Advanced analytics and models have never been fans of the New York Islanders or their style of play, and yet, ironically, two models are projecting the Isles to finish higher than the national narrative surrounding their off-season would have you believe.
J Fresh Hockey has the Islanders finishing with 102 points, two ahead of the New York Rangers and just one less point than both the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. Without providing specifics, J Fresh explains that his model loves the Islanders goalie tandem of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov (who wouldn't?) and really likes a full season of Bo Horvat and Pierre Engvall.
The model seems to follow the same logic that GM Lou Lamoriello pursued over the last year by trading for Horvat and Engvall, extending both to long term contracts and also prioritizing keeping his goaltending in tact. After Sorokin signed an eight-year extension and Varlamov for four years, they will remain the Isles goaltending combination through the 2027-28 season.
Meanwhile, Dom Luszczyszyn over at The Athletic, took a look at which teams improved or declined so far during the summer. Despite, low grades handed out for all of Lamoriello's extensions except Sorokin, the Islanders came in at No. 6 with 8.7 goals added.
For The Athletic, calls the Islanders "curious" inclusion in the Top 10 due to the "sneaky big deal" of addition by subtraction, most notably the team moving Josh Bailey to the Chicago Blackhawks where he was bought out with one year remaining on his contract.
Many have made the case this off-season that the Islanders aren't truly running it back, and this projection would back that up. Not only is Bailey not in the top-six this season, but the forward group will also have Horvat presumably playing with Mathew Barzal for a full season and Engvall on a line with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, one of the better lines in all of the NHL down the stretch of the season.
Like all models, time will tell whether they are reliable predictors of how the season will unfold. The Islanders have historically out-performed advanced analytics, but this time around we'll hope that they are more closer to reality than they've been previously about this team,