The Isles lost four of their top scorers from last season to free agency, so Snow has had to completely remake his group of forwards.
The top line is made up of newcomers, with Mike Comrie centering Bill Guerin on the right wing and Ruslan Fedotenko on the left. Comrie had 20 goals and 25 assists in 65 games with Phoenix and Ottawa last season. He has 123 goals and 139 points in 386 NHL games. Guerin, the Isles’ new captain, is a hard hitter with a cannon for a shot. He'll add offense and leadership. Guerin had 36 goals and 20 assists for 56 points in 77 games for St. Louis and San Jose last season and has 364 goals and 355 assists for 719 points in 1,026 NHL games.
Fans in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay are chuckling about "Rusty" Fedotenko being introduced as "Tank" Fedotenko on Long Island this summer. But if the name gets Fedotenko to play with more force and consistency, who knew it was that easy? Fedotenko slipped from a career-high 26 goals two years ago to 12 last season with the Lightning.
Ex-Hurricane Josef Vasicek gives the Islanders size and skill in the middle between left wing Jeff Tambellini and scorer Miroslav Satan. Vasicek has been plagued by knee problems, but if he holds up, this could be a really good combination for Satan. Tambellini plays a strong two-way game so you've got two players in support of one of the NHL’s sharpest shooters.
The vastly underrated Mike Sillinger, who can center all four lines, will again have Trent Hunter on the right side. Hunter had 20 goals last season and is vastly improved defensively. Jon Sim, a 17-goal scorer with Atlanta last season, is likely to play on the left side.
Richard Park could center a fourth line with Chris Simon on his left wing and Sean Bergenheim on the right.
The Isles’ special teams won’t look much like last season’s model, because many of the key players are gone. The Islanders ranked 12th with 18.1 percent success on the power play, but only 18th in killing 81.8 percent of penalties — and they gave up 85 more power plays than they received.
Four of last season’s top seven in power-play time are gone. Nolan will mix and match from among players like Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan, Jon Sim, Sean Bergenheim and Josef Vasicek for scoring. Comrie is excellent at distributing the puck on the power play, and Guerin is a top-flight finisher who flourishes in man-advantage situations. Fedotenko and Vasicek are strong in front of the net.
The biggest thing the Isles could do to help their penalty-killers is to stay out of the box. Mike Sillinger and Richard Park have always been good penalty-killers and Trent Hunter has turned into a good one, but the Isles’ lack of speed really hurt them on the penalty kill.
Up and Coming
Ben Walter -- The son of former NHL player Ryan Walter had 24 goals and 67 points and went plus-23 for AHL Providence last season. He's a rugged player and a good forechecker; the Islanders traded former first-rounder Petteri Nokelainen to get him.
Blake Comeau -- The Isles have high hopes for Comeau, who had a good rookie season at Bridgeport with 12 goals and 31 assists in 61 games. Comeau was the 47th overall pick in the 2004 Entry Draft.
Trevor Smith -- The center-left wing had 21 goals and 43 points in 39 games for the University of New Hampshire, becoming the first Wildcat player ever named to a Hockey East First All-Star Team. He ranked fourth among conference scorers.
Josef Vasicek A 6-foot-4, 215 pounder who plays bigger. But he's had knee troubles for much of his career. The Islanders hope those problems are behind him. He had knee surgery two years ago when he played only 32 regular-season and playoff games for champion Carolina. In 63 games with Nashville and Carolina last season, Vasicek had six goals and 16 assists. He's capable of doing a lot more when healthy.