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Season Preview: New York Islanders

John Tavares' new linemates, bounce-back season by Ryan Strome among keys

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor
At a glance

2015-16 record: 45-27-10, 100 points, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Defeated Florida Panthers in six games in Eastern Conference First Round; lost to Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in second round

Additions: F: Mathew Barzal, Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd, Anthony Beauvillier; D: Dennis Seidenberg

Subtractions: F: Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin; D: Brian Strait


Projected opening night lineup


Andrew Ladd -- John Tavares -- Jason Chimera

Anders Lee -- Ryan Strome -- Josh Bailey

Brock Nelson -- Mathew Barzal -- Anthony Beauvillier

Nikolay Kulemin -- Casey Cizikas -- Cal Clutterbuck

Shane Prince

Alan Quine


Nick Leddy -- Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan -- Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey -- Dennis Seideberg

Ryan Pulock


Jaroslav Halak

Thomas Greiss

Jean-Francois Berube


Video: WSH@NYI: Berube reaches to make great glove save

New York Islanders captain John Tavares will have new linemates this season with the arrivals of Andrew Ladd, who signed a seven-year contract on July 1, and potentially Jason Chimera, who scored 20 goals for the Washington Capitals last season.

New York is counting on forward Ryan Strome to have a bounce-back season; he had 50 points as a rookie in 2014-15, but his production fell to 28 points last season. Coach Jack Capuano is planning to move Strome from right wing to center, his natural position, and Strome's success could play a huge role in whether the Islanders earn a Stanley Cup Playoff berth for a third consecutive season.

So will the loss of forward Frans Nielsen, one of the more underrated two-way players in the NHL. Nielsen, who had been with the Islanders since he was their third-round pick (No. 87) at the 2002 NHL Draft, signed a six-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1. The Islanders likely will count on Casey Cizikas to pick up the slack; the tenacious center signed a five-year contract extension on June 2. 

The Islanders also will continue to rely on Brock Nelson, who scored 23 goals at even strength last season (26 in all) and left wing Anders Lee, who scored 25 goals in 2014-15 but had 15 in 80 games last season before sustaining a fractured fibula on April 7, a week before the playoffs started.

New York dodged a bullet when defenseman Travis Hamonic rescinded the trade request he made for personal reasons prior to the start of last season. Hamonic is expected to be one of the Islanders' leaders in ice time and could be named an alternate captain before their regular season begins against the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

This season should also be a coming-out party for defenseman Ryan Pulock, the Islanders' first-round pick (No. 15) in 2013. Pulock possesses a booming shot and had three points in six playoff games.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak showed no ill effects from the surgery he had to repair a core injury in May at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, leading Team Europe to the final before it lost to Team Canada. Despite Thomas Greiss' impressive performance during the playoffs (.923 save percentage in 11 games), Halak likely will enter the season as New York's No. 1 goalie.


Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Islanders will qualify because they have Tavares, one of the best players in the League. An illness slowed Tavares for a portion of last season, but he's fully healthy and should return to the MVP-quality form he showed in 2014-15, when he had 86 points and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Tavares wraps around for GWG to clinch


Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

If Ladd, Chimera and one of the younger players such as Mathew Barzal or Anthony Beauvillier don't adequately replace Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, the Islanders could be in trouble. Bounce-back seasons from Lee and Strome also are vital; it's not fair for the Islanders to rely on Tavares to do it by himself, even if he may be capable of doing so.


Breakout candidate

Mathew Barzal. Selected in the first round (No. 16) of the 2015 draft, Barzal nearly made the Islanders out of training camp last season, so a solid camp should prevent them from returning him to Seattle of the Western Hockey League for a fourth season. Barzal, 19, had 88 points (27 goals, 61 assists) in 58 games for Seattle last season. He told he styles his game after Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux.


On the hot seat

Josh Bailey. The 26-year-old forward has bounced around top-six roles, including time playing alongside Tavares. But Bailey, a first-round pick (No. 9) in 2008, has not fulfilled his offensive potential. He had 12 goals and 20 assists in 81 games last season. Bailey is a solid defensive forward, but the Islanders need more on the other end. With young forwards such as Barzal, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang banging on the NHL door, this is an important season for Bailey.


Trophy candidates

Tavares (Hart, Art Ross); Barzal (Calder); Pulock (Calder)



"This is a pretty strong contender, because I've played against them a lot with Washington. I know what they're about and you know how good they could be, and you want to be a part of it." -- forward Jason Chimera 

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