Armed with a new coaching staff, fresh rookies, and an appetite for revenge, here’s how the New York Islanders can put the 2016-17 season in the rear-view mirror.

Months of anticipation have led up to this, the New York Islanders’ season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets, separated by just one day from the Islanders’ home opener against the Buffalo Sabres.

While the Islanders may not have made many changes to their roster (only the Ryan Strome – Jordan Eberle trade), their coaching staff has been completely overhauled with new Head Coach Doug Weight bringing in people he trusts to lead the Islanders back into the postseason and beyond.

With the final roster confirmed earlier this week, here are ESNY’s projected lines for Friday night’s opener in Columbus.

Anders LeeJohn Tavares  – Jordan Eberle
Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJoshua Ho-Sang
Andrew LaddMathew BarzalJosh Bailey
Nikolai KuleminCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck


Nick LeddyAdam Pelech
Calvin de HaanJohnny Boychuk
Dennis SeidenbergRyan Pulock
Thomas Hickey

Jaroslav Halak
Thomas Greiss

UNIONDALE, NY – SEPTEMBER 17: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrates his game winning goal at 34 seconds of overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers during a preseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on September 17, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Flyers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Forwards

Previously, I released my expectations for the forward corps this season, and I’m doubling down on those numbers. Expect to see career numbers from the top-line, with John Tavares breaking 90 points and 40 goals en route to a career finish, helping linemate Jordan Eberle back to a 30-goal and 60-point season, with Anders Lee cracking another 30 goals and 50 points.

However, the New York Islanders season will be determined by the progress made by the rookies. Mathew Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier and Ryan Pulock are all names that lead the pack, and all are under 23 years old with Beauvi being the only forward with a full NHL season under his belt.

Ho-Sang teased at what’s to come in 21 games last season, scoring four goals and 10 points in that span. Barzal is set for a breakout season after impressing heavily in the preseason, expect to see him take over the second-line center role by the end of the season.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 06: Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders skates against Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 06, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Defense

With Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, there’s no shortage of competition coming out of camp (and don’t forget Devon Toews too) making cases for themselves to slot into the lineup. Nothing against Thomas Hickey, but on a lineup with this much talent coming out of camp he’s the obvious odd-man out.

If things shape up sooner than later on defense, expect Hickey to be sent out by the deadline. One other name that may surface on the trade market is Calvin de Haan, who inked just a one-year deal with the Islanders after filing for arbitration this past offseason.

Should de Haan indicate that he will depart the organization at the conclusion of this season, expect him to be sent out as well, and that’s a move that would hurt the Islanders, especially after sending Travis Hamonic to Calgary earlier this offseason.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders makes the second period save on Bracken Kearns #38 of the New Jersey Devils during a preseason game at the Barclays Center on September 25, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Goaltending

I’ve been singing the praises of the Islanders’ goaltending all offseason long, and with the subtraction of JF Berube, the tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss automatically improves.

Gone is the three-goalie system, and now the two starters can have apt time during practice to compete against each other for the starting position.

Halak is coming off a very strange season in 2016-17. After being sent down to the minors with a .904 save percentage, he took it like a professional and helped not only himself but the prospects on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Head Coach Brent Thompson sang the praises of Halak, complimenting his work ethic and commending his leadership and guidance he offered the Jr. Islanders.

When it was time for him to come back to the NHL, he helped propel the Islanders to six-wins straight to end the season, posting a .949 save percentage in that time.

With Halak’s contract set to expire at the conclusion of this season, and the probability of the Islanders re-signing him very low, the Slovakian netminder has to take it on himself to play the best hockey he can to raise his own value during the offseason.

On Greiss’ end, he continued elite play in the first half of the season and likely would have finished with a higher save percentage if the Islanders didn’t rely so heavily on him with Halak banished to the minors.

Entering the first of a three-year extension with the Islanders, Greiss is set to compete for the starting position again next season.

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 19: Doug Weight of the New York Islanders handles his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Season Expectations

With new Head Coach Doug Weight solidifying his new assistant coaches in Luke Richardson, Kelly Buchberger and Scott Gomez, the new staff is ready to revitalize a talented Islanders team.

The motto going around in the locker room has been “Hit Em First”, and that should say enough about the playing-style Doug Weight and company want to impart on their squad. A welcome change in the attitude of the Islanders’ style — beat the opposition to the play.

Weight has been drilling the notion of getting a fast start right out of the gate, a direct response to the Islanders start last season (17-17-8 before Weight took over).

So, formally, here is my bold prediction for the 2017-18 season:

Expect the Islanders to come out sprinting right from the get-go, winning at least six of their first 10 games and collecting points in seven of those contests and carrying this play throughout their season.

New York Islanders

By December, the Islanders should be sitting comfortably in a playoff spot and Tavares will have compiled roughly 20 goals and 40 points, about half of his total of 92 this season.

After fighting tooth-and-nail with the other tough competitors in the Metropolitan division, the Islanders will capture the top Wild-Card position just as the season winds down, by which time the Islanders will have two key answers to questions that were pestering them all season long:

The bid for Belmont will be granted to the Islanders and they will sign a five-year deal with the Barclays Center to stay there until construction is complete.

More importantly, just a week or so after this news is confirmed, John Tavares will have inked an eight-year, $90 million contract.

I may be drinking too much of that sweet kool-aid, but hey, in the words of Jyn Erso from Rogue One:

“Rebellions are built on hope.”

UNIONDALE, NY – SEPTEMBER 17: The New York Islanders celebrate their 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers during a preseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on September 17, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Staff Picks

Matt Di Giacomo, Isles Boss

Final Record and Points: 46-27-9
Final Metro Standings (1 through 8):

1. Penguins, 109 pts
2. Capitals, 104 pts
3. New York Rangers, 102 pts
4. New York Islanders, 101 pts (W1)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets, 100 pts (W2)
6. Carolina Hurricanes, 95 pts
7. New Jersey Devils, 92 pts
8. Philadelphia Flyers, 90 pts

Team MVP: John Tavares
Breakout Player: Mathew Barzal
Disappointing Player: Josh Bailey
Goal Leader: John Tavares (42)
Assist Leader: Jordan Eberle (36)
Point Leader: John Tavares (96 pts)
Playoffs Prediction: Out Round 2 vs. TBL in 7 games
Final Thoughts (one or two paragraphs):

The 2017-18 season will be one for rejuvenation for the New York Islanders. The emergence of rookies such as Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock coupled with the continued development of players such as Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Pelech will help propel the Islanders far beyond the expectations most of the “experts” have of them. A two-goalie tandem between Jaroslav Halak, who is in a contract year and looking to raise his value, and the ever-steady Thomas Greiss, who will be firmly cemented as the starter beyond next season and will not be relied upon as heavily this year, will produce exceptional goal-tending results. Despite some variables on defense such as how Adam Pelech will perform and how Calvin deHaan can build on last year’s success, the Islanders have healthy competition for roster time should one of their players stagger, ensuring a steep competition throughout the season.

The Islanders will get off to a hot start to start the year, earning points in seven of their first 10 games of the season that will help carry the team through the November push. Josh Ho-Sang and Ryan Pulock automatically help one of the league’s worst powerplays last season. With a lack of a nagging injury afflicting Andrew Ladd before the start of the season, and the solidification of Jason Chimera‘s spot on the roster, expect both players to produce from the get-go on a roster that will compete aggressively night-in and night-out thanks to the intensity of new Head Coach Doug Weight and company’s practice sessions.

After defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the first round (in 6 games), the Islanders will move on to a rematch of last year’s second round against Tampa Bay and push them to the brink en route to an honorable exit in the second round. This will mark a huge note of progress for the franchise who will likely the future of their arena situation figured out — in Belmont, and their captain re-signed should the arena resolve itself, to an 8-year, $11m deal.

Rick Weiner, Editor in Chief

Final Record and Points: 46-26-9, 101 points
Final Metro Standings (1 through 8): Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Isles, Rangers, Devils, Philadelphia, Carolina
Team MVP: John Tavares
Breakout Player Mathew Barzal:
Disappointing Player: Thomas Greiss
Goal Leader: Anders Lee
Assist Leader: Tavares
Point Leader: Tavares
Playoffs Prediction: Lose in second round
Final Thoughts (one or two paragraphs):

While the Islanders will be improved, there’s still a lot of untested youth on the roster, which will ultimately cost them in the playoffs. If things go sour, the Isles will do the unthinkable and trade Tavares, who they cannot let walk as a free agent after the season. Doug Weight will prove that he’s not only the right man to lead this team but will be a contender for the Jack Adams Award.

Peter Schwartz, Senior Writer

Final Record and Points: 45-27-10 100 points
Final Metro Standings (1 through 8): 3rd
Team MVP: John Tavares
Breakout Player: Matthew Barzal
Disappointing Player: Brock Nelson
Goal Leader: John Tavares
Assist Leader: John Tavares
Point Leader: John Tavares
Playoffs Prediction: Isles lose to Penguins in Eastern Conference Final
Final Thoughts (one or two paragraphs): I think this team is loaded with young talent and with a mix of key veterans and captain John Tavares in a contract year, the Islanders will blossom into a cup contender very quickly. The arena issue will be a lingering distraction but the young stars like Barzal and Ho-Sang will make fans want to come to what may be the final season at Barclays Center.

Bryan Saur, Contributor

Final Record and Points: 46-27-9, 101 points
Final Metro Standings (1 through 8): Fourth
Team MVP: John Tavares
Breakout Player: Josh Ho-Sang
Disappointing Player: Johnny Boychuk
Goal Leader: John Tavares
Assist Leader: Jordan Eberle
Point Leader: John Tavares
Playoffs Prediction: Second Round Loss to Habs
Final Thoughts (one or two paragraphs): We know what the Isles will get from their top line of Jordan Eberle, John Tavares, Anders Lee. The success of this team will be determined by secondary scorers like Andrew Ladd and Josh Bailey. If Bailey can build on his success from last year and if Ladd produces like he did in the second half of the season under Dough Weight, the Islanders will bounce back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

John Santamaria, Contributor

Final Record and Points: 44-28-10 for 98 points
Final Metro Standings (1 through 8): 3rd place in Metro
Team MVP: John Tavares
Breakout Player: Josh Ho-Sang, Matthew Barzal
Disappointing Player: Adam Pelech
Goal Leader: John Tavares
Assist Leader: Jordan Eberle
Point Leader: John Tavares
Playoffs Prediction: lose in 2nd round to Pittsburgh Penguins
Final Thoughts (one or two paragraphs):

In Doug Weight’s first full season behind the bench, the Islanders are sure to pick up right where they left off in the spring when he took over the team. A full season with Weight and a new coaching staff plus new philosophies is what this team has needed. If they don’t get off to a slow start this year, it should make for a return to the postseason in what is always a competitive Eastern Conference. The goaltending combination of Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak is as strong of a duo in the league that you can ask for and they will need the best of them each night.

The offense is there to carry the scoring and I am excited to see a full year of Josh Ho-Sang and whenever Matthew Barzal breaks the roster I think he will surprise many early on. My concerns with this group are on the defensive side and after trading Travis Hamonic, is enough there to carry the load behind Leddy and Boychuk? The pressure will be on Ryan Pulock to step in and play a big role plus will Adam Pelech live up to that contract he signed this summer?

With extra draft pick assets, I don’t think the Islanders roster is complete and we will see a move done this year that helps get the team over the top and a serious contender in the East. Stay tuned!!!

Donny Savitzky, Contributor

Final Record and Points: 46-31-5 (97 points)
Final Metro Standings (1 through 8): 3rd
Team MVP: John Tavares
Breakout Player: Mathew Barzal
Disappointing Player: Jason Chimera
Goal Leader: Anders Lee
Assist Leader: John Tavares
Point Leader: John Tavares
Playoffs Prediction: Second round loss.
Final Thoughts (one or two paragraphs):

This is by far the most talented and deep team the Islanders have rolled out in a long time.

Led by an incredibly talented forward group, an eight-man defense and a goalie duo that might be the best in the league. There’s reason to believe that it’s going to be fun at Barclays Center this season.

ESNY City Stream

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