Newest Islanders Can Use Playoffs to Improve & Shine

Plenty can change with a strong playoff run, but the New York Islanders had received very little from their trade deadline moves until Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last year, the Islanders traded a first-round pick for Jean-Gabriel Pageau and saw him become one of the team’s top players in the postseason. This year, the Islanders didn’t get much during the regular season, but Kyle Palmieri made his mark with a pair of goals in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York also sent a first-round pick to acquire Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. Additionally, general manager Lou Lamoriello also made a move for 36-year old defenseman Braydon Coburn. Let’s take a look at what these three players have done with New York.

Kyle Palmieri

It had been a rough start for Palmieri with the Islanders until he scored the opening goal of the postseason. Palmieri also registered the game-winner in overtime to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with Pittsburgh. Before the trade with New York, the Long Island native scored goals in three of his last six games with the Devils. However, with the Islanders, he scored just three goals in 17 regular-season games. Palmieri had also registered only two assists, as he came to New York as someone to help with the loss of Anders Lee.

Palmieri has yet to play much on the first line with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. He has mostly played on the third line with Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom. Should the Islanders start to struggle, he will definitely be an option to move around the lineup, but after a terrific Game 1, the Isles seem to be satisfied with their lines.

Travis Zajac

It has been a real rough go for Zajac, as not only has he not been able to produce, the former Devils’ captain has seen himself out of the lineup regularly. Zajac has become the 13th forward for the Islanders, though he provides them with a bit more depth at the center position. New York recently had Pageau miss a game in the regular season, and Zajac was able to fill in, but like Palmieri, struggled early with the Islanders.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the Islanders use Zajac later in the postseason. He has mainly played center in the NHL, but New York has Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau, and Casey Cizikas. For a point, Zajac played a bit with Barzal on the top line. He was a scratch in Game 1 but has great numbers in his career against the Penguins.

Braydon Coburn

There has not been much playing time available for Coburn, who won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020. The Islanders gave up a seventh-round draft pick to acquire the defenseman, but he has only seen action in three games. In those three, he did not see the ice for more than 16:30. The team was 1-2-0 in his three games and Coburn took a pair of penalties. His role is to be the seventh defenseman. The move came somewhat as a surprise because Thomas Hickey and Sebastian Aho played well in their games.

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However, the Islanders are clearly more comfortable with a veteran. Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Nick Leddy, are all locks to play every night. Andy Greene has played in all but one game this year and the Islanders are still high on both Scott Mayfield and Noah Dobson. Last year, New York was hesitant to play their young rookie in Dobson. Unless there is an injury, Coburn’s only chance to crack the lineup would come at Dobson’s expense. However, Dobson has been the quarterback on the power play.

Braydon Coburn New York Islanders
Braydon Coburn, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As Palmieri showed early in the postseason, trade deadline moves are often remembered for what the players do in the playoffs. Pageau was terrific for the Islanders in 2019-20, and the three new players are hoping to duplicate that success in the rest of the postseason.

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