Despite their record, the New York Islanders aren’t a bad squad.
Currently, they have a 6-4-1 record after 11 games. All-in-all, it’s not a bad record given the Islanders roster. To this point, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Valtteri Filppula have been running the show in the offensive zone.
Lee, who was recently named captain of the team, is looking to prove that the organization doesn’t need John Tavares in order to succeed long term. After ten games, it’s clear that Lee is truly the leader of the Islanders. Currently, Lee has 4 goals, 7 assists, 4 power-play goals and a 12.9 shooting percentage. He’s not only leading the Islanders in the offensive zone when its comes to points, but he’s also doing a great job as a mentor for their squad.
It is interesting to note that while Lee has been effective in the offensive zone that his success when scoring goals has solely come when the Islanders are playing 5v4 or 5v3 hockey. While he is only lighting the lamp on the power-play and not when playing 5v5, he is demonstrating his playmaking skill-set in all situations; six of his seven assists have been at even strength.
While Lee has had trouble capitalizing at even strength, his line-mate Nelson has been getting the puck in net. At this point in the season, Nelson has a scoring rate of 2.24 Goals/60.
Aside from Lee’s line, I want to point out that Barzal’s performance has slowed. Last season, he posted a 0.85 Goals/60 and a 2.02 Total Assists/60. His Goals/60 and Total Assists/60 have taken a tumble, but the Islanders have only played 10 games. There is still a lot of hockey to come and Barzal will likely rebound soon. He’s got two great wingers as Anthony Beauvillier and Jordan Eberle currently sit at his sides. So, Isles Nation, don’t panic. Barzal will be on fire soon enough.
While the Islanders offense isn’t half bad, there have been rumours linking Artemi Panarin to the club. Unfortunately for Isles Nation, I don’t believe that Panarin is hopping on a flight to JFK, LaGuardia or Islip anytime soon. Panarin’s current team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, are very much in the playoff hunt and I can’t envision their front office cutting the umbilical cord just yet. The Blue Jackets will likely hold onto Panarin and his fellow Russian, Sergei Bobrovsky. With Columbus very much in the hunt, it wouldn’t make sense to trade their pending UFAs at the deadline.
I’ll be blunt. The Islanders have a solid core, but are in a rebuilding pattern. They shouldn’t unload draft picks and prospects for Panarin. If the Islanders were a contender, that would be a different story. There are other ways to improve for Lou Lamoriello to improve his squad.
Instead of poaching Panarin, Lamoriello should sit tight till free agency. There are several UFAs that will be hitting the market on July 1st that would be a great fit on Long Island. Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators, Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks, Matt Duchene of the Senators, Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Myers of the Winnipeg Jets, Jake Gardiner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers and Marcus Johansson of the New Jersey Devils are all scheduled to hit the market at the same time. Lamoriello will have 31 million USD available to play with and he could use those funds to land some star-caliber talent on July 1st.
In addition, the Islanders have a great farm system. Their top prospects include Kieffer Bellows, Linus Soderstrom, Josh Ho-Sang, Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Bode Wilde and Ilya Sorokin. With a solid farm system and a chance to poach some free agents on July 1st, the Islanders are in great shape to put together an outstanding squad for the 2019-2020 season. If everything falls into place, the Islanders could potentially be a playoff team next season.