL, which will open things up down the middle.
Defenceman Ryan Pulock was drafted by the Islanders in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The 21-year-old has a big point shot and can make hay on the power play. He saw action in 15 games last season, as well as six post-season games. He plays a simple game, which benefits him in his own end.
The Path Ahead
While the Islanders watched some key players head elsewhere in the off-season, there are reasons for optimism. Tavares is the franchise and reuniting him with Parenteau isn’t a bad thing. New faces like Ladd will help, especially as the team prepares to take the next step in the post-season. The Islanders finally saw some playoff success. Now they’ll have to prove it wasn’t a fluke.