Islanders Mid-Season Report Cards: The Forwards


Dec 20, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing

Thomas Vanek

(26) celebrates with Islanders center

Frans Nielsen

(51) and Islanders center

John Tavares

(91) after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden. The Islanders won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


We’re 39 games into the 2013-14 season, and nearly halfway through what fans had hoped would be a season in which the Islanders returned to relevancy, we all have been mightily disappointed. The swagger that we saw from the Islanders towards the end of last season has disappeared. Confidence has been lacking recently, and it’s shown on the ice, as the Islanders are 27th out of 30 teams in the NHL, just six points ahead of the NHL’s bottom dwelling Buffalo Sabres.

However, the Islanders are still in the playoff chase, as incredible as that may sound. As of today, they’re just 9 points out of a playoff spot, which is very doable given the fact that there is still half of the season to be played.

Despite the Islanders dismal record, there have been individual players who have played very well this season. On the flip side, of course, there have been players who have been terribly quiet thus far. Below, we have the official mid-season report cards for the 2013-14 Islanders forwards.


Notable drop-outs: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Moulson

91- John Tavares: 38 GP, 13-26-39

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically speaking, John Tavares is on pace for the best season of his career. His current stats, 39 points in 38 games has him on pace to record 84 points this season. While of course, these numbers are impressive, Tavares himself hasn’t seemingly been as dominant as he was last truncated season. His ability to take over a game which we witnessed last year has noticeably died down this season.

Don’t get me wrong, Tavares has been the best Islanders forward this season, and he’s an NHL scoring threat being a top 10 scorer in the league, but his dominant presence isn’t where it was last season.

Grade: A-, The stats are there, but the dominance isn’t at its peak. Look for that to change soon.

26- Thomas Vanek: 23 GP, 9-8-17

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Vanek has been a bright spot since coming to Long Island after the rather surprising trade that sent Matt Moulson to the Buffalo Sabres. It took Vanek a few games to settle in and get used to John Tavares’ style of play, but the new tandem has worked wonderfully in the several weeks. Vanek has scored 3 goals in as many games and is noticeably playing with more confidence.

Grade: B+, Vanek has played very well since coming to Long Island, and hopefully the Islanders front office locks him up long term soon.

21- Kyle Okposo: 39 GP: 12-21-33

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Okposo got off to a terrific start of the season, being among the league leaders in assists and points in mid-November. He was the right choice for what was the vacant spot on the first line right wing.

In the last month, Okposo has come back down to earth, but is still producing solidly. He is second  on the team in goals behind John Tavares. His offense, while not where it was during his remarkable start, is still impressive, as Kyle is on pace for personal records and perhaps a point-per-game season.

Grade: B+, Okposo’s offense has been terrific, but his two way ability has been slightly lacking at this point in the 2013-14 season.

12- Josh Bailey: 38 GP: 4-9-13

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There isn’t much to be said about the play of Josh Bailey that hasn’t been said before. He had a terrific opening month of October, and has been dormant since. He has not registered a goal since October 25th, which is just inexcusable. Playing on the team’s second line, you are expected to contribute offensively, and he has failed to do that.

Grade: D, After what was a great stretch at the end of last season and an impressive playoff series, Josh Bailey has simmered down, and his lack of production is hurting the Islanders.

51- Frans Nielsen– 39 GP: 13-17-30

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Frans Nielsen, similarly to Josh Bailey, got off to a terrific start to the 2013-14 season. He was surprising fans around the entire NHL with goal scoring that was among league leaders early in the season. His confidence was high coming into this season after a strong campaign last season, and it certainly showed on the ice.

Recently, Nielsen has quieted down a bit, but is still an offensive contribution for the Islanders, frequently scoring goals and assists. He is tied for first on the team with 13 goals, an impressive stat given that Nielsen is playing on a team with superstars like John Tavares and Thomas Vanek.

Since his scoring has become far more frequent, Nielsen’s two-way game has diminished slightly. He has been a solid defensive forward throughout his career, but he has been making uncharacteristic mistakes on the defensive side this season.

Grade: B+, Nielsen’s offense is not where it was early in the season, but it’s still more than what we’ve typically seen from him. The only thing restricting him from a higher grade is his recent defensive mistakes, which hopefully will disappear soon.

Dec 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders right wing Michael Grabner (40) during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

40- Michael Grabner: 36 GP: 5-7-12

Michael Grabner was a tough grade to give out. His offense until very recently was completely gone. Prior to December 20th, Grabner did not register a single goal since Opening Night way back on October 5th. IF you’re getting paid to put the puck in the net, that’s what you’re expected to do, and Grabner has failed to do that virtually all season.However, he’s started to play a more physical, defensive style of play in the last few weeks, and he’s been an asset in that sense to the team. He’s been taking the body more often than we’ve ever seen him do so, and it’s making a difference.

Grade: D+, Skepticism is still in the air when talking about Grabner, but his recent goal scoring spark of 3 goals in as many games is hopefully a sign that Grabner is finding his way.

29- Brock Nelson– 29 GP: 3-6-9

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Nelson has been the only rookie this season who has been a member of the NHL squad since Opening Night, which is an achievement in itself. Nelson has been  what he had expected and wanted from him, a two-way forward who occasionally puts up offense and plays solid defense in his own zone. Nelson is a reliable player in the defensive zone, and it’s not often that you see a costly mistake on his part.

Grade: B, Maybe a little more offense out of Nelson, and his grade is improved significantly. He doesn’t have to change his defensive ability, as it’s better than most forwards on Long Island.

15- Cal Clutterbuck-33 GP: 4-2-6

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It was a bit of an adjustment period, but Cal Clutterbuck has fit in nicely with his new team. He has performed the exact way the Islanders had wanted him to in terms of physical play, as he always registers big hits in games. However, his offense is slightly lacking, and he is capable of producing more than he has at this point in the season.

Grade: C+, Being a fan of Clutterbuck and watching him really come into his own with the Islanders has been fun to watch, and he should only be getting better as time goes on in terms of offense.

16- Peter Regin– 32 GP: 1-3-4

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Peter Regin was a free agent pick-up signed the day free agency opened up for the league during the offseason on July 5th. Regin was brought in as a depth forward, not expected to be a big star or a frequent offensive contributor.

Fast forward to late December, and Regin has failed to do much this season. His lone goal came early in October, and his offense hasn’t been much more than that. His defensive play isn’t his big problem, as he’s solid in his oqn zone. His scoring and offense has been lacking the entire season, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better.

Grade: D, Offense needs to pick up in order to get a higher grade.

53- Casey Cizikas– 37 GP: 4-4-8

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to not love Casey Cizikas. He’s a player who always puts in 100 percent, and he never leaves anything on the ice. He plays his heart out every shift, and it’s noticeable.

His play this year fits the role that he was assigned, he’s physical, but he can produce goals. He has decent skills in the offensive zone, and although we haven’t seen it before, he could probably fit very well in the top nine forwards as well.

Grade: A, Cizikas has done exactly what he’s been asked to, and his effort and “battle level” as coach Jack Capuano calls it is always above the standard.

17- Matt Martin– 39 GP: 2-3-5

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A lot of people have been criticizing Matt Martin for his lack of offense lately, and it baffles me. Islanders fans all should know at this point what we’re getting out of Martin, and it’s not usually offense. He’s a guy who is expected to bring physicality, and he’s on pace to break the record for most hits since hits were recorded as an official statistic.

Yes, I understand that Martin’s offense isn’t great, but let’s be honest, that’s not his style of play. He hits and fights, and he’s done well with that this season.

Grade: B-, His play has been decent. The hits are of course there, and his skating has improved. It

13- Colin McDonald– 28 GP: 2-2-4

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Colin McDonald has been rather disappointing this season. After a surprising season that saw him post a solid 17 points in 45 games on the team’s fourth line, McDonald had earned a lot of praise from fans and writers alike. He was a gritty player, and he put up points fairly frequently.

However, this season, McDonald hasn’t been the same, and he’s struggled through the first half of the year. His play has been poor on both sides of the puck, as fans on social media have been calling him out for blunders he’s made at times this season. His offense isn’t nearly where it was at this point last season, and he’s been a healthy scratch on-and-off for the last few weeks.

Grade: D-, Hate to be harsh, but his play just hasn’t been good enough, and McDonald certainly needs to elevate the level at which he is playing.

36-Eric Boulton-12 GP: 2-2-4

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Boulton, the man who became the joke of Islanders players has surprisingly played well when he’s been called upon. He’s played a small amount of games, but he’s done pretty well in the games he’s played in. He’s fought quite often while on the ice, including an impressive bout in which he concussed NHL big man George Parros. Boulton, when rarely called upon, has done what he’s paid to do along with scoring every once in a while, which is an additional perk.

Grade: INC, We still haven’t seen enough of Boulton to give him an accurate grade (although fellow EOI writer Michael Willhoft probably has a grade for him).

18-Ryan Strome– 6GP: 0-1-1

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Strome is yet another rookie who has seen time with the Islanders. After taking the American Hockey League by storm and becoming the league’s leading scorer, Strome was called up to Long Island after a struggling Pierre-Marc Bouchard was loaned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.

Strome has played well since his call-up. He looks like he belongs in the NHL, and the speed of the game is yet to get to Strome. He’s played much better in his own zone than most had expected, which is also a nice addition to his terrific offensive ability.

Grade: INC, While Strome has looked impressive, he has hardly played this NHL season, and an accurate grade can’t be made for him.

-PM (@pjmcentee)

I want to know what your opinions are about the team’s forwards. Feel free to let me know where you think the forwards stand in the comments section or on twitter. And of course, thanks for reading.