With the New York Islanders set to head to Toronto for the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they announced their 31-man playoff roster. The Islanders brought 17 forwards, ten defensemen, three goaltenders and have one spot remaining on their roster.
One of the biggest questions regarding the Islanders forwards would be who would get the nod to play with Jean-Gabriel Pageau on the third line. The Islanders already have three established lines in:
Anders Lee- Mat Barzal- Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
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With Pageau as the third line center, the Islanders chose seven forwards in Derick Brassard, Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andrew Ladd, Leo Komarov, and most surprisingly Otto Koivula. That means both rookies Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom, who had brief stays in the NHL this season, were left off the roster.
The Islanders clearly wanted more experience and did not want to burn a year off Wahlstrom’s ELC. While that doesn’t apply to Bellows, Komarov has an advantage over Bellows because of his play on the penalty kill. Florida has one of the most lethal power players in the league with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Defensively, the Islanders will have to likely decide between seven of their ten defensemen for six spots. Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Devon Toews Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock are certain locks to play. While defenseman Adam Pelech was initially supposed to miss the remainder of the season, the break allowed him to recover from his Achilles tendon injury. Andy Greene, the player they brought in to replace Pelech, could potentially be the odd-man-out in the group.
Rookie Noah Dobson made the group, but only has 34 NHL games of experience. Sebastian Aho and Thomas Hickey, who scored a memorable overtime goal in 2016 against the Panthers in the playoffs, round out the list of defensemen.
The Islanders will have to make a decision between who they want to start in the playoffs. Earlier in the season, Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss rotated in net for much of the first half of the season. However, Trotz showed last year that he is willing to stick with one guy like they did with Robin Lehner in the playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Both goaltenders at times this season were incredible, but neither really hung on to the top spot for an extended period of time. Greiss showed his ability in the New York’s playoff series win in 2016 against the Panthers. However, Varlamov has played in 26 playoff games in his career which is double the amount Greiss has played.
Christopher Gibson was also named to the roster, but will likely only be active if there is an injury. One of the biggest question marks would be goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who came over from the KHL. The Islanders signed him to a one year contract for the remainder of this season, but he is ineligible to play in the postseason after coming over from the KHL. However, the Islanders then signed Sorokin to a $2 million contract for the 2020-21 season and will join the team at some point next week.
The Islanders will begin their play-in games with the Panthers on Saturday, August 1, at 4 p.m. After two days off, the teams will then play a back-to-back on August 4 and 5 at 12 p.m. and then potentially have Games 4 and 5 later that week. Before the Islanders play Florida, they will get an opportunity to play an exhibition game against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, July 29.