New York Islanders: We Must Remember, These Rookies Are Still Rookies
By Tim Ryder
For all the incredible play we’ve seen out of the New York Islanders prospects this season, there’s also been a decent amount of rookie mistakes made. The process of guiding these talented youngsters through their development will surely have its ups and downs.
As exciting as the New York Islanders young core of prospects has been this season, it’s easy to forget they’re all, at the very most, only in their early twenties. The Islanders have a bright future ahead, for sure. But while they’re waiting to transform into perennial Cup contenders (which they will be, mark my words), there will be some bumps in the road.
Developing young players is no easy task. Like botanists, the New York Islanders need to find the happy little medium between nurturing, healthy growth and overwhelming their young saplings with too much exposure to the elements.
Learning the ropes is tough, but doing it in the NHL, at times as teenagers, can be crippling to a young player’s confidence and development. A coach needs to find an even balance of veterans to relieve pressure from the young guys, and enough meaningful playing time for his prospects so they’re continuously learning and improving.
Take last night’s home loss to Boston as an example of how the rookies can be amazing at times, yet still, make simple rookie mistakes. After a strong first period and a half, the New York Islanders lost momentum after a string of mental errors and poor play. It seemed as if once the Isles took the first penalty of the game three-quarters through the second period (and gave up a quick power play goal), they lost their edge.
The peaks and valleys of being a rookie in the NHL
The sky-high potential of the Islanders young core is easy to see. Mathew Barzal is quickly approaching shoe-in status for this year’s Calder Trophy. His nifty move and pass to Jordan Eberle for the Isles first goal last night was all the proof you should need to know The Kid is destined for greatness.
Since being recalled from Bridgeport, Anthony Beauvillier has been making things happen on both ends of the ice. He provides an eternal spark to the New York Islanders second line with his nose for the puck and fearlessness to deliver a big hit when necessary. With both Barzal and Beauvillier unable to legally enjoy an adult beverage for another year or so, the Islanders definitely have a lot of high times to look forward to.
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For all of his exploits, Mat Barzal still makes the occasional poor decision. Most are obviously due to his inexperience at the NHL level. Last night at around 13:00 of the second period, Barzal made an impressive move at the top circle to evade a Bruins player. He continued to skate across the center of the zone, clearly trying to do too much, and his awkward pass was intercepted.
As the game wore on, Barzal again tried to do a little too much and a Boston veteran twice taught him a very valuable lesson. Twice, Mathew Barzal tried to get a little too fancy with the puck and twice, Brad Marchand made him pay. In both instances, Marchand waited for Barzal to stop his evasive move, then delivered bone-crushing hits and stole the puck away.
How are the rest of the rookies faring?
Sebastian Aho has looked good both offensively and defensively for the New York Islanders. He almost put one in after sneaking in from the blue line and finding himself in the right spot for a pass from behind the net, just barely missing the top corner with his shot from the bottom of the trapezoid.
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It seems that Michael Dal Colle and Tanner Fritz‘s honeymoon period is over. The higher level of play that they’ve encountered in the NHL looks to have them a little flustered. These two will almost certainly be back in Bridgeport once the troops return from injured reserve, which could be sooner rather than later, as per reports.
Scott Mayfield has been solid, showing that he can handle playing on the top line with Nick Leddy in Johnny Boychuk‘s absence. Shane Prince, who left Tuesday night’s game with an injury looked pretty good last night, as well. It could be beneficial if the Islanders can reshuffle their lines and spice up the bottom six with some hungry rookies.
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It certainly helps that the injured are all close to coming back. If the Isles can add the necessary pieces, this team is ready to win now. New York Islanders GM Garth Snow needs to act now before it’s too late and the Islanders are too far out of the race for a move to make a difference. Your move, Garth.