Islanders Projected Lineup for 2022-23 Season

The 2022-23 NHL season is around the corner, and the New York Islanders are shaping up to have a big year in a competitive Metropolitan Division. The Islanders took a step back last year as they missed playoffs, resulting in Barry Trotz being fired after four seasons, and after a quiet offseason, there is a lot of uncertainty about how well the team will play next year. However, with a veteran-heavy team, the expectations are to reach the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.

Related: Islanders Season Preview Archives – The Hockey Writers

The Islanders’ line combinations are going to be closely watched this season, especially early on, as they will heavily dictate the offensive success. What will the four forward lines and the defensive pairings look like this season, and what are the implications of some skaters playing alongside one another? Along with my colleagues Chris Hennessy and Jon Zella, we looked at what the projected lines for the Islanders will look like and why first-year head coach Lane Lambert will go with specific combinations.

Mike Fink: Barzal’s Playmakers

The burning question for Lambert has to be how to optimize Mathew Barzal’s skill set and make him the top-line center a lot of fans expect him to become. Last year, the absence of Jordan Eberle, who was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft, was felt as Barzal lacked a sharpshooter on his wing. Kyle Palmieri can and will fill that void with his accurate shot and ability to find open ice in the offensive zone. The question is why Anthony Beauvillier, who took a step back last year is on the top line. For Beauvillier, it’s about finding a role in the offense and playing alongside the right skaters, and with a center that draws skaters and a sharpshooter on the opposite wing, the 25-year-old forward should have a big bounce-back season.

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Anthony BeauvillierMathew BarzalKyle Palmieri
Anders LeeBrock NelsonOliver Wahlstrom
Zach Parise Jean-Gabriel PageauJosh Bailey
Matt Martin / Kieffer BellowsCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

The other noticeable difference in the line combinations is Oliver Wahlstrom, who played a minimal role in the offense last year, playing alongside Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who thrived last year with Beauvillier on the opposite wing. Wahlstrom has one of the better shots on the team, and on the wing of Nelson, he can both find open looks on the net and create scoring chances near the crease, allowing Lee, a natural finisher, to find plenty of goals throughout the season. It would be a bold move for Lambert but one that can pay off tenfold and give the Islanders a potent top six.

Oliver Wahlstrom New York Islanders
Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

The other question with the line combinations is the role Kieffer Bellows will play. He signed a one-year deal this offseason and is expected to be a regular in the forward unit. Ideally, he plays in the bottom six to both add depth and keep the veterans well rested throughout an 82-game season. Bellows splitting games with Matt Martin will allow him to play on the fourth line and benefit from the other two checking forwards who force turnovers in all three zones.

For the defense, the expectation is for a lot of the same from the previous seasons. The Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech pairing headlines the defense and is one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL, while Noah Dobson and Scott Mayfield will continue to play major roles on the right side. The big addition is Alexander Romanov, who the Islanders acquired during the NHL Entry Draft as a young skater that can play alongside Dobson.

Left Side DefenseRight Side Defense
Adam PelechRyan Pulock
Alexander RomanovNoah Dobson
Robin Salo / Sebastian AhoScott Mayfield

The only question on the defense understandably is who plays alongside Mayfield. The two young defensemen that are likely to make the NHL roster are Sebastian Aho and Robin Salo, who will likely split time to start the season on the left side. Salo is the skater with the higher upside, but at 23 years old, he will need time to acclimate to the pro-level game, requiring him to likely ease his way into the lineup.

Chris Hennessy: Wahlstrom’s Chance & Familiarity

As stated in the projections of the top six, this season is a prime opportunity to give Wahlstrom a chance to shine. On the top line alongside Barzal, he will find plenty of scoring chances and become one of the Islanders’ top goal scorers. Wahlstrom also can benefit from playing on the opposite wing as Zach Parise, who formed great chemistry last season with Barzal. The important element of the Islanders’ offense is forming that top line, and the combination of those three skaters gives the team playmakers, but also experience on the ice at the same time.

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Zach PariseMathew BarzalOliver Wahlstrom
Anders LeeBrock NelsonAnthony Beauvillier
Kyle PalmieriJean-Gabriel PageauJosh Bailey
Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Other than the Barzal-led line, it’s best for the Islanders to keep their forward lines intact from the second half of last season. The offense was successful following the All-Star break, averaging 3.13 goals per game compared to the 2.79 goals per game they averaged all season. The offense turning a corner can be attributed to a few players stepping up but largely because of the Nelson and Lee combination that put two of the best goal scorers on the same line. If the Islanders run familiar lines, the team will have a strong season and reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Anders Lee New York Islanders
Anders Lee, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Under the same theme of familiarity, the defense is going to look similar to the one that has been one of the league’s best in recent seasons. Pelech and Pulock are the top pairing, while Romanov adds a young presence alongside Dobson. The big difference is Salo, who not only makes the team out of training camp but starts alongside Mayfield throughout the season.

Left Side DefenseRight Side Defense
Adam PelechRyan Pulock
Alexander RomanovNoah Dobson
Robin SaloScott Mayfield

The omission for the defense is Aho, and it’s primarily because of his ceiling or lack thereof. Sure, he can be reliable as a later pairing defenseman, but ultimately, he won’t make a great impact at an NHL level. Instead, the final spot on the defense looks to be Salo’s from the start of the season, and while there might be some growing pains, his skills will end up leaving the Islanders better off.

Jon Zella: Will Lambert Gamble or Play it Safe?

It’s difficult to look at the line combinations considering the lack of options Lambert has at his disposal, but some of the moves will involve him taking a few risks, while others will be safe bets for the first-year head coach. Lee had a resurgence after missing the second half of the 2020-21 season when he played alongside Nelson, and as a result, the same combination should be expected for the Islanders.

The risks ultimately are going to involve Barzal and his linemates. Barzal remains a first-line center, but it’s a toss-up between Wahlstrom, Bailey, and Beauvillier, all of whom could play in the top six but similarly, see time in depth roles.

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Kyle PalmieriMathew BarzalJosh Bailey
Anders LeeBrock NelsonAnthony Beauvillier
Zach PariseJean-Gabriel PageauOliver Wahlstrom
Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Would Lambert risk playing Wahlstrom on the Barzal line? If so, who would play on the opposite wing? Beauvillier could play that position, but it would give them a line with three skaters 25 years old or younger. Ultimately, the best option for Barzal is a veteran presence with both Bailey and Palmieri on his line. The combination would allow Palmieri to form chemistry with the top-line center and become the scorer on the wing. Subsequently, the combinations would move Wahlstrom to the Jean-Gabriel Pageau-led line, which will help him take a step forward as he plays next to two veteran skaters.

Oliver Wahlstrom New York Islanders
Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The defense has a lot of familiar faces and combinations with Pelech, Pulock, Dobson, and Mayfield continuing to carry the unit. However, the big question is which young defenseman steps up in training camp.

Left Side DefenseRight Side Defense
Adam PelechRyan Pulock
Alexander RomanovNoah Dobson
Robin Salo / Sebastian AhoScott Mayfield

Between Salo and Aho, one of them is going to earn the final spot on the defense ahead of the season and play a pivotal role on the left side. The plus side for the two is that they will play alongside Mayfield, who is the ideal experienced defenseman to help mentor either of the two younger players.

Other Notes on the Islanders’ Lines

The consensus is that Lee will remain on the same line as Nelson. There is an intrigue to move Lee back to the same line as Barzal, but considering the success of the offense in the second half of last year, the Islanders will keep him on the Nelson line.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Defensively, Dobson and Romanov seem like an ideal pairing, giving the Islanders two young, great skating defensemen on the ice at the same time. However, Romanov and Mayfield can make for an interesting pairing over the year. The two skaters are great in the defensive zone and would give the Islanders a strong checking duo to make the opposing offenses uncomfortable.

The final note was about the power play. The Islanders will likely keep Dobson as the playmaker at the point and the sole defenseman on the ice after having a remarkable year at the blue line, scoring three goals and adding 19 assists on the man advantage. That being said, Pulock looks to earn his spot back from the point and with his slapshot, bring a much-needed impact to the Islanders’ power play.

The Islanders’ lines are going to be shuffled throughout the season, and it will be crucial for Lambert to find the right combinations. With the team built on its depth, the Islanders can put together four potent forward lines and find the right combinations to allow the team to bounce back after missing the playoffs, proving that last year’s struggles were an outlier.


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