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Islanders Top 25 Under 25: Mathew Barzal reigns supreme

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 20: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders warms up prior to Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 20, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 20: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders warms up prior to Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 20, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

4. Oliver Wahlstrom 

Age: 20
League: AHL/Allsvenskan
Draft: 11th OVR 2018

Wahlstrom didn’t produce as we thought he might at the AHL level this year with 22 points in 45 games, but the 11th overall pick from 2018 needed to get up to speed with the team game first. So while we thought he might score more at the AHL level, he ended the season well with eight points in his final 12 games.

He should get a chance to make the NHL squad this season.

5. Otto Koivula 

Age: 22
League: AHL/Liiga
Draft: 120th OVR 2016

I know that everyone thinks that Oliver Wahlstrom will get a spot on the Islanders third line in 20-21, but I feel like Koivula has a sneaky chance of getting it first.

It’s not that I feel Koivula has a higher ceiling. Wahlstrom is without question a better offensive player and could be the goal scorer the Isles are looking for. But Koivula is a better defensive player, he can play on the wing and down the middle, he also scored at a great rate this season with 33 points in 48 games between the AHL and Finland.

6. Sebastian Aho 

Age: 24
League: AHL
Draft: 139th OVR 2017

He’s too good for the AHL. Over three years with the Sound Tigers, the fifth-round pick in 2017 has played 156 games and scored 105 points from the blueline.

He could very well alternate with Andy Greene as the Islanders seventh defenseman for 2020-21. Aho is a good puck-moving defender that plays a smart game. He may not be a top-pair defenseman but he should be a good fit on one of the bottom two pairs.

7. Kieffer Bellows

Age: 22
League: AHL
Draft: 19th OVR 2016

Bellows will have a chance to make the team out of camp for the Islanders but it’s clear he’s lower on the depth chart than guys like Oliver Wahlstrom or maybe even Otto Koivula.

Bellows had a good year in the AHL, though it didn’t start well with a few healthy scratches. But once he got back on the ice he couldn’t stop scoring. From November 27 through to December 28, Bellows scored 12 goals in 13 games. Wild.

8. Josh Ho-Sang

Age: 24
League: AHL
Draft: 28th OVR 2014

Who knows what’s going to happen with Ho-Sang this year. He secured himself a decent raise at the AHL level, but the goal is clearly to hit the NHL as soon as possible. When Ho-Sng is on his game he can be a dominant player.

Two years ago, after saying the Islanders were burying him to the NY Post, Ho-Sang decided to atone for that blunder by showing the team what he could do on the ice. In the four games after that article came out, Ho-Sang put up ten points with three two-point nights and a four-point game on November 4, 2018.

He’s supremely talented but he’s got a number of hurdles to overcome before making the team so even ranking him eighth might be a bit generous.

9. Robin Salo

Age: 22
League: SHL (Orebro)
Draft: 46th OVR 2017

Robin Salo is developing so well out in Sweden. With 23:11 of average ice time, Salo is the second most utilized skater in the SHL. He’s also the eleventh highest-scoring defenseman in the SHL with nine points in 18 games.

His contract is up at the end of the season with Orebro, meaning he’ll likely be heading to North American for the 2021-22 season. Just in time for Sebastian Aho to make the leap to the NHL and for Salo to take his place in the AHL.

10. Simon Holmstrom

Age: 19
League: AHL
Draft: 24th OVR 2019

He might not be so high on other people’s lists but the Islanders like Holmstrom a lot. His 15 points in 46 games at the AHL level might not leap out at anyone, but we have to remember he just turned 19 in May and was the youngest professional hockey player in North America last season.

He’s developing well and could be a factor in two years’ time.

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