The New York Islanders are going to have two spots open on the roster going into the 2021 season here’s a ranking of the players that fill those sports.
With little turnover from 19-20, there are only a few spots open on the New York Islanders roster for the opening of the 2021 regular season. Both are on the third line next to Pageau.
We know that the rest of the Islanders roster is set.
Barry Trotz is certainly going to set Mathew Barzal with Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle on the top line. On line two he’ll keep Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey between Brock Nelson. With confirmation that Matt Martin has been re-signed we also know the fourth line will be Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.
That certainty continues to the blue line with Adam Pelech (who is 100% healthy) lining up next to Ryan Pulock on the top pair. Nick Leddy will move up to take Devon Toews spot on the second pair with Scott Mayfield. Noah Dobson will get his chance in 2021 and pair up with Andy Greene on the third pairing.
And of course, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin will share the crease.
So that leaves the third line. We know Pageau will center it, but we have no idea who is going to play next to him. There is no shortage of players eyeing those two sports, so here’s how I’d rank those players’ chances at taking either spot.
It seems that ten players are in line for two spots on the roster for 2021. Here they are listed in alphabetical order:
- A.J. Greer
- Andrew Ladd
- Austin Czarnik
- Dmytro Timashov
- Kieffer Bellows
- Leo Komarov
- Michael Dal Colle
- Oliver Wahlstrom
- Otto Koivula
- Ross Johnston
Now, I think it’s fair to say that not all ten players have an equal shot at either of those two spots so here’s how I’d rank their chances of getting a spot on the third line in 2021.
It kind of feels like one of the two open spots is Wahlstrom’s to lose. Of course, the Islanders won’t say that, but it really does feel like Wahlstrom gives the Isles exactly what they need; a dynamic goal-scorer. The fact that he’s on an ELC is a big bonus.
Wahlstrom has top-end offensive skills and an incredible shot that he likes to release from everywhere in the offensive zone. His defensive skills may not be top end, but if the Isles can find a way to put him in a position where that weakness is minimized he’ll be a great addition in 2021.
Barry Trotz trusts Otto Koivula in the defensive zone that alone bumps Koivula up a number of spots. Now, add his size, his underrated offensive abilities, and his versatility to play on the wing or down the middle and I feel that Koivula can easily slot in on the third line. I truly feel like Koivula has a strong case for one of those two spots on the Islanders roster.
Michael Dal Colle
This is Dal Colle’s last chance to make the case that he’s an NHL’er. As it stands, the fifth overall pick in 2014, is a replacement-level player. The fact that Barry chose to play him once in each of the Islanders three playoff series (except the Florida series) shows that Dal Colle is clearly on the periphery.
Having him third on this list might be generous but he’s played under Barry Trotz for two years now so that alone pushes him up the list.
Brought in as a free agent, Czarnik has good NHL experience with 38 points in 121 games across four seasons. He can play across the forward line like Otto Koivula which is an asset as injury cover. He could easily leapfrog Dal Colle by the start of the NHL season with a solid training camp but he’ll probably end up on the taxi squad.
Bellow’s 19-20 season started slowly but really picked up after Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson made him a healthy scratch for a few games. Bellows was able to work his way to the NHL and put up two goals in his second career game. He could be a good fit next to Jean-Gabriel Pageau on the third line.
The whole PED issue dropped Bellows down my depth chart a bit. Of course, we have no idea how Lou feels about the situation. By the time we found out about the infraction Bellows had already served his suspension. So perhaps the issue is water under the bridge now and Bellows won’t be punished further.
Lou clearly likes this kid. He had him in Toronto where Timashov had strong numbers in the AHL. Those strong numbers haven’t followed the fifth-round pick in 2015 to the NHL level. In 19-20, he scored nine points in 44 games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.
The fact that a rebuilding Detroit Red Wings team was willing to part with him for future considerations concerns me a bit and it’s why he’s this low on my list. He’ll likely be a taxi-squad player for the Isles.
Putting Leo on the taxi squad or in the AHL would save the team $1.075 million on the cap, which should be reason enough for him to not see the NHL. But I know how much Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello like him which is why I didn’t put Leo at the bottom of the list with Andrew Ladd. (spoiler?)
I don’t see a spot for Greer on the team. When the Islanders acquired him for AHL defenseman Kyle Burroughs they did so with the idea of having him play with the Sound Tigers. Unless Greer has an incredible camp and easily outplays everyone I’ve listed above him, he’ll be playing in the AHL, maybe in the taxi squad.
The Isles rarely need Ross Johnston on the team with Matt Martin on the roster. Both Martin and Johnston play the same game. If not for the incredible chemistry Martin has with Cizikas and Clutterbuck, Johnston would likely already have a full-time role on the team.
There is no way that Andrew Ladd makes the Islanders roster in 2021. The $1.075 million in cap space the team can net by placing him on the taxi squad or in the AHL is worth too much to them. Not to mention that Ladd has played exactly 30 regular-season games and one playoff game in the NHL over the last two seasons. It’s sad to say, but the most Ladd can offer the Isles is cap space and veteran leadership for the kids in the AHL.