Despite the departure of John Tavares this offseason, and low expectations around the hockey world for this season’s edition of the New York Islanders, the Islanders have much to be optimistic about. They have an abundance of young talent both on their roster and in their system. This talent will do much to fill the void left by Tavares’ departure in coming seasons.
In the past few seasons, a path has been set on Long Island for prospects to be called up and have success. Matt Barzal headlines this group, as the reigning Calder Trophy winner had a great rookie campaign and appears to be in line to be the next face of the franchise. On defense, Ryan Pulock, armed with an 100 plus mile an hour slap shot, is coming off an encouraging season. In a position so weak for the Islanders at the NHL level, Pulock is a glimmer of hope that’s already present in the league. Anthony Beauvillier, after an up and down start, looked to be a new player in the second half of last year; he and Barzal teamed up with Jordan Eberle to form a very productive line. Nick Leddy, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson, among others, have already established themselves in the NHL and can continue to be successful for years to come.
Aside from the young players who have already established themselves in the NHL, some promising talents are close. John Ho-Sang, through all the off ice incidents and a few stints in the league already, has all the talent in the world. Devon Toews is a highly regarded defenseman who may be ready to make his debut this year. Kieffer Bellows, drafted two years ago, has seen his stock increase since a move to the WHL. Sebastian Aho, who saw action in 22 games last year, figures to open next season on the Islanders roster. Also, after a strong draft, the Islanders can add Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Bode Wilde to this list of highly regarded prospects.
Last season, goaltending continued to be a major weakness for the Islanders. This is a story that has seemingly been repeated for decades on Long Island, but is one that could potentially end soon. Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom are two of the most highly regarded goalie prospects in the world. There were rumors that Sorokin did not want to leave Russia for New York while Garth Snow was general manager; if there were any truth to those rumors, then Sorokin may consider a move to North America now that Lou Lamoriello is in charge. Either way, Sorokin would stand to lose money through a move from the KHL to the NHL, so there have been doubts as to when, if ever, we will see him in the NHL. Soderstrom, who is Swedish, is believed to be much more likely to come across the Atlantic than his Russian counterpart. Sorokin signed an entry- level contract prior to last season and attended pre-season training camp. He did not make the team, and although he could’ve chosen to play in the AHL at Bridgeport, chose to go back to Sweden. He could potentially make the team out of camp this season, and if not may be more inclined to play in the AHL after another year in Sweden.
While the past few weeks have not been particularly encouraging for the Islanders, there is much to look forward to in the near future. The prospects the Islanders have will help make the tough task of rebuilding their current team easier than it could be. In the hands of Lamoriello, a man who has had extensive success in his career, there is reason to believe on Long Island.