Going into the 24-team tournament who do the New York Islanders take with them?
With the NHL and NHLPA agreeing to a 24-team playoff format the New York Islanders will make the post-season. With the resumption in play after what could be a three to four-month break, the NHL will allow teams to carry larger rosters.
Typically, NHL teams have a 23-man roster. But the NHL will allow teams to extend that roster to 28 skaters and any number of goalies for this 24-team playoff. Assuming the Isles don’t carry any more than three goalies, that roster swells to 32 players.
So who makes the cut for the Isles? What does the 23-man active roster look like and what does the expanded roster with a nine-man taxi squad possibly look like?
23-Man Active Roster
This is the typical roster of 20 players named for the game including three scratches. With the break everyone will be healthy – even Adam Pelech – so this will be a full-strength squad.
Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Michael Dal Colle, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Derick Brassard
Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Scott Mayfield, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Andy Greene, Noah Dobson
Semyon Varlamov, Thomas Greiss
I know there are a few names you may have expected on this list but I’ll get to them in a second.
With the taxi squad, teams will be able to carry another seven skaters and any number of goalies. I figure the New York Islanders will only bring one extra goalie up for the postseason. So the taxi squad I have is made up of nine players
Here’s who I expect to make the team’s taxi squad.
1. Andrew Ladd (F): According to Cap Friendly, the Islanders already have 16 forwards on the team, and that doesn’t include Casey Cizikas. Ladd is a veteran player the Islanders could use in the room as they make a push for a Cup.
He might even factor in the squad right out of the gate. A healthy Andrew Ladd can be an effective bottom-six player. With two rings and 15 years of NHL experiences, he’s the type of guy Barry Trotz could absolutely lean over someone like Michael Dal Colle.
2. Tom Kuhnhackl (F): Top-line Tom Kuhnhackl has been a valuable “ringer” for the Islanders. When called into action Kuhnhackl typically gives the coach what he’s looking for.
3. Ross Johnston (F): If things start getting chippy and the Islanders need a guy to police the players out on the ice, Ross Johnston is their man.
4. Thomas Hickey (D): In a previous version of this, I hadn’t listed Thomas Hickey. It had slipped my mind that the veteran defenseman was healthy before leaving the team for family reasons at the start of March. If he’s ready to come back then he’ll certainly have a role to play.
5. Kieffer Bellows (F): We all know about his standout year in the AHL. He deserved the call up he got in 2019-20 and deserves a shot to be with the team during this tournament.
If the Islanders are having a hard time finding the back of the Bellows can be a good option. And if they don’t need him then at least he’s around the team. That alone is a valuable experience for a player on the cusp of making the jump up to the NHL.
6. Sebastian Aho (D): He’s ready for the NHL. If not for the log jam of young defenders on the Islanders roster he’d likely be in the NHL already. With expanded rosters, Aho should make the cut.
With 30 points in 49 games, Aho finished second in points for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and 23rd in scoring for defensemen in the AHL. He’s ready.
7. Oliver Wahlstrom (F): On the Islanders secondary-offense depth chart, Wahlstrom falls just behind Kieffer Bellows. While Wahlstrom didn’t have the numbers we expected from him in the AHL, he had other priorities during his first pro year.
When the Islanders sent him down to the AHL after an early year call-up, Barry Trotz said Wahlstrom “needed to learn the game”. That was his priority this year, learn how to fit in a system, and how to play on and off the puck.
When going over the Islanders top prospects, Arthur Staple spoke to Sound Tigers coach Brent Thompson who said – among other things – that Wahlstrom was better away from the puck (subscription required), something that Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello will love to hear:
"“I thought, you look at the whole season, big picture, he would want more goals, but what I thought he did well was being better away from the puck,” -Brent Thompson"
Just like Grant Hutton, Oliver Wahlstrom might not get a chance to play, but just being around the team will do him wonders as he heads into his second professional year
8. Otto Koivula (F): Koivula could play anywhere along the bottom six for the Islanders from winger to center. The big Finnish kid may not get playing time with so many bottom-six players ahead of him but if one of the Islanders fourth-liners goes down with an injury, Otto could get a nod.
9. Christopher Gibson (G): With a 0.914SV% and 2.78GA Gibson had one of his better years for the Sound Tigers. To be fair, he played 25 games. There’s a possibility the Islanders bring Jakub Skarek along for the ride rather than pending UFA Gibson.
Skarek, a 2018 third-round pick, will be with the organization for some time and would benefit greatly from being with the team. Skarek put up OK numbers this year. In 14 games with the Worcester Railers, he averaged a 0.879SV% and 3.73GAA. With the Sound Tigers, he featured in 16 games and held a 0.888SV% and 3.27GAA.
Gibson gets the nod for having a better year in the AHL than the other goalies in the Isles system.
Lee – Barzal – Eberle
Beauvillier – Nelson – Brassard
Dal Cole – Pageau – Bailey
Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Pelech – Pulock
Toews – Mayfield
Leddy – Boychuk
Scratched: Komarov, Greene, Dobson
Taxi squad: Ladd, Kuhnhackl, Johnston, Hickey, Bellows, Aho, Wahlstrom, Koivula, Gibson