The New York Islanders finished the 2014-2015 season with a 47-28-7 record, giving them 101 points—good enough to finish third in the Metropolitan Division. Facing off against the Washington Capitals in the first round, the Islanders lost in Game 7 of what was a competitive back-and-forth series.
There is a different attitude for the team going into the offseason this year. They will now aspire to not only be a playoff team, but also to compete for the division title. True to expectations, the Islanders should be in good shape next season as their youth gains another year of development.
The Islanders do not possess any picks in the first two rounds of the draft, trading both away when they acquired Thomas Vanek last season. In hindsight, it looks like Garth Snow made the right decision to defer giving the Buffalo Sabres the rights to their 2015 first rounder at 21st overall instead of last year’s pick at fifth overall. In total, the Islanders possess five picks in the upcoming draft.
Top 10 Prospects:
Unlike last season, the Islanders don’t have a glaring weakness on their roster. They patched their goaltending with the trade and signing of Jaroslav Halak, and fixed their defense—last season’s biggest weakness—with the shrewd acquisitions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.
The Islanders could use a left winger to play on the top line with John Tavares. The good news for Islanders fans is that they may already have that player in their system with Dal Colle. He has played well enough in junior to show he can develop into a goal scoring top-six forward.
The Islanders are also in need of a reliable backup goaltender to take the pressure off of Halak. The team may look into free agency again after the Chad Johnson experiment failed last season. Michal Neuvirth, who was acquired at the deadline, has proven he can be a good backup if the organization chooses to resign him.
Although the Islanders have assembled a deep defense, they lack a true number-one defenseman to lead the team. There is a chance Reinhart or Pulock can develop into that player, but they are more likely to become the complementary half of a solid pairing. With Boychuk, Leddy, Calvin de Haan, and Travis Hamonic also on the roster, the Islanders will potentially have as good a defense corps as any in due time.
The center ice position has been the strength of the Islanders pool in recent years, but after the graduation of many recent players, the focus shifts to their defense. The Islanders are deep at defense in both the NHL roster and in the system. Five of their top ten and two of their top three prospects are defenseman.
Both Reinhart and Pulock should be given a chance to make the big team out of camp next season on the third pairing. After that, the Islanders have a glut of defenseman who have the potential to carve a role as 3rd pairing defenseman. The Sound Tigers will be loaded with prospects on the backend again next season between Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech, Jesse Graham, Kevin Czuczman, Kyle Burroughs, and Robbie Russo.
At left wing, there isn’t much depth beyond top prospect Michael Dal Colle. Mike Halmo has shown he has potential, but tops out as a 4th liner. John Persson and Ross Johnston are long shots to be full time NHL players.
At right wing, Josh Ho-Sang is the only notable prospect and he is no sure thing to reach the NHL. Sebastian Collberg and Taylor Cammarata have skill, but have a long way to go to. At this point it looks like Kirill Petrov will never cross the border.
The Islanders have yet to develop a reliable goaltender. Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom look promising, but still need time before they are ready to compete for a backup role. Stephon Williams is coming off a good year with Minnesota State and will turn pro next season. Williams also had success in the small amount of games he played with the Sound Tigers at the end of the season, going 3-1 with a .936 save percentage and a 2.12 goals against average.
The Islanders have gone to the CHL for their last seven first round picks dating back to when they chose Josh Bailey with the 9th overall pick in 2008.
They look to draft collegiate-bound players in the later rounds, giving players more time to round out their games and the organization more time to decide if they are worth giving a contract to.
The Islanders have gone heavy in defense in the past four drafts, resulting in a stockpile of prospects on the backend. The Islanders have taken four goaltenders in the past few drafts, restocking their system at that position. Skilled forwards should be a point of emphasis moving forward.