This past season, the New York Islanders were the best defensive team in hockey, only allowing 191 goals, nine fewer than the second-ranked Dallas Stars, and 110 fewer than the last-place Ottawa Senators.
The play of both Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, as well as the coaching of Jack Adams winner Barry Trotz, turned the Islanders from the worst defensive team, letting up 293 goals in 2017-18, into the best. That being said, their offensive output had an equally polar flip from 2017-18 to the 2018-19 season.
Dropping to 22nd overall in league scoring with 223 goals, the Isles were still a successful club, finishing second in their division, by one point, and fifth overall in the NHL. The Islanders are in desperate need of an offensive punch much like they had in the 2017-18 season, where they were seventh in league scoring with 261 goals. An increase in scoring could bring the Islanders over the top and into true contender status.
Here are some of the Islanders prospects that could make the roster this year and make that offensive jump happen.
Oliver Wahlstrom, F
Oliver Wahlstrom was drafted with the 11th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Known for his quick release and deadly accurate shot, the Islanders were all too happy to have him fall to them at No. 11.
Though he had a bit of an underwhelming season in 2018-19 with the Boston College Eagles, scoring 8 goals and 19 points in 36 games, he is still an offensive force. Don’t forget that he scored 48 goals and 94 points in 64 games for the U.S. National U18 Team, while also serving as an alternate captain in the 2017-2018 season.
If we are being realistic here, the transition into college is more difficult to some than others. There could be any number of factors outside of hockey as to why he struggled. That being said, he performed well outside of school this past season, scoring four points in seven games during the World Junior Championships and 2 goals as well as 5 points with the Sound Tigers. He also as a great showing in the recent World Junior Showcase just under a month ago.
Noah Dobson, D
Though Dobson isn’t a forward, his presence in the lineup would help the Islanders offensive game tremendously, especially with his smooth skating and quick puck movement. Pegged to go within the top five, the Islanders were again able to get a bit of a steal on Dobson at the No. 12 pick in the 2018 draft.
He was highly productive offensively in his QMJHL career, scoring 147 points in 186 regular seasons games split between the Acadie–Bathurst Titan and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. If that wasn’t enough, Dobson scored 8 goals and 29 points in only 20 playoff games in this year’s Memorial Cup playoffs, securing his second consecutive Memorial Cup championship in the process. Talk about a winner.
Having accomplished all he could at the junior level, he seems ready to join the Islanders,especially if you ask him. Adding Dobson to the Islanders defensive core would bring a nice spark to the bottom-six as the season begins, and would push all of the other defensemen so they don’t lose their spot as he grows makes his way up the depth chart throughout the season.
Keiffer Bellows, F
Kieffer Bellows, son of former NHL goal scorer Brian Bellows, was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 draft. In the proceeding two seasons, he played for both the Boston University Terriers as well as the Portland Winterhawks of the OHL, scoring 14 points in 34 games with the Terriers and 74 points in 56 games with the Winterhawks. He then made his professional debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2018-19, scoring 12 goals and 19 points overall.
Like Wahlstrom, Bellows had a bit of a rough transition to this year after posting a 41-goal season with the Winterhawks. That being said, one poor season at 21 years old shouldn’t tarnish the offensive potential that Bellows brings to the table. A good training camp and preseason would do him wonders, both at a confidence level, as well as an organizational level.
Just check out the double-overtime game-winner that he and Wahlstrom combined for in the 2019 AHL playoffs.
Honorable Mention: Otto Koivula, F
Otto Koivula might not be as highly touted of a prospect as the others on this list, but he may sneak up on them and have an impact on the Islanders season. The Finnish forward, taken 120th overall in the 2016 draft, spent the first two seasons playing in his native country for Ilves in the SM-liiga, the top Finnish professional league, scoring 19 goals and racking up 57 points across 103 games before making his way over to North America for the 2018-19 season.
Skating for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Koivula was an impact player, scoring 21 goals and 46 points in 69 games. Still only 20 years old, Koivula could be knocking on that third-line center position sooner rather than later, depending on how well the recently signed Derick Brassard plays in the blue and orange as the projected third-line center.
When, not if, these prospects make the roster in 2019-20, the Islanders will add a needed dose of offense to the team, hopefully elevating them from playoff participant to Stanley Cup contender.