With practices underway, some Islanders are getting a closer look. Tom Kuhnhackl looks like he’ll have a real shot at the lineup.
The New York Islanders have some question marks in their lineup for the playoffs when they start out next week. We know the top line (Lee-Barzal-Eberle) and fourth line (Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck) will be together but the other two lines are up in the air.
Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, and JG Pageau are definite in that group. For the other two spots, it appears like Derick Brassard, Michael Dal Colle, Andrew Ladd, Ross Johnston, and Tom Kuhnhackl are the options.
I’d normally include Leo Komarov as well but he hasn’t rejoined the team just yet so to pencil him in doesn’t seem like a definite. One of the guys getting an extended look is Tom Kuhnhackl who the Isles relied on heavily in the playoffs last year.
After playing just 36 games in the regular season, Kuhnhackl played all eight playoff games for New York putting up three assists. We might see that trend happen again this year. Kuhnhackl, who played 28 regular-season games, is getting a look with Brassard and Pageau on line three.
Thanks to starting his career in Pittsburgh, Kuhnhackl is no stranger to the playoffs. In his career, he has 55 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs which is nearly as many games as he has with the Isles in his last two seasons in the league.
If Komarov isn’t good to go for the playoffs, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if they leaned on him and his experience over a guy like Michael Dal Colle, who has primarily played on the third line this year.
If I’m a betting man, which I am, I’d say that it’s likely pretty safe to assume the lineup against the Panthers for Game 1 looks something like:
Lee – Barzal – Eberle
Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey
Brassard – Pageau – Kuhnhackl
Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
It’s not a perfect lineup, it certainly doesn’t do Pageau any favors, but it seems semi-reasonable based on everything we’ve seen from Barry Trotz over the last two years. Yes, we saw Ross Johnston in the top-six today, I really don’t believe that will be a thing in the playoffs.
Yes, it would look a lot more appealing with names like Bellows and Wahlstrom flanking Pageau, but the Isles are conservative. They’d rather a guy who will give them minimal risk, and Tom Kuhnhackl is just that.
He had two penalty minutes in his 28 games this year, and can play on the penalty kill which the Isles obviously value. The Islanders are looking for a forward who will play 10 minutes a night and not give you any problems, that’s Tom Kuhnhackl.
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Again, it’s pretty risk-averse but very on-brand for what the Isles are trying to do. I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if he’s in the lineup for Game 1.