The New York Islanders need to score more goals. It’s something we’ve heard for a very long time, and when you look at the team’s biggest weakness it is likely not scoring enough. What I wanted to do with this exercise is predict what the Isles forward group can do in 2021.
We’ll be taking a look at how the Islanders forwards have done in recent history and trying to predict what they will do going forward for the Isles. It won’t be easy, nor will it be perfect, but hopefully it’ll give us an idea of where they could be with the projected lineup.
We’ll operate under the assumption that Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas are back with Zach Parise being added to the mix as well. The lineup for this projection will be as followed:
Lee – Barzal – Palmieri
Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey
Parise – Pageau – Wahlstrom
Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck.
What They’ve Done
Over the last three years, the Islanders have finished 20th, 23rd, and 21st in Goals For. Here’s how the forwards finished in terms of goal scoring and the percentage of goals for the team.
2021: 137/152 – 90.1%
2020: 161/189 – 85.2%
2019: 192/223 – 86.5%
Over the past three years, the Islanders forwards group on average have made up for 87.3% of the team’s goals. Remember that, as it’s going to come into play later.
The Top Line
The Islanders getting Anders Lee back will be huge. Last year, he had 12 goals in 27 games a pace of 36 goals over a full season. Keep in mind he finished the last two years with 20 and 28 goals, a pace of .32 goals per game over the two-year span instead of the .44 goals per game he was on last season.
Let’s split the difference and say he plays at a .38 goals per game pace. For this exercise, that would put him at 31 goals over an 82 game season.
As for the center, Mat Barzal, he was on pace to set a career-high with 24 goals over a full year if last season was 82 games. We’ve seen over the past couple of seasons what a difference Anders Lee can make to his game.
I don’t know if he’s a 30 goal scorer in this system, but with a full season of Anders Lee on his left side, let’s use a nice round number of 25 goals.
Last year was a strange year for Kyle Palmieri. He had just 10 goals in 51 games played for the Islanders and Devils but the five years prior he averaged 26.4 goals over that span. I also don’t expect him to have his repeat performance of just two power play goals.
For Palms, he should still be in his prime at age 30 so let’s call it roughly 24 goals for him.
The Second Line
At this point in Anthony Beauvillier’s career, I think he’s settled into somewhere between 20-25 goals. He was on a 26 goal pace this past year finishing with 15 in 47 games but the year prior was on a 21 goal pace.
I don’t think he’s that 15-20 goal scorer that we saw earlier in his career, so I’ll say that with steady second-line minutes he’ll finish with 22. Brock Nelson is also an easy projection at this point.
If COVID didn’t stop the 2019-2020 season, he likely would’ve eclipsed the 30 goal mark for the first time in his career. Last year, he finished with 18 in 56 putting him on a 26 goal pace. 26 is a fair number for him, so we’ll use that again in 2021-2022.
As for Josh Bailey on the other side we know he’s not a goal scorer. Last year was particularly on the low side with him just shooting 10.4%. With that making a slight tick up, let’s give him 13 over a full season.
The Third Line
Starting on the left side, it looks like veteran Zach Parise is a safe bet to go there. He had just seven goals in 45 games (13 in a full season) but the year prior he was still a 25 goal scorer in 69 games for the Wild.
At 37, I don’t think he’s done, done, but it’ll probably have to fall somewhere between his .16 goals per game from this past year and the .37 from the year prior. A .22 goals per game would put Parise at 18 goals on the season, which is the number I’m going to go with.
As for the center, JG Pageau, he’s been an excellent goal scorer the last two seasons. His .26 goals per game this year and .39 last season is a solid mark for a third-line center. For 2021-2022, let’s put him at .25 goals per game which would be 21 on the year.
Oliver Wahlstrom was probably the hardest projection here. His usage and ice time is going to come into play here but still, 12 goals in 44 games is a nice goals per game rate of .27 (22 in a full season).
Will we see a sophomore leap or a slump from Oliver? My bet is a leap, so I’ll pencil him in for a .30 goals per game rate or 25 over a full 82 game season. Yes, that’s two 20 goal scorers on line 3.
The Fourth Line
This line isn’t meant to score goals but that doesn’t mean that they can’t. Since returning to New York, Martin has been on a .097 goals per game rate, so let’s use that and pencil him in for eight on the season.
Casey Cizikas once scored 20 goals as a fourth-line center. Granted, it was three years ago, but the last two years have been solid with a .13 and a .21 goals per game rate. Let’s go on the more conservative side and put him at .14 for his 30-year-old season. That would be 11 goals from Zeeker.
Finally, there’s Cal Clutterbuck who has seen his goal total dip the last couple of year. He had four in 50 last year (.08) and three in 37 the year prior (.08). Assuming that trend of .08 continues that would put him at seven over a full season.
Total and Final Thoughts
In this projection, the Islanders forward group finishes with 231 goals. Keep in mind, we’re using the 87.3% of total goals (the average of the last three years) for our projection this year. That would mean that as a team, they’d finish with 265 goals on the year.
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For reference, the last time there was a full 82 game season (2018-2019) a 265 goal year would’ve put them 10th in the league in goals for. If everyone does what they’re expected to do, this offense can be a lot better than the eye test might tell you on paper right now.