The New York Islanders are on their way to becoming one of the best teams in the National Hockey League. Last season the young squad, led by captain John Tavares, managed to finish 3rd in the Metropolitan division with 101 points. Although the Isles managed to make the postseason this past spring, many fans felt a great deal of disappointment in the team’s first round exit. There is still a positive outlook towards the upcoming season for the men in blue and orange, and there very well should be.
In order to win more hockey games than you lose in a season, a team needs to demonstrate the ability to put the puck in the back of the net with consistency. The Islanders were one of the very best teams at scoring goals last season, ranking fourth in league with 245 goals. In addition, they ranked fourth in average goals for per game with 2.99. The amount of youth in New York suggests that those numbers will only improve this season. Let’s have a look at the five players who I predict will score the most goals for the Isles in the 2015-2016 regular season.
#5 Brock Nelson
Brock Nelson experienced a very nice sophomore year with the Islanders last season. He ranked third amongst his teammates in goals with 20 in 82 games played. Nelson averaged over fifteen minutes a game last season and one would imagine that his ice-time will increase this season. Although he will receive more playing time, I do not believe that his goal amount will increase substantially. I suspect Nelson to light the lamp 22 times this season but provide more for the Islanders in other areas.
#4 Kyle Okposo
Kyle Okposo was only able to lace up his skates in 60 games for the Islanders last season due to a severe eye injury. The 27-year-old still managed to have a decent year, and ranked fourth on the team in goals with 18. If Okposo manages to stay healthy and remains in New York for the duration of the 2015-2016 season, he will be expected to put up numbers Islanders’ fans have gotten used to him recording. Looking at Okposo goals numbers over his career, one will notice that he has never scored 27 in a season. This is not a bad number by any stretch of the imagination and I think we can expect him to score somewhere in that range this season. I predict that Okposo will find the back of the net 25 times this year. He may not be one of the top-three goal scorers this season but his contributions will still be extremely valuable.
#3 Ryan Strome
In his first full season with the Islanders, the 22-year-old Strome did not disappoint. He managed to rank fifth on the team in goals with 17 and finished the regular season with an impressive 50 points. Strome has been working on his shot this offseason with the hope of scoring more goals for his team. Being on the wing will also provide him with more shot opportunities and a wise man once said, “as shot numbers increase, the likelihood of scoring a goal increases.” Strome has the potential to be a star-caliber player for the Islanders for many years to come and I believe that he shows that even more this season. With the possibility of joining John Tavares one the first line, ice-time will obviously increase for the young man and provide him with more opportunities. When it the 2015-2016 season comes to an end, I predict that Strome will impress the hockey world with 28 goals.
#2 Anders Lee
If nothing else was demonstrated by Anders Lee in his first full season with the New York Islanders, nobody can ignore his ability to put the puck in the back of the net. Lee was the second best goal scorer for the Isles last season, lighting the lamp 25 times. Although last season could be seen as his coming out party, Lee has shown signs of being a goal scorer in the past. In 22 games with the big club during the 2013-2014 season, he was able to tally nine goals. Even in his two games played during the 2012-2013 season he was able to score once. Lee’s 25 goals last season was not a fluke and the Islanders can expect him to be a contributor in that category for the duration of his contract. I predict that Lee will keep pace with Tavares for most of the season but finish 2nd again in 2015-2016 with 33 goals.
#1 John Tavares
John Tavares is not only the best player on the Isles, he is one of the most dominant players in the entire NHL. Tavares finished last season with 86 points, falling one point behind the Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn. The Islanders’ captain has another really good chance at winning the Art Ross Trophy this season, and his goal scoring will play a major role in that. In 2014-2015, Tavares saw his goal number take a huge leap from the season before, scoring a whopping 38 times. Unfortunately, I do not see his goal amount increasing a great deal this season but any improvement from an already impressive number will be welcomed. I predict that Tavares will once again lead his team in goals in the upcoming season. This time number 91 will have the fans chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” on 40 different occasions.
John Gove is an elementary school educator who writes about hockey in his spare team. Over the past five years, John has covered the game at various levels. Now, he exclusively focuses his coverage on prospects and the developmental leagues.