The Islanders held informal skates last week at their practice facility.
Coaches are not permitted to work with the players until training camp officially opens on Sept.18. Rookie camp will take place from Friday, Sept. 12-Wednesday, Sept. 17. With their first preseason game less than two weeks away, here is a look at who I think will have breakout seasons for the Isles this upcoming season.
One player who I feel is going to have a breakout year is rookie Brock Nelson. Nelson made his first NHL appearance in the playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2012-13 season. He has the potential to play on the first-line with Captain John Tavares and winger Kyle Okposo, which will most likely be the set line going into training camp. This is a key part of Nelson’s growth and development not just on but off-the-ice. Being around skilled veterans who know the game and have superb hockey sense is exactly the thing that rookies such as Nelson need.
Nelson will be the presence that Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson could have brought if they were still on the Isles. Nelson was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft as the 30th pick overall. Nelson scored 14 goals and tallied 12 assists for a total of 26 points in 72 NHL games last season. Nelson won the bronze medal playing for Team USA in the 2011 World Junior Championships this offseason. He played for Team USA in the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships scoring five goals and racking up two assists for a total of seven points in eight games. Nelson, 22, is a crucial piece of the puzzle that the Islanders need to make a playoff run this upcoming season.
One new addition that will be the biggest help to the Islanders overall is newly acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The signing of Halak was a great move by General Manager Garth Snow. Signing a top-caliber goaltender for four years, who is still only 29 years-old, $18 million is a bargain. Halak will be the solid goalie presence the Islanders have been searching for. However, he has not played in more than 57 games in a season during his nine-years in the NHL. Halak received the William M. Jennings trophy for lowest goals against average for the 2011-12 season. With a 2.38 career goals against average, Halak is guaranteed to bring that spark and skill night in and night out.
Another thing I should mention is a welcome to broadcaster Shannon Hogan. Hogan will be the new pre-game and post-game host on the Islanders television network on MSG+. I always love seeing female broadcasters shine in the male-dominated sports world. Hogan has spent the past four years with Fox Sports Detroit covering the Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons, along with college hockey and other sporting events in the area. Hogan has covered other big events including the 2010 World Series and 2014 Winter Classic. The blue and orange will welcome her right away.