At the start of the 2019-20 season, I put together a list of five bold predictions for the New York Islanders. Here’s how they panned out.
The 2018-19 New York Islanders season didn’t go as anyone predicted. With 103 points, making the playoffs, and then sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round the Islanders had proven that you can’t predict what will happen before a puck is dropped.
But making predictions is half the fun of the pre-season. Trying to figure out how things will shake out and reacting to those predictions later is one of my favorite things to do.
While the 2019-20 season isn’t technically over yet, I can still look back at my
19-20 season to see how close (or how far) I got on all five counts.
1. Noah Dobson Calder Nod (Fail)
I was way too excited for Noah Dobson to make his NHL debut. Like fanboy level excited based on this prediction.
Going into 2019-20 I thought Dobson could end the season as a Calder Trophy finalist. Clearly, with 34 games played in 2019-20, that won’t be the case.
Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz want to take their time with their prized rookie defenseman. Their plan is to ease him into the role of a top-pair defenseman. If not for Adam Pelech missing so much time, Dobson might not have even played 34 games this season.
Even with limited game action and ice-time, Dobson showed that he could be an excellent top-pair player eventually. He’s a smart player that just needs some fine-tuning before he can be given more responsibility.
2. Jordan Eberle Scores 30 Goals (Fail)
Jordan Eberle has only scored 30 goals once in his career, and that was back in 2011-12. But with the way he ended the 2018-19 season, I figured Eberle could hit that level again going into 2019-20.
Remember, at the end of the 2018-19 regular season, Jordan Eberle had scored six goals in his final eleven games and then added four goals (and five helpers) in eight playoff games. To me, that showed Eberle had figured out his role in Barry Trotz’s system.
But with 58 games played in 2019-20, Eberle only has 16 goals to his name. Missing ten games at the start of the season obviously didn’t help him. But to hit 30 goals over a full season, a player has to score a goal every 0.37 games, Eberle is scoring at a 0.28 goal-per-game rate.
With that goal-scoring pace, Eberle would be closer to a 20 goal player than a 30 goal player over a full 82-game season.
3. Mathew Barzal Scores 90 Points (Fail)
This is the second year I think Mathew Barzal will hit 90 points over a season. I should have learned from last year.
My thinking was that with another year under Barry Trotz, Mathew Barzal may have figured out how he could do what Trotz wants him to do off the puck and excel offensively.
With 60 points in 68 games, clearly I was wrong to expect Barzal to be a 90 point player in 2019-20. That type of pace puts him at 72 points over a full 82-game year.
That’s still a good return, and certainly better than the 62 he scored in 2018-19. But it’s still well off from 90 points.
He was still the Islanders best forward on the ice and certainly their most dangerous offensive weapon. But it’s clear that the Islanders haven’t been able to find the right pieces to play alongside Mathew Barzal.
With better wingers, I’m sure Barzal can hit 90 points, if not more.
4. Semyon Varlamov Averages a 0.925SV% (Fail)
With 45 games played (39 starts) this season, Semyon Varlamov holds a 19-14-6 record with an average 2.62GAA and a 0.914SV%. Well below the 0.925SV% I predicted he could average on the season.
"With the defensive system that the Islanders employ, it’s easy to think that Semyon Varlamov will benefit. Making up 16 percentage points on his save percentage from last season is achievable for Varlamov."
Clearly I was wrong to think Varlamov could make up 16 percentage points from 2018-19 when he averaged a 0.909SV% with the Colorado Avalanche. Making up five percentage points on his 18-19 save percentage is still a good return but not nearly the one I boldly predicted at the start of the season.
Varlamov had a strong month-plus between November 30 and January 11. Over 15 games in that stretch, he averaged a 0.932SV%. But ultimately he couldn’t sustain that consistently throughout the season.
5. Josh Ho-Sang Asks For a Trade (Win)
It’s my only win of the five predictions I made and it came true within 24 hours after I published the piece. My ego was sky-high.
Being right never felt this bad though.
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I thought Josh Ho-Sang, given the right situation, could thrive in the NHL and become an impact player for the New York Islanders. With the trade request that wasn’t likely to happen.
While Ho-Sang has yet to be traded away from the Islanders, he was sent away to play for the San Antonio Rampage rather than stay with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. So his Islanders career is essentially dead before it ever truly got started. And that kind of makes me sad.