The NY Islanders are filled with players that exemplify leadership, hard work, and have been proven to be difficult to play against. One player that truly embodies that mentality is J.G. Pageau.
That's why GM Lou Lamoriello acquired the Ottawa native via trade from the Senators back on deadline day in 2020 and extended him for six years shortly afterward. Having a breakout season when his contract was up after the season, Pageau became a prominent goal scorer out of nowhere for the Senators, scoring 24 goals and notching two with the Islanders after they acquired him while cementing himself as a solid two-way forward. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the 2020 regular season early, he was limited to only seven games before the league-wide shutdown.
"I've heard only good things about the Islanders. To have the chance to be joining the team, it's just such an honor for me. I couldn't be more excited just to go on a team that's going to be competing every year for [a Stanley Cup Playoff berth] or for a championship. I couldn't be more excited as a player."- Pageau on being traded to the Islanders
Luckily, he wasn't finished there. In the 2020 postseason bubble, Pageau quickly became a fan favorite for the Islanders. The team's bubble ping pong champion tallied eight goals and three assists in the playoffs, showing how great a playoff performer he really is. He never backed down from anyone even with his shorter stature and even once gave the "why-I-oughta" gesture to 6'7 Florida Panthers center Brian Boyle.
In the 2021 playoffs, we saw much of that as well, albeit less goal-scoring than the previous year, but he still put up three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in the Islanders' second consecutive run to the Eastern Conference Final.
This past season was more of the same stat-wise that we have seen from Pageau, finishing with 41.5 point pace over an 82-game stretch, relatively close to his 42.5 the season before. However, at the beginning of last season it was apparent Pageau was struggling to find the scoresheet much like the rest of the team. After the All-Star break, the Islanders began to find their way to the back of the net again, going from 2.79 goals per game to 3.13, and Pageau was a catalyst along with his linemates Kyle Palmieri and Josh Bailey. He scored his first hat-trick with the Islanders in early April against the New Jersey Devils at a time when it seemed every Islander forward was finding a way to score.
Pageau is locked in as the Islanders' third-line center, arguably one of the best third-line centers in the league. It's not just scoring Pageau brings that is so vital to the Islanders' success. His consistency at winning draws makes him one of the better centers in the faceoff dot over the last three seasons averaging a 55.3% win rate which is the best on the team. Coupled with his penalty-killing ability (also the best on the Islanders), and utilization on the man advantage, Pageau is a true swiss-army knife and is incredibly valuable to the Islanders.
JGP currently has four years left on his contract with a $5 million cap hit, fair value for a center who likely could handle second-line duties on a team with less center depth. There was some speculation that he could have been a part of Lamoriello's attempts to make the team better through "hockey trades," however, it appears he'll remain with the Isles for the 2022-23 season. It is well documented at this point that Pageau is well-liked among management, teammates, and fans alike. Expect Pageau to come back refreshed, playing in literally all situations. It shouldn't come as a surprise to see him scoring near the 20-goal, 45-50 point range in 2022-23.