For the first time in 23 seasons, the New York Islanders won a playoff series, building momentum in their first year in Brooklyn. Free agency was not kind to the Islanders as they lost two of their best players from the past few seasons, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. In comes Andrew Ladd to play on the first line and the expectation is that their young trio of first round picks take the next step (or first step) in their games to fill the void. There’s more pressure on the team to succeed than there has been in decades so let’s take a look at how the team is shaping up.
41 wins, 2.33 GAA, .923 sv%. Sound pretty good? Those are the combined stats of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. Greiss had slightly more starts this past season but that was partially due to Halak missing time due to injury. This is a simple case really; draft both goalies together. While you could gamble on one of them hoping the other gets hurt, there’s a better chance that you get a goalie that plays 40 games which isn’t going to provide enough value on its own. There’s also the chance your goalie gets hurt and then you’re the one who gets screwed. If you take both together, especially in roto leagues, you’re going to get the combined value of a strong #2 goalie at a discount.
Shockingly, the Islanders don’t have any defensemen who are clear draft picks in standard 12 man leagues. There are a few guys who are right on the fringe and could be drafted as your fifth defenseman depending on your team needs.
Early indications are that Nick Leddy will be on the first power play unit. His second season for the Islanders was similar to the first with a slight uptick; a career high 40 points due to a strong 35 assists. Leddy had 19 power play assists so he absolutely needs that power play time to be considered for a spot. The shot rate is well below average which hurts his goal total (only 5 last season) plus the penalty minutes are poor. If you are short on assists and STP at the end of your draft, Leddy will do just fine in 12’ers.
On the other side of things, Johnny Boychuk took a step back last season getting only 16 assists. Injuries hurt him early in the year and then he lost his spot on the first power play unit. The shot rate, while remaining above average, also took a big step back with 27 fewer shots in 2 fewer games than in 2014-15. The good news is that Boychuk has always been a plus player, and usually significantly plus. About ten goals from the point is also solid so if you’re short on shots, Boychuk would be a nice choice as your 5th guy. It wouldn’t shock me if he ends up getting PP1 time which would make him a clear hold.
Travis Hamonic could also be on the fringe and become a hold depending on a couple things. One, he could get second power play time; he didn’t get any time last season so it’s an easy way to boost his 21 points. Hamonic was consistently at 65+ PIM until last year when he dropped to 35. If they come back, Hamonic becomes interesting because his shot rate was over 2 per game for the first time in his career. I wouldn’t draft him outside of 16’ers for now but he’s worth monitoring.
Everything starts with John Tavares. He actually took a slight step back last season scoring 33 goals and 37 assists in 78 games. Most of that could be contributed to a drop off in power play points which should bounce back. He’s as close to a lock for 30+40 with 3 shots per game as there is in the league with upside for more as he enters his time. In my way too early rankings , I had Tavares ranked 11th and I still think that’s about right. That makes him a first round pick around the wheel.
Andrew Ladd has been very consistent since he was given a big role in Atlanta back when he was a Chicago cap casualty. You can bank on him for a mid 20’s goal total, above average PIM, shots and STP. As good as the first line for the Jets has been, playing with John Tavares is still worthy of a boost. He’s a nice pick in the middle rounds in that 100-150 overall range.
The one young Islander that didn’t take a step backwards last season was Brock Nelson. That’s not to say he progresses, he mostly flatlined, but he has his best opportunity yet. Nelson scored a career high 26 goals but that was boosted by an extremely high shooting percentage (his shot rate actually dropped). He had only 14 assists which is quite disappointing. My hope is that Nelson gets a spot on the first power play unit and is now the 2C behind Tavares. If that happens, 25+25 is well within the realm of possibility with the upside for more. He’s a nice target in the later rounds for his upside.
Anders Lee looks to be a streamer at this point. Lee’s spot on the first power play unit is now in question and while his shot rate is still average, it took a step back last year. His goal total dropped from 25 to 15 and while it should go back up, it’s doubtful that it gets back to 25 without being on Tavares’ line. The penalty minutes and assists were both career highs but neither move the needle that much. I’d keep an eye on him to see who is on the second line with him and if he gets PP1 time but I wouldn’t draft him in RCL’s.
While the other two guys were close in value, Ryan Strome took a massive step back. After a 50 point second season, Strome had only 8+20 in 71 games getting worse in all 6 categories (none of them were close). Could he bounce back? It’s certainly possible, he’s 23 years old and was a top 5 pick for a reason. There’s a chance he could be the right winger with Tavares but I’d guess he goes on the second line. I’m not drafting him to find out though. He’s a streamer to start that’s worth monitoring.
My assumption is that P.A. Parenteau starts on the first line with Tavares and Ladd. It mostly went unnoticed in Toronto but Parenteau scored 20 goals and added 21 assists in 77 games with 68 PIM and a career best shot rate that is now above average. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets 50+ points if he gets a spot on the top power play, more than likely on the point. I like drafting him in the very late rounds if you need some extra penalty minutes with quality production elsewhere. If he goes undrafted in your league, odds are he will be the best streamer available.
The third first round pick with Strome and Nelson is Mathew Barzal. The 19 year old should make the team this season as the third center. Barzal is an excellent puck handler and has tremendous speed. He’s not draftable in redrafts but in dynasties, he’s a great option that isn’t an obvious choice.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Mathew Barzal
2) Michael Del Colle
3) Ryan Pulock (should be on third pair this year, maybe PP2?)
4) Josh Ho-Sang
5) Kieffer Bellows
That’s all for now guys! I’ll be back on Monday with my top 50 rankings! I’ll get back on the season previews on Tuesday with the New York Rangers. Can’t wait to generate some discussion around them. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Enjoy your weekend, take care!