New York Islanders: Confidence In 2017-2018 Forward Group
By Matt O'Leary
New York Islanders fans reacted rather positively to the lines at practice yesterday. The lines seemed to preview a potential opening night lineup.
If you go on Twitter more often than not New York Islanders fans are complaining about something. I shouldn’t throw stones, I fall into this stereotype more often than I’d like to admit, but I try (keyword try) to keep a positive outlook.
Yesterday at practice, we got a look at what Doug Weight is thinking for an opening night lineup. Well, a potential opening night lineup possibly. Surprisingly, all of IslesTwitter ate it up!
Positive comments were flowing left and right, a rare sight on the internet let alone in the small fraction of the web that Islanders fans call home. Here’s what those lines in practice looked like yesterday:
I’m a big fan of these line combos. We’ll start with the top line, the line that comes as no surprise. Ever since the Jordan Eberle trade, we’ve fantasized of the damage a Lee – Tavares – Eberle line can do.
In the preseason, so far, we’ve seen Eberle and Tavares show some familiarity on the ice together which is a great sign. Plus, we know what kind of player Lee is so the idea is Eberle and Tavares create space and make moves with the puck while Lee is down low to clean up the mess.
On paper, the line has potential to be deadly.
In Andrew Ladd’s first year with the Islanders, he underperformed. With a $5.5 million cap hit his 31 points of production wasn’t nearly enough. On a line with Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey, his numbers should dramatically increase.
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Both Barzal and Bailey are playmakers as opposed to finishers. Ladd has the scoring potential, while the other two will be the ones creating space.
The Islanders are relying heavily on Barzal by putting him on the second line. He’s got the talent; the question is if he’ll be able to reach his potential right out of the gate. In theory, Barzal’s ceiling is a solid second line center, but pairing him with two vets should help steer Barzal towards a successful rookie campaign.
In 2016-2017 Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang showed some chemistry playing together. I don’t mind Doug Weight keeping the two together, despite keeping the dynamic Ho-Sang on the third line.
Even Brock Nelson in the middle I’m fond of. I’m pretty sick of Brock, I made that clear on the latest Eyes on Isles podcast, but if he’s on the third line that shows the Isles have some pretty nice forward depth.
Think about it; Nelson is a lock for 20 goals and 40 points, Ho-Sang was on pace for 40 points in his small sample size last year and is expected to grow on that. This unit can be a very productive third line for the Islanders.
Lastly, we have the Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck pair on the fourth line. The two have great chemistry together and will continue to have chemistry for the foreseeable future with their recent contract extensions.
Jason Chimera and his speed might be a better fit on that fourth line over Nikolai Kulemin, but they’re kind of interchangeable.
I know it’s only practice and things can change in the next couple of weeks, but I think you have to be reasonably happy with the forward depth. Those are four lines that I have no problem rolling with.
Next: J.F. Berube Opens Up About Time With Islanders
The Islanders aren’t a perfect team, but they should be able to score with the best of them if everyone plays to their potential. The keyword being “if.”