After Nikita Gusev was traded from the Vegas Golden Knights to the New Jersey Devils, it seems increasingly clear that the New York Islanders will trust their system in 2019-20.
Yet another possible top-six option for the New York Islanders has become unavailable. Russian forward Nikita Gusev has been traded from the Vegas Golden Knights to the New Jersey Devils and was immediately signed to a two-year $4.5 million deal.
After Gusev’s agent threatened that his client could very well return to the KHL, George McPhee and the Golden Knights were quick to acquire a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2021 from the Devils.
Gusev seemed to fit with what the New York Islanders were missing. He’s got top-six potential, he’s a right shot, and could come in at a reasonable cap hit. So why didn’t Lou Lamoriello pay the relatively low price to bring in a guy that could fill his team’s needs? It seems increasingly clear that the system is where Lou will pull from in 2019-20.
With 223 goals scored last season, the Islanders were near the bottom of the NHL for offense created. In order to improve in 2019-20, the Islanders were going to need to create more offense than they did the year prior.
It’s clear that “Plan A” this offseason was acquiring Artemi Panarin. When that fell apart after the Russian used the Isles to milk more out of the Rangers, “Plan B” for Lou was to look internally for more offense.
That could mean one of three possible options: (1) Josh Ho-Sang, (2) Oliver Wahlstrom, or (3) Kieffer Bellows.
When asked if the Islanders need their bottom-six to continue its incredible production, or if they need more from their prospects, Barry Trotz had the following to say (subscription required):
"Absolutely. We need more from the (Michael) Dal Colles, the (Josh) Ho-Sangs, the (Otto) Koivulas, the young guys coming up. We have (Oliver) Wahlstrom and (Kieffer) Bellows, we don’t really know what they’re going to bring yet, whether they’ll be in the minors or on the NHL team. If one of those guys comes up and gives you 15 goals, another comes up and gives you 10-12 and they’re playing a legitimate role, you all of a sudden have those more natural scorers and you can be just fine. -Barry Trotz"
Of the three Josh Ho-Sang should be the most “NHL-ready”. He’s had more than enough time in the AHL that he should be ready to provide what the Islanders are looking for.
Oliver Wahlstrom is in a not so distant second after Ho-Sang. He didn’t have a great season at the college level, but if the Islanders aren’t willing to trust Ho-Sang, Wahlstrom is ready to fill the gap.
Kieffer Bellows has had more seasoning than Wahlstrom, but with a poor 2018-19 season in the AHL his stock has fallen slightly. A standout camp could change that rather quickly though.
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With all the player movement around the league, New York Islanders fans (including myself) are having a real F.O.M.O moment. And that’s a fair sentiment to have. The Islanders need to reinforce their roster if they hope to improve from last season. It just seems that those reinforcements will come from within rather than from outside.