Like every other NHL team, the New York Islanders have a big decision coming up after the 2020-21 season regarding the Expansion Draft. The Isles need to keep in mind the kids’ factor.
On top of juggling the roster, upcoming contracts, as well as the trade deadline this season, New York Islanders GM, Lou Lamoriello, also must factor in what he is going to do in regards to the Expansion Draft.
The Islanders are an ideal target for the soon to be Seattle Kraken. Under the new set of expansion rules (like the ones for the Vegas Golden Knights) Seattle’s best-case scenario in terms of selecting players from another team are from clubs with depth. Like the last expansion draft, the Islanders fall into that category.
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In terms of the seven forward slots, Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, J.G Pageau, Anthony Beauvilier, and Anders Lee will be protected. The Islanders are not exposing their captain. That leaves two open spots.
While Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Ilya Sorokin are exempt from the Expansion Draft, Otto Koivula and Kieffer Bellows are not. While both have just had cups of coffee in the NHL so far, both are talented and both will just be 22-23 years of age at the time of the Expansion Draft.
Koivula is a big center (six-foot-four, 219 pounds) while Bellows is a talented winger. It’s unclear what kind of role they will have with the Islanders this season.
Koivula will get his chance if there is an injury to one of the Isles’ top four centers. There is also a golden opportunity for Bellows on Pageau’s line as his wing spots are very much open for debate.
Even if Koivula and Bellows have a small role on the Islanders this season, given their skill sets, and their ages, Seattle’s GM Ron Francis will have to think long and hard on selecting one of these kids if they are available. That’s even if Leddy is exposed to the Expansion Draft.
Lamoriello needs to free up cap space in the near future and he would like nothing better than the low-cost Koivula and Bellows to step up this season. If Lou wants to protect Koivula and or Bellows that would mean Josh Bailey and or Jordan Eberle would have to be exposed.
If Koivula and Bellows show this season they have to be protected because they will be part of the Islanders’ future, that’s a good problem to have.