-- Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, nobody probably envisioned Matt Moulson
scoring 30 goals for the New York Islanders
Except for Matt Moulson
, of course.
But with two more goals in Monday's 4-0 win against the New Jersey Devils
in front of a capacity crowd at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Moulson is indeed on pace to score 30 goals in his first full season in the NHL. He now leads the club with 19.
Not bad for someone who had to have a phenomenal training camp just to make the opening-night roster. Nonetheless, it's the type of success Moulson knew he was capable of enjoying at the NHL level.
"I'm not going to answer 'No' to that," Moulson said with a smile as wide as the Long Island Expressway. "I think I'm in trouble if I ever said that. I always believed that. I was kind of naïve and always believed my chance would come. I kept working. Thankfully, it happened with this organization."
Moulson, a ninth-round draft choice in 2003 (Pittsburgh), entered this season with just 29 games of NHL experience on his resume. The 26-year-old spent the majority of his pro career in the American Hockey League and had 21 goals and 26 assists in 54 games last season with the Manchester Monarchs.
After appearing in 22 games for the Los Angeles Kings
in 2007-08 -- when he had 5 goals and 4 assists -- Moulson played in only seven contests for the club last season. He had 1 goal and entered the summer as an unrestricted free agent.
The recruiting from Isles GM Garth Snow
and his staff began almost immediately. Moulson signed with the team just five days after market opened on July 6, 2009.
"Garth and (Assistant to the GM) Kerry Gwydir had mentioned his name in the summer," Islanders coach Scott Gordon
said. "I had put in a phone call to him and told him what our situation was here. He obviously had some offers. Like I explained to him, our situation is unique in that we're trying to get a young team here and there'd be more opportunities than what he might see from other teams.
"The reality is, he could have gone to another organization. To find a spot where he would have the potential to play on the power play and be a top-six guy would be pretty hard. But with our team, it was a situation that we provided him the most opportunity."
Skating alongside childhood friend John Tavares
, Moulson exploded on to the scene as he had a four-game goal-scoring streak from Oct. 12-21. Less than two months later, he tallied his first NHL hat trick against the Atlanta Thrashers
Later in December, however, Moulson hit a dry spell. He went 10-straight games without a goal and found himself playing with new linemates as Gordon tried to kick-start his sputtering offense. This month, things have turned around. His two goals against the Devils were his third and fourth in 2010.
"A lot of players in this League went through a slump," Moulson said. "It seems when you're in times like that, nothing is going right. But I think I'm back to getting bounces. They can't all miss. I think I just have to keep getting shots and being around the net."
Moulson isn't the only one who believes in such a philosophy. He and his teammates chased Martin Brodeur
Monday and finished with 46 shots. Moulson had seven of them and helped the Islanders win their fourth straight. New Jersey joins Phoenix, Detroit and Buffalo on the list of teams New York has disposed of in a nine-day span.
"I was kind of naïve and always believed my chance would come. I kept working. Thankfully, it happened with this organization." -- Matt Moulson
"It's huge for confidence," Moulson said. "They haven't come easy. We've worked for everything we've gotten so far. We're beating really good teams, and we know that. We're just trying to play every team the same. That's our goal right now."
And right now, the Islanders are in playoff position. Monday's win gave them sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference and pulled them within two points of the No. 5 seed.
"During training camp and early in the season, this is the position we wanted to be in … going down the stretch and being in the hunt," Moulson said. "I think everyone in here believed we were capable of it. It kind of seems like everything's coming together."
Without question, the signing of Moulson has become of the most underrated moves of last summer. Much like some of his teammates -- take Rob Schremp
, for instance -- all he needed was an opportunity.
"It feels good," Moulson said. "Whatever I can do to help this team win. It's about goal scoring and being around the net. It's just great to get the wins. Everyone's pretty confident right now. We seem to be going well -- all four lines, all six 'D' and every goalie we have every game. It's a real positive outlook."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.