A couple of teams were eliminated last week and now we are down to two. As I've been doing throughout the playoffs, here is a post-mortem on those teams.
New York Islanders
The player who jumped out at me the most is obviously Brock Nelson. He's a big forward who hit his breakthrough at just the right time 18 months ago, and then found another gear this season that I figured might be a bit of over-achieving. But after these playoffs, I'm sold. I'm buying into him being a 65-point player. In 90 regular season and playoff games this year he had 72 points, which is a 66-point pace. He's in his prime and he's secure on a line with linemates who work well with him. Josh Bailey, who led the team in the playoffs with 20 points in 22 games, seems primed to have his production dragged upward alongside Nelson and I can see him flirting with 60 again. Anthony Beauvillier, whose breakout was set to happen this year (and it did), had 53 points in 90 combined games (playoffs and season), which is a 48-point pace. He just turned 23 and still has a couple more steps to take before he's peaked. But on this line I can see him progressing with another handful of points – into the 50s.
That top line of Anders Lee – Mat Barzal – Jordan Eberle has been an elite line in terms of driving possession. One of the best in the league. Offensively-speaking, however, they are only as good as that second line. Barzal will get five or 10 more points than Nelson of course, but Lee and Eberle are probably not going to combine for the same points that Beauvillier and Bailey combine for. But overall this is a fantastic one-two punch. And with Ilya Sorokin in the mix next season I'm pretty excited about this team.
The other player who impressed me was Ryan Pulock. He's a defenseman with high upside and we've been waiting for him to take off for some time now. But keep in mind that he's only 25 (26 next month) and he is the most talented rearguard in the system there. That means that he's their defensive defenseman. Their Alex Pietrangelo. And with offensive options available such as Devon Toews and Noah Dobson, Pulock is going to see a lopsided amount of defensive zone starts. But his skill level is such that he's going to build on his production year after year regardless. His pace this season was for 42 points and I believe next year he'll be adding to that – perhaps by as many as 10.
Vegas Golden Knights
My pick for the Cup couldn't solve