Our New York Islanders 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The New York Islanders have been one of the most successful teams in the NHL over the last 3 seasons. Even though they’ve only been above average in the regular season, being 9th in points percentage at .617, it’s the playoffs where they shine.
With Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello at the helm, the Islanders have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons after making it only 3 times in the 11 seasons prior. In these three appearances, the Islanders lost in the second round in 2018-19 but have then lost in the Conference Finals to Tampa Bay in each of the other two seasons.
This is a team that may not have the star power of some of the teams they’re up against in the Metro or East Divisons but they have a strong, solid, cohesive core that gives this team success.
Through this stretch, the key to the Islanders’ success has been their commitment to team defense. They’ve consistently been among the best in the league in goals against, winning the Jennings Trophy in 2018-19 and being second best in the league in 2020-21.
On the flip side, the Islanders have been a below average at best offensive team, typically finishing in the low to mid 20’s in team placement for goals for. This factor could be something holding the team back ever so slightly. In the quest to turn the New York Islanders into Cup contenders, the front office needed to try and boost the team’s offense.
That was a major focus for Lamoriello over the past year. Most of the primary acquisitions have been forwards with the ability to produce offense (or at least used to at some point in their career). Despite losing one of their better goal scorers in Jordan Eberle at the expansion draft, the team has added Kyle Palmieri and Zach Parise while slowly working Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Kieffer Bellows into bigger roles with the team.
Combining this with the development of Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, the hope is that the team will at least be average offensively in the upcoming seasons to help them game out a few more wins or a deeper playoff run.
New York Islanders Roster Additions
New York Islanders Roster Subtractions
New York Islanders Roster Overview
Team captain Anders Lee will be ready to return to the team for the start of the season after missing half of 2020-21 with an ACL injury. He is one of the better goal scorers, a consistent 20+ goal guy, and the Islanders will need his skillset back in the lineup. He spends a lot of his time playing with Mathew Barzal and the two make a great duo. Barzal is a talented play creator and playmaker as well as the main offensive talent on the roster.
Due to the success of Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey as a line combination, the final spot on the Islanders’ top line will likely fall to Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri had a tough season in 20-21, one of the worst of his career, with 10 goals and 21 points in 51 games (2 goals, 4 points in 17 games with the Islanders). This performance might be a case of really bad luck over the course of a season, as Palmieri’s underlying numbers indicate he should have had around 28 goals. If Palmieri bounces back and finds some chemistry with Barzal and Lee, the Islanders could finally have a top line that scores like a top line again.
As mentioned, the combination of Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey should stick together as a second line. They were on pace to have some of the better offensive seasons of their careers and had great underlying numbers. A perfect situation for a second line. I feel like this is a topic every season at this point but we are still all waiting for Anthony Beauvillier to have this big breakout season we’ve heard so much about. He was on pace for it in 20-21, with a projected 82 game point total just shy of 50 but we are going to want to see what happens over the course of a full season before finally declaring his official breakout.
Veteran newcomer Zach Parise, fresh off of being bought out by the Wild, slots in on the third line in this depth chart. Parise wants to prove that he still has something to give after a difficult season that saw him finish with 18 points in 45 games. He was a healthy scratch on a couple occasions, one being his taking of an extended shift leading to a goal against and the other quite simply for poor performance. He will get a final chance with the Islanders to be productive in a limited role on their third line.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau will serve as the third line centre in this arrangement. He is one of the team’s top penalty killers, an amazing face-off taker, and can chip in 30+ points per season from a depth role. A great, versatile player who is incredibly important to this team. He will be given an additional assignment this season as well, to help develop Oliver Wahlstrom’s game.
Wahlstrom is a great offensive talent that has slowly been worked up through the system over the past couple years. A chance to wing up with Pageau, who can help Wahlstrom navigate the defensive side of the game, will help turn Oliver into the type of player that fits in on this style of Islanders roster. Wahlstrom should also get a chance to create some offense on the powerplay with Jordan Eberle being elsewhere. New York’s powerplay was 20th in the league last season so if Wahlstrom can be a more consistent or dynamic scoring threat than what Eberle was able to provide, that should give a boost to the special teams.
Once again, we will likely see the return of Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck as a fourth line for the team. They don’t provide much offense but they hit everything in sight and can wear down the opposition while still holding their own against tough competition.
Leo Komarov and Richard Panik are a couple of veterans who will compete for some ice time on the bottom 2 forward lines while Kieffer Bellows is an interesting prospect to keep our eyes on. Bellows scored 3 goals in 14 games last season but without a definite roster spot available, there is speculation he might be used as trade bait to improve on defense.
The aforementioned possibility of a trade to improve defense will become more apparent as we work our way down. This group was good last season and is largely unchanged from 20-21, with the only difference being Nick Leddy’s departure. But again, for a team trying to go on a deep playoff run and get through the conference finals, they could use a boost here.
Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech have combined to become one of the best pairings in the NHL. These two are excellent defensively, have a positive impact offensively despite not being big points producers, and are big, physically involved players that serve the team’s philosophy very well. They will eat up most of the tough minutes and penalty killing duties through the season.
Scott Mayfield is pencilled in on this second pairing for now, but Noah Dobson is close behind looking for a chance to take on a bigger role. That bigger for Dobson this season might just be taking on more powerplay time rather than playing higher in the lineup.
The other spot on this pairing is a massive question mark and is where this trade might be needed. The main options for the spot are Zdeno Chara, Thomas Hickey, Andy Greene, and Sebastian Aho. Hickey should be used as a 7th defender as he has only played 5 games in the last 2 seasons due to injury. Greene is almost 39 and has been taking on a smaller role since joining the Islanders, perfect for the third pairing and some penalty killing time. Zdeno Chara is now 44 and has had his ice time slowly decreasing each of the last 5 seasons. And that leaves Aho, who has 25 games of NHL experience. I feel that this spot is going to be filled by committee and we will see Chara and Greene take most of the starts. Hickey, if he does well in camp, might see a lot of games to give Chara and Greene rest days.
Andy Greene and Noah Dobson were decent together last season and spent a lot of time playing together so the situation, to me, remains perfect to let the seasoned vet mentor the youngster for a couple seasons before sending him loose on other pairings.
The Islanders have a great tandem in net. Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin both had great numbers last season, Varlamov especially with his 2.04 GAA, .929 SV%, and 22 GSAA (to lead the league in the last category). Let’s not overlook Sorokin’s performance as well, as it was his rookie season.
These two might split the games more than they did last season where Varlamov started 35 games to Sorokin’s 21 as Trotz gets more comfortable with having Sorokin in net. Especially notable is the Islanders leading the league with 19 sets of back to back games as those are almost definitely split starts between a team’s goaltenders.
New York Islanders 2021-22 Prediction
2nd – 3rd Metro Division
Look this division is about as unpredictable as they come but the Islanders are beginning to cement themselves as a legit competitor trying to work their way into the impending power shift as Washington and Pittsburgh near the end of their windows. This is a strong team that’s looking to improve on its weak areas and adding a bit of offense in this division could go a long way.
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