With just about a week to go before the puck officially drops in the NHL, the New York Islanders have had themselves a strong preseason so far. While the wins don’t show in the standings, individual players and lines are beginning to form that we can expect to see in the regular season.
The Islanders have definitely had their fair share of games go past 60 minutes so far. They have played in overtime three times already through their first six games and have won them all.
Their first game-winning goal came from Mason Jobst, an undrafted 25-year-old that the Islanders signed to a two-year entry-level contract in April that will begin in 2019-20. He played college hockey at Ohio State University where he had 69 goals and 164 points in four years.
Jobst was cut as expected with teams needing to trim their NHL roster, but will likely start the season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League (AHL). He has shown that he could be a potential call-up if the Islanders deal with a couple of injuries.
Ironically, he also set up another game-winner playing with Anders Lee, who scored in overtime in an exciting win over the New Jersey Devils. The Islanders had nearly half a dozen solid chances to win that game in the extra session, before Lee converted a mini two-on-one with Jobst for his first goal of the preseason.
The final overtime goal came from Anthony Beauvillier. He not only scored the game-winner, but he also tied the game with the net empty against the Detroit Red Wings for his first two tallies of the preseason.
Beauvillier is coming off a second straight season of scoring 18 or more goals and has had a chance to play with one of the team’s brightest prospects in Oliver Wahlstrom for much of the preseason.
Coming into the season without their Vezina Trophy finalist in Robin Lehner, Semyon Varlamov came into the preseason as the No. 1 goaltender. So far, the Russian has played just one complete game, but has faced 50 shots and made 46 saves. He will likely go the distance this Saturday against the New York Rangers.
For Thomas Greiss, the numbers have been similar. He recently finished a game versus the Rangers where he allowed two goals. He had his best game of the preseason stopping 27 of 29 shots versus the Devils and one goal in his preseason debut on Sept. 17.
Christopher Gibson and Jared Coreau have also seen action in relief of Varlamov and Greiss and have played well. Both these goaltenders are expected to get time in the AHL this season.
Anders Lee-Mat Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Head coach Barry Trotz has essentially shown who Barzal will have on his wings this season. For much of last season and for the start of this one, he has been playing with Lee and Eberle. This line was dominant in the first round of the NHL Playoffs where Eberle went off and scored four goals in the sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That consistently continued into this preseason, as Eberle already has four goals with an assist coming from the young center on all of the them. Barzal also had a great postseason against the Penguins with five helpers in Round 1. The line has produced 7 of the teams 18 goals thus far.
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Many people across the NHL say the line of Martin, Cizikas and Clutterbuck is thebest fourth line in the league. The trio will almost certainly get another year playing against the oppositions most lethal line. Other than a two-year stint when Martin was with the Maple Leafs, this line has been together since the 2013-14 season.
Clutterbuck and Martin routinely rank in the top five in the league every season in hits, and Cizikas has brought some offense to the table. He is coming off a 20-goal season. Clutterbuck and Cizikas will likely continue to kill penalties together. Martin may get some action on the penalty kill as well with the loss of Valtteri Filppula to the Red Wings.
While a lot of regular players use preseason as a chance to get in shape, many prospects are able to perform in front of the NHL coaching staff for the first time. They hope to impress and earn themselves a roster spot at the beginning of the season.
Noah Dobson is definitely one guy that can be listed under that category. The Islanders have a plethora of veteran NHL defensemen and he has definitely made a case to crack the top six. Devon Toews, Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy are certainly locks on the back end. That leaves three spots available for the rookie, as well as Thomas Hickey, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield and Johnny Boychuk.
In all likelihood, if Dobson does make the team, he will play every night. There is no reason for him to sit in the press box when he can be developing more in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since he’s not eligible to play in the AHL this season. Most likely, Trotz will rotate the other four defensemen in and out throughout the season and use the fresh legs on back-to-backs. One reason his team was so successful last season in those situations was because of the depth of their blue line.
The Rangers game this Saturday will be the final tune-up before the games start to count for real. The Islanders will host the reigning Metropolitan Division winners in the Washington Capitals on Friday, Oct. 4 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the season opener.