Nov. 19, 2011; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson (45) guards the goal during the second period against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Crease Of Dreams : Who Backs Up Nabokov?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports












The talk of the New York Islanders this off-season always seems to revolve around one topic over and over again….who is the backup goaltender?

After Garth Snow re-signed starter Evgeni Nabokov to a one year contract the very first minute that free agency opened, almost everyone automatically assumed Kevin Poulin was in line for the backup role and an expanded one at that.

Nabokov clearly tired towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs and the importance on head coach Jack Capuano finding someone responsible enough to grab 20-25 starts during the course of the upcoming 82 game regular season is paramount to the team’s success.

But Poulin is not the only choice the coaching staff has after all.

Mike Howlin, a devoted reader of the site, posed this question to me and two others on Twitter the other day.

To be completely honest, I had not given this much credence all summer long and had 6’5″ Swedish netminder Anders Nilsson in my rear view mirror; only this time objects were ‘not as close as they appear to be.’

Coming into what promises to be the most competitive training camp in recent memory for the Islanders, Capuano will give each goaltender plenty of opportunities in practice and exhibition games to win the backup role, with the other being sent to Bridgeport to continue their development with the Sound Tigers.

How do these two stack up statistically as we turn the page from summer boredom to hockey heaven? (stats courtesy of


Kevin Poulin : 6’2, 210 lbs – 23 years old

Season Team Lge GP W L T SO GAA Pct
2006-07 Victoriaville Tigres QMJHL 24 10 6 0 0 3.34 0.896
2007-08 Victoriaville Tigres QMJHL 52 18 23 3 0 3.75 0.885
2008-09 Victoriaville Tigres QMJHL 39 18 16 3 1 3.01 0.905
2009-10 Victoriaville Tigres QMJHL 54 35 16 0 7 2.63 0.916
  169 81 61 6 8 3.14 0.901
2010-11 Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL 15 10 5 0 2 2.19 0.932
2011-12 Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL 49 26 18 4 3 2.79 0.912
2012-13 Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL 32 15 14 3 1 3.22 0.904
  96 51 37 7 6 2.84 0.916
2010-11 New York Islanders NHL 10 4 2 1 0 2.44 0.924
2011-12 New York Islanders NHL 6 2 4 0 0 3.04 0.907
2012-13 New York Islanders NHL 5 1 3 0 0 3.02 0.893
21 7 9 1 0 2.76 0.908



Anders Nilsson : 6’5″, 220 lbs – 23 years old

Season Team Lge GP W L T SO GAA Pct
2007-08 Lulea HF SEL 1
2008-09 Lulea HF SEL 1 0 0 1
2009-10 Lulea HF SEL 27 2 2.65 0.896
2010-11 Lulea HF SEL 31 6 1.92 0.918
  60 8 2.21 0.907
2011-12 Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL 25 15 8 2 1 2.42 0.921
2012-13 Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL 21 8 11 0 1 2.98 0.899
  46 23 19 2 2 2.67 0.91
2011-12 New York Islanders NHL 4 1 2 0 1 2.75 0.91


In looking at the above numbers, it would seem to signify that Nilsson has some catching up to do in professional experience comparative to Poulin, playing only 46 games at the American Hockey League level and 4 at the National Hockey League level. Experience is always a key factor when a goaltender is making the adjustment to the pro game’s speed and shot heavy snipers.

What could hurt Poulin, however, in his bid for the Islanders backup job behind Nabokov is that he has not exactly shined at any level he has played. Very pedestrian numbers have plagued him ever since his start in the Quebec major junior hockey league. His career marks in that system of 3.14 and .901 carried over to Bridgeport where he was 2.84 and .916. His limited experience on the big club has not produced better results at 2.76 and .908.

Does that mean that he cannot succeed and be the goaltender that the Islanders and their fans expect him to be? Of course not. His play in relief of Nabokov in last year’s playoffs and spots start down the stretch against Winnipeg and in Philadelphia were both very good and he did not at all look out-of-place.

Keep in mind that both these men are coming off maladies as well that could have definitely affected their numbers in a negative way.  In 2011, Poulin hurt his knee in warmups and ended up having replacement surgery for a dislocated kneecap. Nilsson likewise suffered from an unknown illness that caused him serious fatigue, which was later diagnosed as a lack of B12 vitamin.

Both these young stars expect to come into training camp with something to prove and show the coaching staff which one deserves to break with the club on October 4 in Newark, NJ. It will be interesting to witness that’s for sure and we will have live reports from training camp on how we see the battle progressing.

Now it’s your turn…..which goaltender do you project to win the competition to back up Nabokov in the Islanders crease? Let your voice be heard below and as always, thanks for reading Eyes On Isles.

-Andy (@tazman19)

Who Do You See Winning The Backup Role For 2013-14?

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Tags: Anders Nilsson Evgeni Nabokov Kevin Poulin New York Islanders NHL Offseason

  • Mary C Legg

    look at eliteProspects
    2009 round 3 #62 overall by New York Islanders
    “A huge goaltender that is technically skilled. Nilsson has good hockey smarts plays with calmness and has good mental strength. Challenges the shooters and has been very consistent during his career, rarely having bad games. Furthermore, he is athletic and quite agile.”

    these are Nilsson’s Awards
    2008-2009 J20 SuperElit (North) Best GAA (2.07)
    J20 SuperElit (North) Best SVS% (.928)
    2009-2010 U20 WJC Bronze Medal
    2010-2011 Elitserien Best GAA (1.92)
    World Championship Silver Medal
    2011-2012 AHL Goaltender of the Month (February)

    Awards by league
    - AHL Goaltender of the Month 11/12
    - Elitserien Best GAA 10/11
    - J20 SuperElit (North) Best GAA 08/09
    - J20 SuperElit (North) Best SVS% 08/09
    - U20 WJC Bronze Medal 09/10
    - World Championship Silver Medal 10/11

    2007-08 ElitserienJ18 playoffs w/Lulea Playoffs 1 6.00 .786
    2008-09 Elitserien j20 playoffs w/Lulea Playoffs 6 2.35
    2009-10 SWE U20 intl 5 2.27 .919
    2010-11 Lulea 31 1.92 .918 playoff 13 1.96 .931

    2008 round 5 #126 overall by New York Islanders
    2007-2008 CHL Top Prospects Game
    2009-2010 CHL Goaltender of the Week (Apr. 4)
    QMJHL Second All-Star Team
    2011-2012 AHL Goaltender of the Month (January)
    AHL Player of the Week (Jan. 8)

    Awards by league
    - AHL Goaltender of the Month 11/12
    - AHL Player of the Week 11/12
    - CHL Goaltender of the Week 09/10
    - CHL Top Prospects Game 07/08
    - QMJHL Second All-Star Team 09/10

    A career of up/down between NYI/AHL going nowhere.

    Think there is zit comparison between AHL and Elitserien and Sweden is dominant force in world hockey, so think Nilsson is far greater potential.

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