With a healthy dose of hungry blue-chip prospects ready to join the New York Islanders roster, which ones could make the team next season?
We’re all focused on what big-name NHL talent the New York Islanders will add to their roster for the 2019-20 season. And rightfully so. A big-name player in the Isles top six is exactly what they need to reach the next level.
But instead of focusing on bringing in a new player, what about shedding some light on some of the options the Islanders have within their ranks already?
The Islanders have several prospects ready and hoping to make the jump to the NHL, which one has the best chance of making the NHL this season?
1. Noah Dobson (D) | Acadie-Bathurst Titans & Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
GM Lou Lamoriello sang high praises for the New York Islanders 12th overall pick in the 2018 draft. After winning his second Memorial Cup in two years, and with different teams, Noah Dobson impressed the Islanders Hall of Fame GM:
"“The two years he’s had, I’d be awfully disappointed if he didn’t have a great chance of making this team,” Lamoriello said. “We’ll obviously have to see, but he’s had two exceptional years under pressure situations. You can’t get any higher in junior hockey than he’s gotten and he’s a terrific kid.”"
Regardless of what happens to the Islanders blue line this offseason, Noah Dobson should be pushing for a spot. It’s not a guarantee that he gets a spot at the start of the season, but Lamoriello is expecting Dobson to make it hard to not give him a place on the roster.
Dobson, drafted out of the CHL is not yet 20 so he can’t play in the AHL next season. It would stand to reason that after two Memorial Cups, sending him back to junior won’t give him much in terms of development, and Dobson has to know that. He needs to make the NHL to keep growing.
2. Kieffer Bellows (LW) | Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Bellows didn’t have a great first season in the AHL. The Islanders first-round pick in 2016 recorded 12 goals and seven assists in 73 games for the Sound Tigers. But the Islanders do need help in their top six.
His not so great 2018-19 AHL gives Bellows a low chance of making the NHL. Lou likes to take time when he’s got it. In this case, he’s got time, meaning Bellows might just return to Bridgeport.
But if Bellows can have yet another good training camp, he’ll give Lou Lamoriello something to think about. He’s a lefty so he doesn’t fit in the gap the Isles have now, but Josh Bailey has played on the right for a number of years and can slot in there to give Bellows the left side of the ice.
3. Otto Koivula (C) | Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Otto Koivula, the New York Islanders fourth-round pick in 2016 started out on the wing this season, but coach Brent Thompson eventually moved him to center and he flourished. In 69 games, the big left shooting winger scored 21 goals and 46 points.
At the moment the Islanders depth down the middle is (in order) Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, and…Tanner Fritz, perhaps. Fritz signed a two-year deal with a one-way salary in the first year. Typically, that means he’ll be playing in the NHL this year.
But if Lou and Barry are looking for some physicality and scoring, why not bring up the 6’5″190lbs Koivula?
Just like Bellows, Koivula won’t likely start the season in the NHL, but he could certainly end up on the roster by the end of the season.
4. Sebastian Aho (D) | Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Just like Koivula, Aho had a great year for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In 67 games, the former fifth-round pick in 2017 scored 46 points from the blue line.
He might be slight of frame, measuring 5’10” and weighing 170lbs, but like most Swedish defensemen Aho can move the puck well, he can skate well, and is just an all-around good player to have.
If Thomas Hickey gets moved in the offseason, or during the season, the natural replacement is fellow lefty Sebastian Aho.
5. Oliver Wahlstrom (RW) | Boston College & Bridgeport Sound Tigers
After being selected eleventh overall in the 2018 draft, right-wing Oliver Wahlstrom didn’t have a great season for Boston College. In 36 games, he scored 19 points. More was expected of Wahlstrom.
Leading up to the 2018 draft he was a dominant player for the US U-18 development team. In 62 games played he scored 48 goals and 94 points.
But when he eventually got tot Bridgeport, that turned. In ten games played between the regular season and the playoffs, Wahlstrom scored seven points.
He fits exactly what the Islanders need in terms of position. But he’s just not there yet. Seven points in ten games is a good start, but it’s just that, a start. Lou Lamoriello isn’t going to be moved into action by a 0.7 point-per-game pace over ten games.
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But, if Wahlstrom can continue that, and there’s no reason he can’t, he could be one of the first names up to fill a void on the right side of the ice at some point in the 2019-20 season.