Training camp officially opened for the Islanders on Thursday, Sept. 18. This means the preparation for the regular season and where it all counts begins. With the pre-season underway, here are my predictions for the Isles´ final season at the Nassau Coliseum.
I wonder whether or not 2014 draft picks Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang will be designated directly to the Islanders minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, or get sent outright back to their respective Junior teams. It is a rare sight to see this year’s draft picks make it to the big club right out of camp.
New additions Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin will have a significant impact to the team because of their speed and agility. The chemistry between the two will be intact right from the get-go as they played together on the Toronto Maple Leafs for five seasons. Ryan Strome’s style of play will make the second-line a definite scoring threat and will help him grow as a rookie.
Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen had career seasons last season. They will continue to shine this season which will boost the Isles offensive numbers immensely.
Defense has been a lingering issue for the Isles in recent years. However, because of the growth of Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan, this year they will be strong on the blue line. T.J. Brennan is an offensive defenseman the Isles can certainly use. He compiled 72 points in 76 games last season with the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It will be interesting to see Veteran Visnovsky’s chemistry with young rookie Reinhart.
It would be nice to see first-round draft pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Ryan Pulock make the team out of training camp. However, at age 19 and with only three games of AHL experience, I will say that he will start this season out in Bridgeport.
The Islanders penalty kill was ranked 29th in the league last season. Part of the reason of that result was mediocre goaltending. As I have mentioned in previous weeks, goaltending is the key to all-around success this season. Halak and Johnson will be huge assets in net on any given night.
The Isles now have depth and that’s what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. Another key element for the team is health, if luck is in their favor. The return of John Tavares from injury is just what the team needs on and off the ice.
The young team has grown up together the past few years and that is going to make this year´s team a playoff contender.
Preseason play opened up on Monday, Sept. 22, as the Isles swept a doubleheader of games against the Ottawa Senators. Last night, the Isles lost 2-4 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders next play the New Jersey Devils in a pre-season matchup this Friday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.