The NY Islanders enter the off-season not only looking at filling out their roster for next season but also to evaluate how far away some of their prospects are. Next season will be a big development year for the top forward prospects in the Islanders pipeline.
In terms of development, it'll be a big season for William Dufour, Ruslan Iskhakov, Matthew Maggio, and Alex Jefferies. Dufour, Iskhakov, and Maggio will most likely start next season in the AHL at Bridgeport. Jefferies is likely on his way back to the NCAA for his senior year with Merrimack.
These four prospects will be very key for the Islanders in more ways than one sooner rather than later.
Openings Coming Soon
The Islanders will have some forward veterans coming up on the last year of their deals heading into next season. Both Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin fall into this group. In addition, if Zach Parise comes back for next season on another one-year deal there is a strong probability that will be his last.
Parise turns 39 this summer, Clutterbuck would be 37 at the start of the 2024-25 season and Martin will be 35 at the end of next season. There will be openings at the forward position for the Isles soon.
Then there is the salary cap aspect of this situation. The cap is estimated to take a big step forward for the 2024-25 season. Speculation is an increase of around $4 million. But keep in mind as of now, Ilya Sorokin becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season. Sorokin's current cap number is $4 million, he is likely to get a big raise on his next deal probably in the AAV neighborhood of $7 - $7.5 million. That will eat away at most of the cap increase.
Clutterbuck, Martin, and Parise's expiring deals should add up to around $4 million. That's not a lot of cap space for 3 players. That's also where the Isles' young forward prospects come in.
Dufour the 21-year-old big winger (6'2, 215 lbs) looks like a late-round gem (5th round 2020) by the Isles scouting staff. Last year in 69 games in Bridgeport Dufour had a good year with 21 goals and 48 points. He did get a call-up to the Isles and played sparingly in 1 game. Odds are Dufour needs a little more time but there is a good chance you can see him next season in the Islanders lineup.
Iskhakov who turns 22 over the summer, is a slight forward (5'9, 165 lbs) who has skill. The Isles took him in the 2nd-round of the 2018 Draft. Last year in Bridgeport, Iskhakov had 17 goals and 51 points in 69 games. He did not get a callup to the Islanders this past season but his opportunity should come sometime this coming year.
Maggio was the star of the Islanders' farm system this past year. The 20-year forward had 54 goals and 111 points in 66 games for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. Maggio recently signed his entry-level contract with the Islander. He did play 3 games with Bridgeport on an Amateur Tryout and put up a pair of assists. Maggio could also be a late-round Draft gem as he was the Isles's 5th-round pick in 2022. Given his age and he has yet to play in the AHL, odds are he will need most of next season developing in Bridgeport.
Finally, there is Jefferies who had an outstanding season this past year for the Merrimack College Warriors. The forward had 14 goals and 41 points in 36 games. He was one of the top offensive players for Merrimack last season. Looks like the 6'0, 195 lbs winger (4th round pick in 2020) will be finishing his college career with Merrimack next season. At that point expect him to sign with the Islanders. But given his age and size, he shouldn't be too far away from the NHL after next season.
The Islanders for several years need these kids to succeed. They would help improve the team, give the team youth, and add to the present core, all while not costing very much against the cap for the next three seasons.