Here in August, we sit in the least active month of the NHL calendar. A month away from significant action in the NHL world, news is short and hard to come by. So, for the purpose of having some hockey- related material to think about, let’s take every significant NHL award handed out at the end of the season and award them only to members of the New York Islanders. Since last season was not one to celebrate, we’ll anticipate who would win each after this upcoming season. In this alternate future, who will win each award?
Hart Memorial Trophy, Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy: Anders Lee. Although there are a few people who could conceivably contend for the MVP of this coming Islanders season, Lee is in position to take it. The 28 year old winger has scored 74 goals in the past two seasons and has established himself as a leader despite his relative lack of age. This leadership will prove vital following the departure of a certain all-star center, and could mean more to the team coming from a younger voice, since the Islanders figure to be a younger team this season than they have been for a while. Also, Lee should be able to keep up this goal scoring production on a line with Josh Bailey and his new center, presumably Matt Barzal.
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Nick Leddy. Last year was a terrible year for the Islanders’ defense. A top of the league forward corps were more than offset by the worst defense in the league. There isn’t much to write home about on the Islander’s blue line, but one of the standout defenders is Leddy. Leddy is mobile, adept at moving the puck from the defensive end and transitioning to offense while still maintaining control of the puck. He accomplishes this due in large part to his blazing speed. While last year was a disappointing year for Leddy personally, no one on the Islanders’ blue line had a good year. If Barry Trotz can reorganize the Islanders’ defense this season, Leddy should be able to return to his highly productive ways of seasons past.
Veniza Trophy: Robin Lehner. This offseason, the Islanders added Lehner through free agency. Lehner has not been spectacular throughout his years in the NHL, spent so far with Ottawa and Buffalo. He shouldn’t be anywhere near contention for the actual Veniza Trophy, but the Islanders do not expect him to be. If Lehner can provide league average goaltending, or even slightly above that, the Islanders could surprise many who expect them to finish at the bottom of the league. The addition of Mitch Korn should not be overlooked, as he is highly regarded around the NHL and has overseen Braden Holtby’s development in the past years in Washington. League average goaltending, combined with average defense and continued production from the forwards, could be enough for the Islanders to have a good season, and possibly even make a push for the playoffs.
Calder Memorial Trophy: Devon Toews. Toews has catapulted himself to the top of Islanders prospects ratings over the past two seasons. The 24 year old defenseman should have had his shot last year, but injuries prevented what seemed to be an inevitable call up. This year it appears that the road is paved for Toews to spend the whole year in the NHL, should he be able to perform as the Islanders anticipate. The departure of Calvin de Haan opens up a spot in the top 6, and Toews, a left handed shot, seems poised to grab it. Toews’ minor league career leaves few doubts about his credentials; he should run with the opportunity he’ll be afforded this season.
Ted Lindsay Award, Art Ross Trophy: Matt Barzal. Barzal had a sensational rookie year, finishing with 85 points and the Calder Trophy. This season, he should be be given first line minutes alongside Josh Bailey and Anders Lee. Bailey’s playmaking abilities and Lee’s finishing abilities should play perfectly alongside Barzal’s speed and skill, and there’s no reason to believe Barzal can’t recreate the magic of last year, or lead the team in points.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy: Josh Bailey. Josh Bailey, now the longest tenured Islander, plays a very solid defensive game. In four out of his 10 NHL seasons, he has finished with a positive +/-, impressive for a player on a team that has struggled in net and on the blue line over the course of the past 10 years. Bailey has recorded more than 20 penalty minutes just twice since 2011-2012, and in the past two seasons has finished 42 and 49th in league-wide Lady Byng voting. Also, Bailey has also grown into the role of top-line winger in the past two years after an inconsistent start to his NHL career, demonstrating his high level of skill and playing ability.