Islanders: Two players that need to seize their opportunities

Oct 6, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (55) shoots the puck defended by
Oct 6, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (55) shoots the puck defended by / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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With an injury and illness affecting the New York Islanders lineup, two players are being given a big opportunity that they need to seize.

Injuries happen in an NHL season. And when they do, the next man up has to seize the opportunity presented. With home games finally starting to dot the New York Islanders calendar injury and illness have unfortunately crept into the team. At least one spot has opened on the team and another might be open as well.

We already know that Ryan Pulock will be out for 4-6 weeks. That was confirmed by the Islanders on Wednesday. The team's number one right-shot defenseman picked up an injury in the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier in the week, he technically finished the game but wasn't able to play against the Florida Panthers the next night. And now he won't be back until sometime close to the New Year.

The Islanders blueline has already struggled this season, so losing a top player such as Pulock certainly causes some anxiety within the fanbase.

Josh Bailey hasn't been ruled out for any specific period of time just yet, but we know that he tested positive for COVID. In accordance with the NHL's COVID protocol, Bailey stayed back in Florida. He'll have to produce two back-to-back negative tests in order to rejoin the team. These tests are taken 24 hours apart. So Bailey could very well be out at last another game or so.

Say what you will about Josh Bailey but he's still a top player for this club. He's sixth in 5on5 ice time, fifth in power-play ice time, and fifth in penalty kill time (all for forwards). The points aren't there but he's a trusted member of Trotz's team. Losing him creates a big gap.

*Ice time from NaturalStatTrick

So, who steps in to take their spots? You have to think its Noah Dobson and Kieffer Bellows. Both now have a huge opportunity ahead of them.

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Noah Dobson

From a healthy scratch to the number one righty. That's been the life of Noah Dobson over the last 72 hours or so.

Against Tampa, Dobson was sidelined as a healthy scratch due to "inconsistencies" in his play. The 12th overall pick in 2018 hasn't really stepped up this season. He's been 'alright' but there is a lot left to be desired in his play this year.

Now with Ryan Pulock out, Dobson will be given the team's top right-handed spot on the blueline (at least in terms of TOI). He's averaging 15:31 of 5on5 time right now, that's sixth of seven defensemen. Pulock was second with 17:43 of 5on5 time per game (only Aho had more). That will go up now.

His power play time might not change much. He's already averaging 2:19 of power play time this year. Only Aho has more at 2:29.

(On Aho. He's only played two games and in his second game Ryan Pulock wasn't there and Mayfield got ejected at the start of the second period. Consider his ice time a bit skewed. It wouldn't normally be that high.)

Dobson has a big opportunity in front of him to show Barry Trotz that he can be a dependable top four defenseman now and going forward. He'll have to be strong in front of his net and smarter with the puck. Which is easier said than done.

With more minutes will come tougher opponents that will be up to the physical challenge in front of the net and will try to pressure the young man into mistakes. So again, easier said than done. But the challenge is not in front of Dobson it's up to him to rise up to it now.

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Kieffer Bellows

With Josh Bailey out for perhaps a few games as he recovers from COVID (he isn't symptomatic it seems), Kieffer Bellows will certainly get a shot to play meaningful minutes with the Islanders.

During their first practice at the UBS arena, Kieffer Bellows was skating with Brock Nelson and Oliver Wahlstrom on the second line. A role that suits his offensive abilities more than a bottom-six role does. It's a big opportunity for him, and just like Dobson, it's up to him to rise to it.

Against Florida, Bellows was arguably the Islanders better player. He picked up a helper on Kyle Palmieri's goal and was strong defensively for the Isles. That's the type of play Barry Trotz wants to see from all his players, but specifically youngsters.

Barry Trotz admitted that youngsters have limited run way. They need to play the "right way" immediately. Bellows did that on Tuesday in Sunrise and he's being rewarded for it.

His job isn't done. The first-rounder from 2016 now has to take this and run with it or else it's back to the press box for him.