Coming into the 2020-21 season, the New York Islanders had big goals of making another run after falling two games short of the Stanley Cup. They brought back nearly the same team and saw some of their players take off early this season, but could not make it to the Final. Individually, though, the Islanders also had many players and coaches hoping to achieve individual milestones and have had plenty of them through the first 30 games of the season. Here is a look at some players and coaches to accomplish that this season.
Barry Trotz: Wins/Games Coached
Head coach Barry Trotz continues to add to his Hall-of-Fame career as he had another fantastic year in charge of New York. He came into the season five wins away from becoming the third all-time winningest coach in NHL history and achieved that milestone against the New York Rangers in the team’s 11th game this season. It was a vintage Trotz-type game as the Islanders played tremendous defense, Semyon Varlamov picked up a shutout, and both Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin scored goals in the win.
Nearly a month later, Trotz coached in the 1,700 game of his career, a victory over the Boston Bruins and then followed that up with his 100th career win with the Islanders against the New Jersey Devils on March 11. Currently, Trotz has coached 31 fewer games than Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville and sits 85 wins away from second place all-time.
Anders Lee: 500 Games
Unfortunately, Anders Lee was not able to play the whole season after his season-ending injury, but he played in his 500th game all-time on Jan. 29 against the Washington Capitals. The Islanders captain went on to register his third goal of the season in the game. It seems like it was only yesterday when Lee came into the NHL and scored his first career goal in his opening game and then was a healthy scratch in the postseason.
Since then, Lee has established himself as one of the best power forwards in the league. He has scored 25 or more goals four times in his career, and if it weren’t for his lower-body injury, Lee would likely have reached 200 career goals this season. One of the most impressive stats is his plus/minus. Despite playing 82 games on a team that allowed the most goals in the league in 2017-18, Lee is a plus-30. If not for that one year, Lee would have a plus-55
Ilya Sorokin: First Win/Shutout and Playoff Win
It was a tough start for Ilya Sorokin in his NHL debut against the New York Rangers after Varlamov was injured in warmups, but since then, he became one of the top rookie goaltenders in the entire league. Not only was he able to earn his first win, but Sorokin also registered a 20-save shutout for his first victory in the NHL against the Buffalo Sabres.
Sorokin’s strong play forced coach Trotz to rotate the netminders, as the Islanders alternated between Varlamov and Sorokin for much of the regular season. With Varlamov getting injured to start the postseason, Sorokin was forced to start and led the Islanders to a series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He followed that up with another 20-save shutout defeating the Penguins after almost two weeks off.
Oliver Wahlstrom: First Goal
In the month of March, Oliver Wahlstrom was arguably the Islanders’ most consistent forward. He not only cemented himself into the lineup regularly, but was able to produce before his injury in the playoffs. The young sniper picked up his first career goal this season against the Capitals. While he is known for his terrific shot, Wahlstrom threw a knuckleball on goal that was deflected off a defender and into the net.
Since then, he often displayed his lethal shot both on the power play and even strength. Wahlstrom scored 12 goals and nine assists and also had the game-winner in the shootout against the Devils on March 14. His presence on the second power play has made an impact and has been showing why he was a first-round pick in 2018. He even had his first NHL fight this season.
Casey Cizikas: 100 Assists
Cizikas also registered his 100th assist in his 564th career game on Feb. 25 against the Bruins on Wahlstrom’s second goal of his career. The terrific fourth-line center has not only shined as a great defensive forward, but has added to his offense as he gets older. Cizikas had 20 goals in a season for the first time in 2018-19 and was on pace to come close to that mark again before the 2019-20 season was shutdown. His ability to put up points on the fourth line with Martin and Cal Clutterbuck has helped him reach the 100-assist mark. However, he is known for his excellent defensive game and often matches up against the opponent’s top line.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: 100 Assists/100 Goals
The price for acquiring Jean-Gabriel Pageau was hefty at the trade deadline last season, but the Islanders’ third-line center has done more than anyone could have asked in a year with New York. Pageau picked up his 100th career assist just three games after Cizikas. The point came against the Devils in a 2-1 victory on March 2 on Wahlstrom’s fourth goal of the season. Pageau then picked up his 100th career goal on March 25 against the Bruins. He finished the regular season with 14 goals and 28 points.
Josh Bailey: 900 games
It seems like only yesterday that Josh Bailey made his debut with the Islanders in 2008. He is the longest-tenured player on the team and had a chance to play game 900 with New York this season, though it was a night to forget for the Islanders as Bryan Rust registered a hat trick in the Penguins’ 6-3 win. Bailey picked up the second assist on a goal scored by Jordan Eberle. Bailey then moved past John Tonelli for first all-time in assists as well this season. He has 349 in his career.
For the Islanders, it was a great season, but they, unfortunately, fell one game short of the Stanley Cup. They will have many players next year who hope to accomplish individual milestones, though as a team, their goal is to get back to the Stanley Cup after falling short the past two seasons.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.