|Mikhail Grabovski – C||Evgeni Nabokov – G|
|Nikolai Kulemin – RW||Radek Martinek – D|
|Jaroslav Halak – G|
|Chad Johnson – G|
|Jack Skille – RW|
|TJ Brennan – D|
After missing the playoffs for five straight seasons, the Islanders qualified for the postseason in the lockout shortened season, but fell back to the Metropolitan Division basement last year.
They finished the season 34-37-11, which was the fifth worst record in the NHL. Unfortunately they lost John Tavares to a torn MCL in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Surprisingly the Islanders actually had a better record without Tavares in the lineup. Before the Olympics they were 22-30-8 and went 12-7-3 after the 23-year-old was injured. That said, the franchise will be ecstatic to have the former first overall pick back in the lineup in October. He had 24 goals and 42 assists (66 points) in 59 games before the season-ending injury. He will back at 100 per cent and make a push for the Art Ross Trophy. The most important part of having Tavares in the lineup is getting Kyle Okposo going. There was always a ton of potential there, but last season was the first time we saw what Okposo can really do. He had a career-high 27 goals and 42 assists (69 points) in 71 games. As long as he is skating alongside JT he is a candidate for 30 goals and 40 assists.
There will be some new faces at forward on Long Island this season. This offseason they added Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin via free agency. The two were teammates in Toronto from 2008-2013 and should solidify this group of forwards. We expect them to play on the same line, but will probably skate on a line behind the Frans Nielsen trio. Nielsen had a career-year in 2013-14, posting 58 points (25G / 33A) in 80 games. That said, he stepped in after Tavares was injured and posted 15 points (7G / 8A) in 20 games after JT’s injury. Back on the second line expect a small regression, but he still has a shot at 50 points.
This group of forwards is looking much better than it did in past seasons and it should have an infusion of young talent as well. After shredding the AHL last season (49 points in 37 games) Ryan Strome was recalled and played pretty well for the Isles. He is a gifted play-maker with a boatload of talent. With his first full NHL season coming this year, he is a great option in all leagues, but a fantastic keeper league asset. The 2011 fifth overall pick has 20-30 potential this season. This year’s fifth overall pick also belonged to the Isles and they used that pick to select Michael Dal Colle. He already has an NHL frame at 6-foot-2, but needs to fill out if he is going to be a power-forward at this level. He has an elite skill-set that allowed him to post 95 points in 67 games with Oshawa (OHL). He is no lock to make the team, but should he crack the big club he is a candidate to play with Grabo and Kulemin.
On the blueline the Islanders have some good young talent. Their power-play is quarterbacked by veteran Lubomir Visnovsky, but then there is Travis Hickey, 25, Matt Donovan, 24, Travis Hamonic, 24 and Calvin de Haan, 23. Hickey had 22 points in 82 games last season, but has not seen as much power-play time as you would like for a fantasy defenseman. If that changes this season he becomes a more appealing fantsasy option. Donovan started the season with New York but was sent down and had 21 points (7G / 14A) in 27 games with Bridgeport (AHL) before being recalled in January. He didn’t do much until the end of the season when he posted 11 of his 16 points in the final 22 games. If he finds any sort of offensive consistency this season he could take a shot at 30 points. Hamonic did not have his best season in 2013-14, but he had back-to-back mid-20 point seasons in the two previous 82 game seasons, so expect him to get back to that type of production. de Haan probably has the most upside of the group. He is an amazing skater and has the ability to be the power-play quarterback. With Andrew MacDonald in Philadelphia, expect all three of these young D-men to play larger roles this season.
In addition to Grabovski and Kulemin, the Isles completely revamped their goaltending situation. They signed Jaroslav Halak to a four-year, $16 million dollar deal and former Bruins’ back-up Chad Johnson to a two-year contract. Halak has posted great numbers everywhere he has played. In the last four seasons with the Blues and briefly with the Capitals last season, he has gone 88-51-22 with a 2.24 GAA, .917 SV% and 21 shutouts. On Long Island he should start 55-plus games but expect a small drop off in the GAA because he is moving from an excellent defensive Blues team to a less talented Islanders squad. Same goes for Johnson. He was great in Boston last year (2.10 GAA / .925 SV%), but they are also a much better team so his numbers will take hit.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Islanders’ Fantasy Players)
- John Tavares – C
- Kyle Okposo – RW
- Jaroslav Halak – G
- Mikhail Grabovski – C
- Ryan Strome – C
- Frans Nielsen – C
- Josh Bailey – LW
- Lubomir Visnovsky – D
- Calvin de Haan – D
- Michael Grabner – LW
Click HERE for the Islanders’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: The Islanders will climb to 5th in the Metropolitan Division, but still miss the playoffs.
Other Season Previews: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames,Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars,Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils
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