Through 68 games of the New York Islanders 2019-20 season, there is one clear MVP candidate. There’s no question that it’s center Brock Nelson.
Think back to the 2017-18 New York Islanders roster. Got it? Who were some of the most disliked players by the fan base, for whatever reason? To me, there are two names that immediately jump to mind; Andrew Ladd and Brock Nelson.
For Brock Nelson, the criticism was his lack-of two-way play and the fact that between the months of November to February he just disappeared. He also put up an unusually low number of points with 19 goals and 35 points over 82 games.
Fast forward two years to 2019-20 and Brock Nelson is the clear favorite for team MVP because of his two-way play and consistent production throughout the season.
19-20 Team MVP
It’s easy to see why Brock gets the nod.
He leads the team in goals with 26, he’s second in points with 54. He’s second in average ice-time for forwards. He leads the team in total faceoffs taken with 1,188 with a 51.8 FOW percentage (second on the team for players that have taken 500+ draws).
In any sort of award, production matter and Brock Nelson is right up there for the New York Islanders in every single major category. Of course, this award isn’t just about who scored the most points.
It’s about who holds the most value for the team. Who is the most important player for the Isles? For me, that means what player has an important role in all three areas of the game; 5on5, on the powerplay, and on the penalty kill?
For forwards, Brock has the fourth-most minutes at 5on5. He holds the fourth-most minutes on the power play and is tied for the lead in power-play goals at four. He also holds the second-most minutes on the penalty kill that is effective 80.7 percent of the time. He’s a big part of everything the New York Islanders do in every single situation.
And to think that two years ago he was, at best, an OK third-line winger.
Look, you can say that Adam Pelech gets a vote or two for 2019-20 MVP. After he went down with a season-ending injury the Islanders season tanked. Before Pelech went down, the Isles were putting up 0.697 points-per-game and 0.45 points-per-game after his injury.
We’ve all grown to appreciate Adam Pelech’s contributions since he was sidelined. Giving him the award for not being here would be kind of ridiculous. Even if it’s not totally uncalled for.
I know Mathew Barzal leads the team in many categories like assists, points, time of ice at 5on5 and on PP for forwards. He also leads the team in xGF, SCF, and HDCF (all at 5on5). But Barzal doesn’t kill penalties. He has 1:55 of total ice-time on the PK this season.
Barzal is a great offensive player, but he isn’t a great defensive player. And that’s fine. Maybe give him the team version of the Ted Lindsay trophy for most outstanding player.
Brock Nelson plays both zones and still produces at nearly the same rate as Barzal does. Barzal has 60 points in 68 games for a 0.88 points-per-game pace. Brock sits at 0.79 with 54 points from 68 games.
You can certainly make the argument that either Mathew Barzal or Adam Pelech could get a vote for season MVP, but the overwhelming favorite has to be Brock Nelson. He’s been indispensable for the Isles all season long.