Eastern Edge – Isle Be Back

by Russ on August 15, 2017
Joshua Ho-Sang - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

The New York Islanders missed the playoffs last season. On the positive side of the ledger, they replaced head coach Jack Capuano with Doug Weight, a change that was applauded by every Isles fan outside of the Capuano family.

All things considered, the Isles survived expansion without sacrificing a roster player and avoided signing any cringe-worthy free agent contracts (think Andrew Ladd from a year ago). This offseason, as far as useful roster players go, they lost Ryan Strome and Travis Hamonic, while gaining Jordan Eberle. Hamonic will be missed. He averaged the third most minutes on the team and led the way with the highest average ice time per game while shorthanded.

With a Tavares bounce-back season and a little growth from their young players, the Isles will be looking to get back to playoff form. They will be in tough to make the postseason, though, as Tampa Bay will also be looking to get back to the dance, as well. If general manager Garth Snow fails to sign Tavares to an extension, and the Islanders miss the playoffs again, he won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of retaining his job.

 

Ryan Pulock

Pulock had a pretty good campaign in the AHL last year, scoring 15 goals and 46 points in 55 contests. In his final junior season, he had 23 goals and 63 points in 66 games.

With Nick Leddy entrenched on the top man advantage unit, Pulock will have to settle for the second power-play minutes, limiting his upside this season. As well, he will have to show he can play in the bottom pairing without being a liability or spend another season shuttling back and forth to the AHL.

In one-year leagues, I would be shying away from Pulock simply because he’s unlikely to play on the top power-play unit, limiting his offensive potential this season. If he does manage to force his way past Leddy, he would be worth turning to if available in your league.

 

Jordan Eberle

Rumor has it Eberle will get a shot at playing the right side on the top line beside John Tavares as well as log prime power-play minutes. Eberle leaves a pretty decent team from a fantasy standpoint and lands in what could be another choice situation.

His tenure in the Alberta capital didn’t end well, so a new start will be welcomed. Eberle has averaged 62 points for every 82 NHL games he has played. He should also threaten 60 points in his first season in Brooklyn.

 

Josh Ho-Sang

Attitude. There are signs that Ho-Sang is figuring “it” out. He has the talent to put up points, all he needs is an extended opportunity, and it looks like he’ll get a longer audition at showcasing his offensive abilities this year.

The right side on this team isn’t very deep after Jordan Eberle. Last season, Ho-Sang had 36 points in 50 AHL games while trying to adapt to the professional game. He also managed to record 10 points in 21 NHL contests last season while averaging 16:27 of ice time per game, including 2:24 with the man advantage.

In his final year of junior, Ho-Sang recorded 82 points in 66 games and had 26 points in 17 playoff matches. He has tons of confidence in himself, but must remember that the hockey community doesn’t tolerate arrogance very well. In order to succeed at the NHL level, he must continue to say and do the right things. If he can manage that, his ability will make him an NHL regular.

 

Andrew Ladd

Maybe last year was just an off-year for the 31-year-old. The Islanders sure hope so after only the first of a seven year, $38.5M contract. His 31 points were his worst since 2007-08. The problem wasn’t with his 23 goals, but his single digit (eight!) assists were a drag on his point total.

Ladd is very durable, missing a total of only 14 games over the last nine years. During that period, he scored at a 0.63 point-per-game clip, or a 52-point pace.

Last season, he averaged the fourth most time on ice amongst Islander forwards and ranked seventh in power-play minutes. His contract should help keep the ice time coming, and if he can catch a couple of breaks, those assists should be closer to 20 this year, to go along with his 20 or so goals. He could be a mild sleeper this year, but offers extremely limited value in salary-cap leagues.

 

Mathew Barzal

We’ll see if Barzal learned anything from spending the year in junior after making the Islanders with a great training camp last season. He got in only two NHL games before his fate was decided.

He had eight points in seven World Junior Hockey Championship contests and scored 79 points in 41 junior matches for Seattle, while potting another 25 points in 16 playoff games. He finished the year with two points in three Memorial Cup bouts.

There will be lots of competition for an NHL job in Brooklyn this year, so a roster spot is far from guaranteed for Barzal. With another year under his belt, though, if he shines at camp again, he could be in for an extended audition with the big club. It would probably be better for him to spend all or most of the year in the AHL. Don’t count on a full NHL campaign from Barzal this year.