The New York Islanders will be looking to put last season’s struggles behind them and return to the playoffs after missing out on the postseason in 2021-22. Before last year, they narrowly missed advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and 2021, and a lot of the roster remains looking to go on another extensive playoff run for the third time in the last four years. Behind the bench, they will have a new head coach in Lane Lambert, who previously served as an assistant coach under Barry Trotz. Let’s take a look at their roster by position heading into 2022-23.
2021-22 Record: 37-35-10 (84 points, did not qualify for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
Season Series: 2-2
Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee lead an experienced forward group based on an average age of 29.7 years. Barzal is entering the final season of his contract before he will be a restricted free agent (RFA) and could be in for a big season as he is seeking another deal. Nelson is coming off of a season in which he tallied a career-high 37 goals and will aim to be dependable offensively once again. He is anticipated to be a center in their top six on a line with Anthony Beauvillier and Kyle Palmieri while Barzal and Lee will form a mighty duo if they are on the same line together.
Youngster Oliver Wahlstrom is expected to be on the third line with veteran Zach Parise and 29-year-old Jean-Gabriel Pageau while the fourth line is comprised of experience. Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck will be on that line and maintain a defensive presence against the opposition. Having several players miss time earlier in the year whether it be to being placed in COVID protocol or with injuries was the difference in their slow start last season. The Islanders’ offense needs to be better to have a chance to get back to the postseason as that was their biggest weakness last year.
The Islanders have a mix of young players and blueliners in their primes who are anticipated to be in the lineup for their opening-night game on Oct. 13. They traded with the Montreal Canadiens during the offseason for Alexander Romanov and their defense will feature core players in Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. Twenty-two-year-old Noah Dobson is coming off a year in which he had led team defensemen with 38 assists along with 13 goals.
He represents one of their few offensive defensemen as the organization emphasized defensive blueliners under former coach Trotz. The defense performed better than the offense last year as they finished tied for eighth with the Vancouver Canucks in goals against per game (GA/G). The steady defense allowed the organization to have a better second half of the season once the offense got healthier in comparison with the first half.
Ilya Sorokin played well for the Islanders in his second NHL season last year with a 2.40 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .925 save percentage (SV%). He looks to have a good chance to remain with the club after his current contract expires in two seasons if he continues to play like a reliable No. 1 goaltender. Seymon Varlamov, 34, is in the final year of his contract and has a future in the NHL as a backup netminder. He played well for a third consecutive season with the Islanders as he had a 2.91 GAA and a .911 SV% in 31 games last season. The franchise is solid at the goaltending position entering 2022-23 and they can be a better team than last year if the offense improves to go along with reliability at the blue line and in goal.
Oct. 26 – vs. Rangers
Nov. 8 – @ Rangers
Dec. 22 – @ Rangers
How the Rangers Match Up With the Islanders
The Rangers match up well with the Islanders and their games with their cross-town rivals are always chippy and highly anticipated. Both clubs have good goaltending to go along with key players on offense and defense. With a core group of players who are in the primes, the organization representing Long Island needs to improve from last year and get back to the playoffs and make a deep postseason run.
The Rangers have high expectations entering the new season compared to a year ago after losing in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final. Can they advance to the Eastern Conference Final for a second consecutive year and reach the Stanley Cup Final? The two New York teams should engage in three entertaining games over two months during the 2022-23 season.