So far, the New York Islanders lineup headed into the 2019-2020 season is very similar to the lineup that ended the 2018-2019 season. Filppula and Lehner have departed, but the rest of the roster remains unchanged.
As the summer crawls to an end and pre-season looms just a month away, the outlooks surrounding the New York Islanders have an air of déjà vu. Sure, the critiques aren’t writing articles which place the Islanders dead last in the title this year, but the NHL is still kicking them around. Robin Lehner’s Masterton Trophy was delivered with the wrong team name inscribed. Jordan Eberle was mistaken for Johnny Boychuk in a video tweeted by the NHL. It was quickly taken down, but Boychuk’s name wasn’t even spelt correctly.
Perhaps it isn’t such a terrible thing then, that the team hasn’t changed much either.
Despite the Islanders’ desperate need for a player who could shoot the puck all last season, the team prevailed, made it to the playoffs, and swept the Penguins. The players clearly have the right chemistry, the right coaching, the right attitude. Once again, the Isles just need to add someone who can shoot the puck. And Filppula’s departure combined with Ladd and Clutterbuck’s injuries creates the openings for new, young prospects who love to shoot.
Lou Lamoriello has expressed interest in bringing up some kids this season to fill holes, and Islanders Nation has previously discussed the prospects most ready to break into the NHL. A possible new line-up could look something like this:
Anders Lee | Mathew Barzal | Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier | Brock Nelson | Josh Bailey
Michael Dal Colle | Travis St. Denis | Tom Kuhnhackl
Matt Martin | Casey Cizikas | Ross Johnston
Travis St. Denis to replace Valtteri Filppula. He’s not one of the most talked-about prospects, but he’s one of the most prepared prospects. As previously discussed on Islanders Nation, Travis St. Denis has some great numbers and a great fighting spirit. He’s a rough, two-way player who could really benefit from Trotz’s coaching and bring a fire to the third line.
Other likely options for Filppula’s spot are Tanner Fritz and Otto Koivula. Though most Isles fans aren’t Fritz fans, he does have the most NHL experience and he did show great potential in his last, albeit short, appearance in the NHL. Koivula, on the other hand, only has a half a season of AHL experience, yet shows so much skill and potential. He is certainly one of the most anticipated prospects expected to succeed at training camp. If Beauvillier were shifted down to the third-line center, Koivula could find a home on the second line wing.
Ross Johnston to replace Cal Clutterbuck. Ross Johnston has had a few short stints in the NHL. In fact, he spent all of last season on the Islanders’ payroll but only played 17 games in disjointed bursts. With the Best Fourth Line in Hockey still prevailing, he couldn’t crack the line-up if there wasn’t an injury. This season, however, Clutterbuck might be facing the same hard truth Thomas Hickey did: Long-term injuries pave the way for prospects. Although Clutterbuck should be fully healed by the start of the season, training camp performances might edge the veteran out of the starting line-up. Johnston is practically the same player, just with less confidence and experience.
Toews | Mayfield
Dobson | Aho
Pulock | Boychuk
Dobson and Aho to replace Leddy and Pelech. The Islanders have so many defensemen both on the roster and waiting to burst onto the scene: Luca Sbisa and Denis Siedenberg have been largely ignored; Thomas Hickey saw his core position usurped by a prospect; Noah Dobson, Sebastian Aho, and Bode Wilde are all looking to follow Devon Toews into the NHL. All three have the skill, shooting abilities, and young legs.
Nick Leddy and Adam Pelech are both still solid defensemen, but not the best on the team. Boychuk, too, is getting older. Similar to Clutterbuck, they might find their positions challenged by the kids proving themselves at training camp. Boychuk and Leddy, in particular, should stay on as indispensable veterans and healthy scratches, but the kids should also have their day very soon.
With Trotz’s stellar coaching, the Islanders finally have a stable foundation embedded in the team. The defense is there; all that’s needed now are some younger, trigger happy guys to complete the offense.
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