As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, the fantasy hockey staff identifies relevant players from the New York Islanders. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.
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Mathew Barzal, C (NHL.com rank: 99) -- He won the Calder Trophy in 2018 but took a big step back in assists (63 to 44) and points (85 to 62) in his second season. Barzal took some time to adjust to coach Barry Trotz's defensive system but led the Islanders in scoring (62) for the second consecutive season and added seven points (two goals, five assists) in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games. Barzal also had 18 power-play points despite New York having the NHL's third worst power play (14.5 percent). Barzal, a potential 2020 restricted free agent, could bounce back to score at least 70 points over a full season with left wing Anders Lee and right wing Jordan Eberle, each of whom has re-signed with the Islanders.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Barzal
Semyon Varlamov, G (117) -- He lost the starting job to Philipp Grubauer with the Colorado Avalanche last season, going 20-19-9 with a .909 save percentage in 49 games. Varlamov, who has never had a win total in the 29-40 range but had an NHL career-high 41 and .927 save percentage in 2013-14 (63 games), is an intriguing fantasy goalie target after signing with the Islanders. Varlamov, ranked among NHL.com's top 20 at the position, has bounce-back appeal under Trotz, who led New York to the best team save percentage (.925) last season with the tandem of Robin Lehner (signed with Chicago Blackhawks on July 1) and Thomas Greiss.
Video: COL@SJS: Varlamov denies Kane's breakaway bid
Thomas Greiss, G (136) -- Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season and had outstanding fantasy coverage (25 wins, .930 SV%, six shutouts in 46 games), but Greiss had nearly identical numbers (23 wins, .927 SV%, five SO in 43 games) to his timeshare teammate and was also one of the biggest fantasy goalie steals. Greiss, a potential 2020 unrestricted free agent, has had year-to-year inconsistency in his NHL career and is ranked behind Varlamov but remains among the top 25 fantasy goalies.
Video: Top five saves of 2018-19: Greiss
Jordan Eberle, RW (165) -- He played mostly on a separate line from Barzal at even strength last regular season, which led to a drastic scoring dip (37 points) compared to 2017-18 (59). But Eberle was moved back onto Barzal's line in late March, leading to a resurgence over his final seven regular-season games (six points) and in the playoffs (nine points, four on power play, in eight games). With more consistent top-line placement, Eberle should be closer to the player he was two seasons ago (25 goals, 34 assists). He could also improve his power-play production (12 PPP last season; 10 in 2017-18) under new assistant coach Jim Hiller, who previously worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs power play for coach Mike Babcock.
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Eberle slips home first playoff goal
Anders Lee, LW (181) -- His goal total dipped from 40 in 2017-18 to 28 last season after the departure of elite center John Tavares (signed with Maple Leafs in free agency on July 1, 2018). However, Lee had one more assist (23) last season than he did in 2017-18 (22) and a much better plus/minus (plus-20; minus-25) as the Islanders captain under Trotz. Lee, who's expected to remain with Barzal and Eberle at even strength and a fixture on the first power play, brings valuable coverage of shots on goal (204 last season), PPP (16) and hits (103; 1.8 per game in NHL career) and is a safe target in late rounds.
Video: Lee signs seven-year extension with Islanders
Ryan Pulock, D (182) -- The hiring of Hiller could directly benefit either Pulock or Devon Toews, who already provided a boost to the first power-play unit in the postseason (five points, four on power play in eight games). Pulock led Islanders defensemen in goals (nine) and assists (28), was among their top skaters in points (37, tied for fifth) and SOG (180, third) and was one PPP (nine) behind Nick Leddy (10), who saw much more time on the first unit. Pulock has a high ceiling if he gets PP1 usage because of his strong hits coverage (143 last season; 1.6 per game in NHL career).
Video: BUF@NYI: Pulock goes five-hole early in 3rd
Other players to consider in late rounds or off waiver wire: Devon Toews, D (217); Josh Bailey, LW/RW; Anthony Beauvillier, C/LW; Brock Nelson, C/LW; Noah Dobson, D
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