The 2017-18 season will be one full of large variables for the New York Islanders, and if things don’t pan out, look for these players to be the first to go.
In a season full of question marks as it is with a new coaching staff, several young players, and John Tavares’ contract continually looming over the team like a dark cloud, maintaining an air of positive-thought is integral to this season.
General Manager Garth Snow is still looking to upgrade his roster at every turn, whether it’s addressing a prevalent need or simply fine-tuning the group he’s put together. For better or worse, here’s a list of some players that could find themselves donning different sweaters at some point during the coming season.
The fourth-overall draft choice of the L.A. Kings in 2007, Thomas Hickey found his NHL career hit a roadblock when he was waived by the organization in 2013. Fortunately for him, the New York Islanders gave him a second chance after claiming him from the waiver wire, and has proven to be a reliable stay-at-home defenseman who can slot in on the bottom-four.
Hickey has shown steady improvement in his first four seasons, becoming a dark horse candidate for a middle-six role early on. However, 2016-17 was a misstep for Hickey who had been progressing fairly well until then.
2017-18 will have to be a big year for Hickey to prove himself once more, but with the emergence of prospects in the ever-increasing pool it’s viable that he’s simply the odd-man out once more on a roster spot. Hickey would be a great addition for a team seeking some depth defensemen, and especially one with a knack for overtime such as Hickey. If everything pans out well with the additions of Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, then unfortunately for Thomas Hickey he could find himself out by the trade deadline.
Josh Bailey is coming off a career-year in 2016-17, scoring 56 points and a career-high 43 assists.
While that feat initially strikes as impressive, he will have a tough job this season backing that up this coming season. Bailey will likely not see a lot of ice time with John Tavares, and that doesn’t make things any easier in the 27-year-old’s campaign to show that last season wasn’t mostly thanks to Johnny Hockey.
Entering the final year of his contract, Bailey will need to not only have a repeat of 2016-17, but he will have to add onto that. In particular, Bailey needs to finally crack the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Just like Thomas Hickey, Bailey could see himself shrink into a lesser role if the rookies in Josh Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal pan out as expected.
This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but in reality it makes perfect sense.
Brock Nelson is a three-time 20 goal scorer who hasn’t even began to reach his full potential. The reason for this being, is that many believe he isn’t committing 100% of himself night in and night out. In fact, Anders Lee — a 34 goal scorer last season — was on the NHL Network and went as far to say:
“You look at guys like Brock Nelson who scored 20 the last three seasons, he can push 30 and 35 if he really just gets things going. I’ve been skating with him all summer and things look good from his side.”
The Islanders want Nelson to seize firm grasp of the second-line center position since Frans Nielsen’s departure. The belief in the organization is that he has the ability to do so, but his inconsistency has been holding him back.
If the Islanders are still in talks of landing Duchene, it’s viable that Brock is part of the package going the other way. With how stingy Colorado General Manager Joe Sakic has been in negotiations, it’s likely that Nelson has a decent window of time to prove otherwise to Garth Snow.