For a team that missed the playoffs last season, there is so much on the line for the Islanders this year. The team caught a massive heater towards the end once Doug Weight took over behind the bench but it wasn’t enough. Why is everything at stake for them? Two words: John Tavares. He’s been the franchise player since he was drafted first overall and now Tavares is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent. Can they convince him to stay? They’ll surely offer him virtually any deal that he wants monetarily but they’ll have to make progress on the ice. The Islanders have a plethora of young forwards that could take a jump and now that Jack Capuano is gone, they should play the right goalie all season. The problem is that their division, as discussed here, is awfully tough. Let’s take a look at what the Islanders are working with:
Elite Talent – Tavares is coming off his worst season in the past six, scoring 28 goals and 38 assists in 76 games. That shows you how high his floor is. Add in an elite shot rate with solid penalty minutes and Tavares is a solid pick towards the back end of the second round. He’s ranked 23rd in my Top 50.
Must Draft – In an offseason move that I believe was quite the fleecing, the Islanders acquired Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. Eberle has struggled the past two seasons compared to previous levels but still, 21+30 with a solid shot rate is nothing to sneeze at. The good news is that he should get to play with Tavares now and play on the first power play unit. While I don’t think Eberle is the point per game player he was in 2011-12, getting back to the 65 point range seems doable. You won’t get any penalty minutes owning Eberle but he’ll probably be just outside my top 100 overall.
Reid and I talked about Anders Lee extensively in the podcast linked in the intro. Lee broke out last season scoring 34 goals and 18 assists with 56 PIM. I expect the goals to come down slightly given his absurdly high shooting percentage but he’s a nice pick in the middle rounds for the goals-PIM combo.
Streamers With Upside – The Islanders have a few players in this category but my favorite is Josh Ho-Sang. In his brief stint at the end of the season, Ho-Sang was solid scoring 4 goals and 6 assists in 21 games. The problem is that he had only 22 SOG in those 21 games. That is the only reason I’m not taking a late round flier on him in 12 man redrafts. That said, if he starts putting the puck on net, I can definitely see him being a hold for extended stretches.
Mathew Barzal played two games for the Islanders last season before being scratched a bunch and then being sent back to the WHL. At this point, I expect him to be on the Islanders all year and be one of their middle six centers. His offensive tools are outstanding: elite skater, great puck handler and excellent wrist shot. We are probably a couple years away from Barzal reaching his potential but the upside is through the roof.
Another high draft pick, Anthony Beauvillier showed flashes last season but his overall numbers are far from 12’er worthy. He’s further down the totem pole as far as streamers go but the former first round pick has a high ceiling so if he puts it together, he can be an elite streamer this year. Unlike the other two, it’s hard to see more than that given his low penalty minutes and shot rate.
Safe Streamers – It may be a bit unfair to put Josh Bailey in this category coming off easily the best season of his career. Bailey scored 13 goals and dished 43 assists last season putting him on the edge of a hold or elite streamer all year. My concern is that his points drop off a bit if Eberle takes his place next to Tavares, which all indications are that that is what is going to happen. If you drop 10 points of his stat line, it’s barely usable in 12’ers. Don’t draft him but look to see what his role is at the beginning of the season to determine how to use him. Or just read my posts, I’ll let you know!
Brock Nelson has decent value in deep leagues since he’s solid across the board but he doesn’t do anything at an elite level. Nelson has scored at least 20 goals each of the past three seasons but he’s never been a good power play player or topped 25 assists. He’ll have some hot streaks throughout the year where you hold him but don’t expect him to get back to the 26 goals he scored two seasons ago barring a jump in shot rate or a high shooting percentage.
Must Draft – The options for Islander fantasy defensemen are extremely limited. Nick Leddy is a guy who should be drafted but is extremely boring. Leddy scored a career high 11 goals last season and tied a career high with 35 assists. The problem is that his shot rate is poor and he gives little penalty minutes. Leddy is a decent guy to draft late if you need assists and decent STP; I expect around the same stat line again.
Team Needs – At this point, Johnny Boychuk isn’t really 12’er worthy. However, he does do two things very well: have a great plus-minus and an above average shot rate for a defenseman. Boychuk has been +11 or better the past three years for the Islanders and has been a plus player every season of his career. He probably won’t top 30 points so he’s only useful if you’re desperate for plus-minus an shots.
GOALIES – While he didn’t have his best season, I am firmly on record that if Jack Capuano played Thomas Greiss for the majority of their games, the Islanders would have made the playoffs. Greiss had a .913 sv% last season in 49 starts after posting a .925 sv% in 2015-16. While I don’t think he’s a world beater, he should get the majority of starts this season on a good team making him a decent #2 fantasy option.
After being sent to the AHL, Jaroslav Halak finished the season strong with the Islanders. He was an abomination for the majority of the season but a late rally pushed his save percentage to a respectable .915. Could he work his way into a timeshare with Greiss? Sure, it’s possible. At the least, Halak will probably play more than most backups. He has a history of being super streaky so pay attention to his starts and grab him when he’s a hot schmotato.
HITS / BLOCKS / FACEOFF LEAGUES
Lee gets a huge boost into the top 100 overall with his massive hit total. Boychuk also becomes a clear hold with well above-average hits and blocks. Calvin De Haan and Dennis Seidenberg both move onto the radar as guys who specialize in both categories. Andrew Ladd moves into streamer status. Sure, he scored 23 goals last season, but only 8 assists is absurd. Given his age and style of play, I don’t think we see much of a bounce back. Knock Tavares down a tier and I wouldn’t stream Ho-Sang; he had only 4 hits and 2 blocks in 21 games.
Ho-Sang, Beauvillier and Barzal all move up the rankings quite a bit. Otherwise, there’s not much else to see here for the Islanders. Their goalies are in their low 30’s and the rest of their forwards are currently in their prime.
Blue Chip – Ho-Sang and Barzal are their top two guys. I’m only mentioning them here for those who do dynasty drafts so you know how highly I regard both of them. Like for this season, I have Ho-Sang ahead of Barzal but it’s close for the long term.
Ilya Sorokin is one of my favorite goaltending prospects. The 22 year old was a monster in the KHL last season posting a 1.61/.929 in 39 games. There’s a very good chance that Sorokin is the goaltender of the future for the Islanders. He’s a couple years away but if you can wait, it could pay off huge dividends. If it’s not Sorokin, then Linus Soderstrom will end up their goalie. I put him a notch below Sorokin but Soderstrom was outstanding in his own right in the Swedish league last season. His 1.34 GAA and .943 sv% is simply mind blowing.
What Are You Exactly? – There are two other former first round picks that I don’t know what to make of. Ryan Pulock will be in the NHL sooner than later. His slap shot is terrific and his offense came around last season in Bridgeport with 15 goals and 31 assists in 55 games. He previously never topped 29 points in the AHL so was this an outlier or simply natural progression for a 22 year old defenseman? I’m inclined to think the latter but my worry is that he’ll be in trouble at the NHL level because his skating is subpar. I like him in the long term but I don’t love him.
The tougher guy to place is Michael Dal Colle. The former 5th overall pick played all of last season in Bridgeport scoring 15 goals and 26 assists in 75 games. I expect him to play there again this season despite being three full seasons removed from his draft year. There’s still plenty of upside here but it does concern me that he’s still not in the NHL. Don’t reach for him just because he was a top 5 pick at one point but I’d be willing to take a shot on him later on in a prospect draft.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back on Friday looking at the Philadelphia Flyers. I’m targeting early next week for the rest of my top 100 to be completed. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!