Ranking the NY Islanders 3 mid-season MVP's

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Washington Capitals v New York Islanders / Rich Graessle/GettyImages
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We've reached the midway mark of the 2023-24 NY Islanders season, and it's been a ride the organization and fanbase haven't experienced in some years. Long gone are the boring grind-it-out Islanders, and in are the exciting, high-scoring, no lead is big enough Islanders.

There have been moments this season that will make you want to rip your hair out (blown leads) and times when you think to yourself, "Who are these guys" (one of the league's best power plays)?

Coming into the season, the name on everybody's radar to be leading the team's MVP race was Ilya Sorokin. Hands down the team's MVP last season and arguably the year before, the Russian netminder's numbers aren't what they've been in years past. His 3.19 GAA is well above his career average of 2.49, and the same goes for his current.909 SV% compared to his average of .921. An argument can be made that if the Islanders want to make a deep postseason run, Sorokin will need to be the MVP for the remainder of the season, but to this point, other players are more deserving than last year's Vezina Trophy runner-up.

Aside from Sorokin, the defensive corps has led the way as the most crucial part of the team's success in the past. In the bottom half of the league in goals allowed per game this season, that burden has shifted to the forwards, keeping the Isles in nearly every game. A team that has been known for their defensive prowess has all of a sudden become an offensive force.

With that said, here are your top three mid-season MVP's:

3. Mathew Barzal

It's been a rejuvenating season for Mat Barzal, as he's been the player everyone expected after his rookie campaign when he was awarded the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year. His shift from center to the wing has paid dividends, allowing him more freedom to operate without the responsibilities of a centerman.

With 12 goals and 33 assists through 40 games, Barzal is on pace to set career highs in both. During his Calder-winning season, he finished 22 goals and 63 assists - both his highwater marks to this point in his career.

Barzal's willingness to shoot the puck this season has been one of the main reasons for the team's success on the power play. Known as a distributor his entire career, he's been much more willing to pull the trigger from the left side of the diamond. Becoming more two-dimensional in his play has opened up opportunities for his teammates, resulting in a top-10 power play, converting on 25% of opportunities.

Barzal was named the Islanders' representative for the NHL All-Star Game in Toronto in three weeks - the third selection of his career.

2. Noah Dobson

It's been a coming-out party for the 24-year-old Prince Edward Island native, just short of his career highs and only at the halfway point of the season. Noah Dobson is on pace for a point-per-game as a defenseman, something that hasn't been done since the days of Denis Potvin. With 42 points to this point, Dobson is only nine short of his career high of 51, accomplished in 2021-22.

With the injury bug stinging the Islanders' blue line time and time again this season, Dobson has been called on nearly more than any player in the NHL. Averaging 25:51 per game, Dobson trails only Drew Doughty of the LA Kings by nine seconds for the league lead.

Currently third in the NHL in power play points by a defenseman, behind only Cale Makar and Evan Bouchard - Dobson, along with Barzal, have been the most significant differences on the power play. He's become the quarterback from the point the team has been missing since Mark Streit.

While his offensive numbers have been through the roof, he hasn't forgotten his defensive responsibilities. Seldom used on the penalty kill in years past, he's been thrust into the situation and has held his own for the most part. The Islanders' penalty kill is among the league's worst, but it's difficult to pin that on Dobson, who's been far from their greatest issue while a man down.

There is an argument to be made that Dobson has been the team's MVP, but one player may be more crucial to the Islander's success to this point.

1. Bo Horvat

A consummate professional and leader both on and off the ice, Bo Horvat has been the most valuable player to the Islanders to this point.

There were mixed emotions from the fanbase when acquiring Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks, as many felt they'd given up too much for what is now their top-line center. Looking back less than a year later, with Anthony Beauvillier no longer with the Canucks and Aatu Raty buried in the minors, it appears Lou Lamoriello made the right decision in acquiring the former captain.

He sits third on the Islanders in scoring this season behind Barzal and Dobson, but Horvat has been a driving force behind the Islanders' first half of the season.

There's an argument that Horvat is one of the pivotal reasons for Barzal's success this season because of his play on both sides of the ice. Offensively, he gives Barzal a goal-scoring threat on his line that he'd never had before. The two built almost immediate chemistry from the moment they stepped on the ice together last season and have picked up from where they started this season after Barzal fully recovered from injury. On the defensive end, Horvat is as solid as they come as far as centers are concerned. He likely won't become a Selke Trophy recipient at any point in his career, but he allows players like Barzal to think with a more offensive mindset while he handles the dirty work on defense.

Operating at a point-per-game pace, it appears as if Horvat will obliterate his former career high of 61, set back in 2018-19 with the Canucks.

Horvat has helped change the team's dynamic since joining last February, and while he's not the highest-scoring player or leading in goals, he's been the most valuable Islander to this point.