Josh Bailey’s contributions have been huge for the New York Islanders this season, finally achieving the success they always envisioned.
The 2017-18 New York Islanders entered the season with players that have been with the team for a few seasons but have not tasted much success or, even worse, were labeled as “underachievers”.
That label definitely applied to Josh Bailey. The Isles traded up to take him with the ninth overall selection in the 2008 NHL draft, Bailey has always been a player the team was waiting on to fully develop.
In his first eight seasons, Bailey played in at least 80 percent of the Islanders regular season games. Despite not missing much ice time, Bailey never really blossomed into the type of scorer the Isles and their fans hoped he would when they allowed him to go straight to the pros after drafting him.
Bailey’s highest point total in his first eight seasons came in 2014-15 when he registered 41 points. His 15 goals were the second-most he had scored in his career and his 26 assists were a career-high up to that point.
While the Islanders were expecting Bailey to continue his development, he regressed, scoring just 12 goals and dishing out 20 assists in 81 games during the 2015-16 season.
Bailey was shopped around that offseason, but general manager Garth Snow found no takers. He knew that his time—and the Islanders’ patience—was running out. Then came the 2016-17 season.
After being considered a minor “bust” by NHL prognosticators and fans, Bailey entered the 2016-17 season knowing he had to produce…and he did. His 43 assists were 22nd best in the NHL and he registered a career-high 56 points.
Unlike the 2015-16 season, Bailey has been able to build upon last season’s success in 2017-18. Entering last season, Bailey only had seven career games with three or more points. He has five since then, including three (all three-assist nights) in the team’s first 20 games this season.
Since the start of last season, only 10 players—Connor McDavid, Nicklas Backstrom, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler, Johnny Gaudreau, Ryan Getzlaf, Mark Scheifele and Phil Kessel—have more assists that Bailey’s 62. Entering play Tuesday, his 19 assists ranked fifth in the NHL. He became the first Islander to register 11 assists in October since Robert Reichel in 1997.
That’s quite a difference for a player nobody thought would ever reach his potential.
The rest of the NHL is starting to recognize how Bailey is improving as well. During the week of Nov. 6, Bailey was named the NHL’s second star of the week when he dished out seven assists and registered points in what was then a league-best nine straight games.
“It’s nice to get the recognition a little bit, but really you can’t get complacent,” Bailey told NHL.com’s Corey Wright. “You just want to keep playing hard and finding ways to win games.”
His head coach, Doug Weight, also had a few things to say about how the longest-tenured Islander is performing.
“He’s been a good player for us and a great Islander,” Weight told Wright. “He wants to take his game to a new level every time he’s on the ice now. I’ve watched his maturation on and off the ice, his work ethic, his drive to be an elite player. He wants to be better and better and it’s fun to see.”
In past seasons, Bailey has had a hard time sticking with players on a line. This season, Bailey has been a fixture on the first line with John Tavares and Anders Lee, splitting time with Jordan Eberle.
Bailey has really clicked with Tavares and Lee, dishing out five assists on Tavares 15 goals (three on the power play) and four assists on Lee’s 11 goals (two on the power play).
Speaking of the power play, Bailey has thrived this year on the Islanders special unit. His nine points and eight assists lead the team. Those eight assists are one shy of a career-high already.
Nobody knows just how far the New York Islanders will go this season, but you can be sure that Bailey is going to play a big part.