The New York Islanders were in action on Monday night, hosting Colorado. The team has gone through some brutal stretches this year, starting with that circus road trip to open the season. They didn't play a home game until November 20th, and then went through an extensive COVID outbreak. Since Christmas, the team has gone 13-11-2 (heading into Monday night's game), much more in line with what expected from them. Of course, it's a long climb to the playoffs because of how good the East is up top, so it's likely too little, too late.
That doesn't' mean it's a lost season, though. Noah Dobson has been solid at both ends for the Islanders, and also given them a power-play quarterback they can look to for the future. His peripherals have seen a bit uptick, along with his ice time, and that's really making him a valuable fantasy asset. We'll see what the team looks like next year, but he seems to be at the top of the depth chart in many regards now. There have been ongoing defensive issues with Oliver Wahlstrom, but he's developing in a real power-play threat, and that's good news for a team that can struggle to score at times.
Then there is Kieffer Bellows. I was never a fan of the 2016 first rounder as a prospect, and certainly not where he was drafted in the middle of the first round. Nevertheless, he has found his way to some regular time this year given all the injuries the Islanders have had.
Bellows's problem is that he just hasn't taken a step forward offensively. His shot rate per 60 minutes is actually fine – second on the team behind Wahlstrom – but outside the top-9 forwards in high-danger chances. Both he and Wahlstrom, they're taking a lot of shots, but there are not many dangerous shots, and it's why neither are among the top-3 goals per 60 minutes despite leading the team in shot rate. By most metrics, he hasn't done much defensively, either, or at least not enough to be considered a standout. He's just… shooting from bad spots and that's about it.
This is where I remind everyone the last two years have been a catastrophe for player development, and prospect progression isn't linear as it is. With that said, Bellows had 50 points in 125 AHL games *before* the pandemic and just hasn't done much to show he's improved since. He will be 24 years old next season and that means time is starting to run out. We'll see how these final seven weeks go but a healthy Islanders team probably has their top-6 filled already. We have seen players undergo major turnarounds even in the middle of their careers, so he can too, we just need to see more from him than he’s done so far.
Updates on Jason Zucker and Mike Matheson: