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Islanders must move on from losing Tavares, Nelson says

Forward wants them 'to pick ourselves back up' after former captain signs with Maple Leafs

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- The New York Islanders need to move on from the departure of center John Tavares and focus on what they do have, forward Brock Nelson said Wednesday. 

"We wish him the best, but things go on and we've got to pick ourselves back up," Nelson said about Tavares, who signed a seven year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1 after playing his first nine NHL seasons with New York. 

Nelson, 26, playing on the first night of the Da Beauty League, a weekly set of 4-on-4 games at Braemar Arena between NHL players with ties to Minnesota, said all of his Islanders teammates dreaded the idea of their captain for the past five seasons leaving.


[RELATED: Lamoriello respects Tavares' decision to leave Islanders]


"It's always tough to see a guy like that go," said Nelson, who has 198 points (99 goals, 89 assists) in five seasons with the Islanders. "He's the captain and leader for nine years. He's been there, kind of been the face of everything, so you hate to see it.

"It's a lot of opportunity for some other guys to step up, some new faces we got, so there will be some change obviously, but we have to feel it out and go with it."

Video: NYI@OTT: Nelson wires wrist shot past Condon

Nelson points to center and Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal as a player who could lift New York this season. Barzal led New York with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists), the first time since 2013-14 that Tavares, with 84 points last season (37 goals, 47 points) was not New York's top scorer. 

"You can go on and on about how tough it is [without Tavares], but I think the future's still bright," said Nelson, who was born in Warroad, Minnesota. "We have one of the best players in the League with Barzal. He came in right away and won the Calder so that's a guy right away you look at [who] could even take a bigger step forward and lead us even more than he did last year, so we can lean on guys like that."

Nelson also mentioned forwards Josh Bailey, who had 71 points last season (18 goals, 53 assists) and Anders Lee, who had 62 points (40 goals, 22 assists), along with defenseman Thomas Hickey, with 25 points (five goals, 20 assists), as potential leaders.

Video: MTL@NYI: Bailey beats Lindgren on slick breakaway

Change also came in the New York front office with the hiring of Lou Lamoriello, who was named president of hockey operations May 22 and became general manager June 5.

Lamoriello, who won the Stanley Cup three times as GM of the New Jersey Devils, had been GM of the Maple Leafs the past three seasons. Under Lamoriello, Toronto reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, their first consecutive postseason berths since 2003 and 2004. 

The Islanders hired Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals last season, as coach June 21.

New York was 35-37-10 last season and finished 17 points behind the Devils for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"Having some new faces from outside it will be different, a little bit of feeling out," Nelson said. "It'll be new. Lou runs a tight ship, everyone knows how he kind of runs things, but everywhere he's been, he's won, so that's a good sign and I'm excited to find out [what's next].

"We have all the pieces. Now we just have to kind of pick ourselves up and go out there and do it."

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