Have the NY Islanders found Casey Cizikas' replacement on a future fourth line?

Kyle MacLean deserves an 'extended look' as the fourth line center.

New York Islanders v Dallas Stars
New York Islanders v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders will have decisions to make following the March 8th trade deadline. As we await the decision of Lou Lamoriello to buy, sell, or stand pat at the deadline, it has become clear to the fanbase that the roster needs a shakeup. Patrick Roy has begun the process by shuffling the lineup for Monday's game against the Dallas Stars. While this may result in a short-term fix, the long-term aspirations of the Islanders must be taken into consideration by the front office.

The Isles' roster is compromised of veteran players with some on longer-term contracts than others. Most notably, the entire 'Identity Line' is set to reach free agency except for Casey Cizikas. Regardless of whether Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, or Oliver Wahlstrom are traded, the Islanders must start to give their younger players in Bridgeport an opportunity in the NHL.

On the current roster, only Simon Holmstrom can be considered a 'prospect' since he is still a 23-year-old developing forward. Ruslan Iskhakov is NHL-ready and deserves to be promoted after the deadline, while William Dufour and Matthew Maggio are just starting to find consistency. Even though Iskhakov has centered these two players in Bridgeport, his best role on the Isles may come as a left-winger on the third line next to Cizikas. Given this scenario, who can replace Cizikas as the Isles' fourth-line center?

Kyle MacLean has earned the next 'extended look' on the Isles' fourth line.

As we have seen in professional sports, it doesn't matter where a player is drafted, it only matters how they perform. 24-year-old center Kyle MacLean was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Islanders in 2020. The son of assistant coach John MacLean, Kyle played four seasons in Bridgeport before being promoted on January 19th against the Chicago Blackhawks. Through 8 games with the Isles, MacLean has scored two goals with a blocked shot and 17 hits.

Kyle MacLean
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Chris Tanouye/GettyImages

In a short sample size, MacLean has been a mirror image of Cizikas when he's on the ice. Though he has only averaged 8:11 time on ice, MacLean has been an instigator and uses his physicality to create turnovers and protect puck possession in the defensive zone. Not known for his offense, MacLean has been stable defensively, rating a +2 when on the ice.

MacLean does have areas of his game that will be improved with more than 8 minutes of ice time. He only has 4 shots on goal playing on the fourth line, which is understandable given Clutterbuck and Martin's defensive attributes. MacLean has also struggled in the faceoff circle, winning 19 and losing 33 contests. However, most young centers struggle to win faceoffs in their rookie seasons. This statistic already improved against the St. Louis Blues, winning 4 out of 5 attempts.

Long-term, the Islanders will need a reconstructed fourth line with Cizikas moving to the third line. Ideally, a mix of Dufour, Maggio, and Hudson Fasching will compromise these roles after the trade deadline, but Lamoriello has been reluctant to promote the prospects. If the Islanders still view this line as a trio of instigators that are best utilized for defense, then MacLean certainly fits this description. The best case scenario for the 24-year-old centerman is that he takes advantage of this opportunity and helps to check off one of the bottom-six forward boxes heading into training camp come September.