Casey Cizikas Elevating the NY Islanders Top Line

Nashville Predators v New York Islanders
Nashville Predators v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

There's very little in common stylistically for players playing top-line minutes compared to those on the fourth line. While players in the top-9 can be shuffled to light a spark or in case of injury, it's typically difficult for fourth-line players to mesh with a team's most skilled forwards.

The NY Islanders' fourth line has been a staple of the organization for years, as Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, and Casey Cizikas were once deemed the best fourth line in hockey. While Clutterbuck and Martin prefer to throw their body into anything that moves around them, Cizikas has always been considered the most skilled of the trio. Despite his capabilities to play higher in the lineup, the threesome was never broken up.

As the Isles season looked lost and they entered desperation mode, Patrick Roy elected to throw his lines in a blender. While most combinations were unsuccessful, Cizikas playing the wing alongside Mat Barzal and Bo Horvat has worked out in the Islanders' favor.

Barzal and Horvat are arguably the Islanders' two most skilled forwards and have developed incredible chemistry without a full season yet under their belt. While those two are firing the puck between one another, Cizikas is an energy player who can help retrieve the puck and create space for his superstars.

"He works so hard and he's so predictable out there," Horvat said. "He makes the game easier for Barzy and I to make plays. He does a really good job of creating open ice and we'll need him down the stretch."

A center his entire career, Roy has been able to move Cizikas around the lineup due to the addition of Kyle MacLean. This has recently resulted in more ice time for Cizikas, including power play time.

Five times this season Cizikas has played over 16 minutes, with four of those five being in the last four games, including a season-high 18:27 on Saturday night against the Nashville Predators. With the Islanders power play struggling to produce as of late, Roy moved Brock Nelson to the second unit, inserting Cizikas into the top group, where he's either playing in front of goal or in the bumper position. On Tuesday, Cizikas recorded an assist on Horvat's third period power play goal - his first power play point since the 2016-17 season.

“I feel like I should have done it before,” Roy said after Saturday's victory. “I looked at what a guy like Esa Tikkanen did for Gretzky and Kurri… Sometimes having someone that plays with energy, fast and well, defensively makes that line even better.”

It looks as if Cizikas will continue playing on the Islanders' top line until there's reason for Roy to use the lifelong Islander elsewhere.