In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Fourteenth up are the New York Islanders who are in their 47th season as an NHL team. They have made the playoffs in three of the last five seasons including a campaign last year which surprised quite a few people.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 15th
- Goals for Rank: 22nd
- Goals against Rank: 1st
- PP Rank: 29th
- PK Rank: 16th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 16th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 9th
- Metropolitan Division Standings: 4th
- Coach: Barry Trotz (2nd season with Islanders; 48-27-7 regular season; 4-4 playoffs; Career 810-595-60-141 regular season; 59-62 playoffs)
On offense, they are not overtly strong. Mathew Barzal has one more year on his rookie contract which is very favorable for New York. This team had the third fewest shots on goal of any team offensively and I would say overachieved with the 22nd most goals for. There is reason to believe if they can’t get their shot totals up that they take another step back. Seven of their top nine scorers were comfortably above the league average in scoring and some of that could come down this season. Derick Brassard provides depth but I struggle to see ANY of their lines being even average in the current NHL.
Defensively, they were ok last year. They averaged the 12th fewest shots against and were the top team in the NHL allowing 196 goals against, 3% better than the next closest team. This was the first times since the 2016-2017 season that a team allowed fewer than 200 goals and neither team repeated near that the next season.
In net, Robin Lehner was amazing. With a 2.14 GAA and a .930 SV% he was top five in both categories. He started 46 games, and Thomas Greiss started 43 games. Thomas Greiss was also amazing. He had 2.28 GAA and a .927 SV% which was ALSO top five in both categories. Robin Lehner went to Chicago and now it’s up to Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov to fill the void. I do anticipate both Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner regressing as last year presented a career year for both; however, I do think there is some legitimacy to the system Trotz puts in place and the defense in front of them. They probably aren’t the best team in goals against but they could be top five.
Behind the bench, Barry Trotz has proven time and time again how good he is. For full context this would be the first time since 2013-2014 that Barry misses the playoffs. Barry continues to get the best out of his teams, especially in the regular season and I think long term he’s still amazing but this team, which outperformed last year, takes a step back this season.
- Semyon Varlamov
- Derrick Brassard
- Valtteri Filppula
- Robin Lehner
Prospects and Picks
Oliver Wahlstrom — Taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Oliver had impressed at the U17 and U18 international play averaging just about a point per game each year. He spent a season with Boston College and put up 19 points across 36 games before joinging the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL and scoring three points in just five games. He will likely start with them again this season but pending how the Islanders are doing I could see him being brought up at some point for some exposure to the big leagues. He brings power play talent and leadership qualities.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Mathew Barzal — This seems weird but I think he is their entire offense and his shooting percentage went down a bit in what could be deemed a “sophomore slump” (he was one of the few players with a more normalized amount). Contract year plus focal point of offense plus a full year under Barry Trotz system tells me he could do be back north of 80 points this season.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$74.7MM Spent; $6.7MM in Cap room; 24 players signed.