So yeah, the Islanders have 16 NHL forwards on the roster as of July 2. That’s too many, as Islander Point Blank has pointed out.
So what is likely to happen come opening night? Truthfully, we don’t know. There are many days between then and now, and still a few moves to be made for the Islanders. In the mean time though, we can speculate, no?
Here’s what we know at this point, maybe…
- First Line: Okposo, Tavares and ??
- Second line Kulemin, Grabovski, and ??
- Third Line: Clutterback, Neilsen, and ??
- Fourth Line: MArtin, Cizikas and ??
I think the pairs of two make the most sense. The first two lines are pretty much written in stone. I think Neilsen is the obvious third line center, and I’m excited as heck about that. I’ve got nothing but love for Neilsen, and I think he did a decent job as a second line center last year, but he is maybe one of the best third line centers in the league. That’s where he should be playing, matching up as a defensive unit against the other teams best line, and chipping in offensively with his skill. Since this is our shutdown unit, I think Clutterback fits here as well. On the fourth line, Martin and Cizikas play a physical role that you like from your 4th line, and they can even occasionally generate some offense.
That leaves us 4 spots and 8 players.
I think Cory Conacher is going to get the first shot at playing with JT and Okposo. He had a stretch during his rookie year in Tampa where he scored 24 points in 35 games. Then he got traded to Ottawa and something went seriously wrong. He’s 24 years old and if he’s ever going to find that scoring touch again, it’ll be playing up there. If he doesn’t, I could see Strome or Lee getting the spot, though.
That second line spot? I think it’s Anders Lee as of right now. 9 goals in 22 games last year is a nice start. Let’s see if he can keep that up playing full time. If not Lee, I could see Strome here as well, but I suspect Strome will start the season in Bridgeport, told to tear it up down there and play his way into the lineup. I only think Strome will be the one in Bridgeport because he is a center, and may need to learn to play the wing more. Of course, the exact opposite of this, Strome with the Isles and Lee in Bridgeport is probably more likely!
I like Grabner on that third line. His speed is a good defensive asset, and a nice compliment to what Neilsen and Clutterback bring to the table. Plus, while he’s not a consistent enough scorer to be in the top 6, he is a good penalty killer and can be an offensive threat when he gets on a streak!
That leaves us with the 4th line, where I like Brock Nelson. The young guy showed he belonged last year, and can move up just about anywhere in the lineup and not be out of place. You want that in your day to day lineup.
That leaves out Bailey, MacDonald, one of Lee/Strome and Boulton from our starting lineup, barring a trade. Boulton is the obvious choice for the extra forward. If you’re going to have a heavyweight, you have to have him available from time to time. I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I also don’t think Bailey is going anywhere either. He has been so inconsistent, and has a few years left on his contract, so I don’t believe he has any trade value at this point. I like Colin MacDonald, I just don’t know where he plays with the lineup as it is. I’m not sure there’s much trade value there either.
No, the trade value lives with the three youngsters, Lee, Nelson, and Strome. I can’t see Garth dealing Strome, but Lee or Nelson is a possibility, especially if a decent defender is coming back. Grabner has some trade value as well, as do Clutterback and Neilsen, though for Neilsen I am going to need a good defender! I know some people seem to think they may deal Neilsen, who has a lot of trade value, to make a spot at center for Strome, but the 3rd line center spot is not the place for Strome. (see defensive matchups, above.)
At the very least, the Isles have, apparently, addressed the most glaring need. That’d be the same one they had last year and didn’t address, the goaltender situation. Halak and Johnson should be a huge upgrade over the 30th ranked goalie tandem in the NHL. They’ve also addressed the one thing, other than goalie, that I considered to be a huge problem, a second line with too many wildly inconsistent scorers on it. If Bailey and Grabner were still the second line wings, I might just have quit paying attention before the season started! The only need yet to be addressed is in the defense. TJ Brennan might turn out to be a steal, Griffin Reinhart might make the team out of camp and be amazing Visnovsky might stay healthy all year and turn in a “turn back the clock type” of season, but I’m not sure we can count on any of those things happening. Let’s see what the excess at forward turns into, shall we?
What do you think? Who stays, who goes, and who do you see lining up come October?