New York Islanders: The Kids Are Alright

This offseason, some New York Islanders fans have not have been thrilled with the fact that the only add to the main roster has been backup goalie Thomas Greiss. Many Isles fans wanted a proven goal scorer to play along side John Tavares. But the front office, led by general manager Garth Snow, decided to show patience and belief in their kid forwards. This group includes Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. There is good reason for Snow’s belief in these youngsters.

Ryan Strome

Strome was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft. The book on Strome at the 2011 NHL Draft was a player considered to have great vision and skill, but also a youngster who needed to get bigger and stronger. Strome worked on his game and his body with two years in junior hockey after being selected by the Isles. Going into training camp 2014, New York still felt Strome needed a bit more seasoning, so he spent a half season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Strome came up for the second half of the season in the 2014-15 campaign and showed that he belonged in the 37 games he played. However, that half of the season in the NHL, Strome only put up 18 points. In last year’s training camp, Strome wanted to leave no doubt he was making the team. He did so and took a strong first step in his first full NHL season. Strome played in 81 games, had 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists, third in team scoring) and led New York with a plus-23. It was a terrific first full NHL season and there is no reason to believe Strome cannot take the next step in his development.

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Anders Lee

There is no doubt who is the draft-day steal under Snow’s tenure as New York’s GM, and that is Anders Lee. Lee was drafted in 2009, same year the Islanders drafted John Tavares No. 1 overall. But Lee’s selection went a lot quieter and with much less fanfare as he was a sixth round selection (152nd overall). Lee’s development was spent playing three years of college hockey at Notre Dame, followed by a full season in the AHL at Bridgeport. Lee, like Strome, came up in 2014 and played in 22 games in the last quarter of the season, scoring nine goals and totaling 14 points. In last year’s training camp, Lee deserved to make the team but New York was deep at the forward position and he had to wait for his chance. Due to injuries, his chance came early in the 2014-15 campaign and Lee made sure he was here to stay at the NHL Level. Lee finished the season second on the Islanders with 25 goals. Lee signed a new four-year deal this summer, and the Islanders organization feel confident that, also like Strome, Lee will take the next step in his development. There is an extremely strong chance Lee will be a 30-goal scorer each year on his new four-year deal.

Brock Nelson

One of the moves that Snow has to thank his lucky stars that he did was at the end of the first round of the 2010 draft. New York already selected their first round pick (fifth overall; Nino Niederreiter) and their next pick was the fifth pick of the second round (35th overall). But Snow wanted Brock Nelson and was not going to sit around and hope he would be there when he picked 35th overall. So the Islanders sent two second round picks in the 2010 draft (35th and 58th overall) to Chicago for the last pick in the first round of the 2010 draft (30th overall) to select Nelson. That has turned out to be a very shrewd decision by New York. Nelson developed his game with two years at the University of North Dakota and one year in the AHL. Nelson has two full NHL seasons under his belt and, like his fellow talented young Islander forward teammates, improved each season. Nelson increased his goal scoring from his rookie season to his sophomore year (14 goals to 20 goals) and finished third on the team in goals scored last season. Again, all indicators are pointing upward for Nelson and no reason not to think he will hit the 25-goal mark next year.

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Just Be Like Travis

Another interesting thing to consider is this: in the offseason, the Islanders did not go after a veteran defenseman neither in free agency or via trade. The reason being is the Islanders believe in Ryan Pulock (first round, 2013) and Scott Mayfield (second round, 2011). New York’s plan is to have a competition during training camp between the two youngsters with the winner landing the last open spot on defense. Injuries do happen, so if both impress it’s not out of the question that both Pulock and Mayfield are in the opening night lineup. The NHL season is a marathon and the Islanders will need contributions from both young defensemen next season. No one is asking both Pulock and Mayfield to become key core players in their rookie seasons. When Travis Hamonic arrived to the Islanders, he was able to contribute and be counted on right away as a solid player. As a rookie, he did make his fair share of mistakes, but at the end of the day, he contributed to the team. That is what New York needs out of these two kids. Snow and the coaching staff have every reason to believe that will happen. As the song goes “The Kids Are Alright.”

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