August 31-in-31: New York Islanders



The New York Islanders underwent some pretty heavy plastic surgery over the course of the offseason. They made three big swaps: Shipping inconsistent young forward Ryan Strome to Edmonton in exchange for offensive winger Jordan Eberle; donating a first and a second round pick to Vegas in exchange for them taking Mikhail Grabovski’s contract as well as fringe NHL goaltender Jean-Francois Berube; and lastly, replenishing their draft reserves by moving RD Travis Hamonic to Calgary. This could be General Manager Garth Snow’s last stand and he can ill afford to leave any stone unturned.

The Islanders are having a whale of a time with more than just their on-ice product. The hot topic of superstar John Tavares’ future looms heavily on the horizon. Tavares, an unrestricted free agent at year’s end, has not had much team success – winning just one playoff series since he’s been in the league. On top of all that, the ongoing saga of their arena woes does nothing but augment the team’s lackluster performance in the Snow era.

There is help on the way – at least in terms of personnel. “A” prospects like Matt Barzal and Josh Ho-Sang are not terribly similar in style, but they have top-line ceilings. Anthony Beauvillier, already a full-time major leaguer, has shown great utility as a youngster as well. The Isles seem intent on building up a great defense, but all the pieces haven’t fallen quite right for that to actually take hold. Guys who have been around a while now, like Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech have failed to take the next step and it wouldn’t be surprising if only one of them became a useful NHLer. The hope begins to shift to the next wave: Sebastian Aho, Devon Toews and Parker Wotherspoon to pick up the slack in due time.

The Islanders are strong in net from a prospect perspective. Linus Soderstrom and Ilya Sorokin no doubt put the Islanders among the crème de la crème of goalie stables around town. Jaroslav Halak has a lot of talent, but struggled mightily last season, even taking a tour in the minors for a spell. Thomas Greiss doesn’t appear to be more than a marginal backup, so there isn’t exactly a door for the young kids to kick down – it’s unlocked.

The carrot that they can’t seem to get is a trigger man for John Tavares. Maybe Anders Lee, one of the preeminent goalline backs in the circuit, can keep his pace, as free agent acquisition Andrew Ladd has failed to deliver the goods. To make matters worse, the sputtering skating of Michael Dal Colle has not improved and Kieffer Bellows had such a bad year at Boston University that he removed himself from the league all together.

The Islanders have some fresh faces behind the bench. Led by Doug Weight, the former semi-star centerman is tasked with getting the Islanders back into the playoffs in a tough Patrick Division.

Top Ten Prospects:

1. Matt Barzal (C) – Savvy, playmaking center with terrific hockey smarts.

2. Josh Ho-Sang (RW) – Electric, flashy winger with tons of goal-scoring potential.

3. Anthony Beauvillier (C) – Quick-witted and industrious two-way forward with a good release.

4. Linus Soderstrom (G) – Technically-sound Swedish goaltender, very few holes in his game.

5. Ilya Sorokin (G) – Flashy, athletic goaltender who has monster upside, but needs maturity.

6. Sebastian Aho (D) – Mobile, offensive defenseman who could have a Gostisbehere-like impact.