In the spirit of the upcoming season (and trying to forget the previous one), I wanted to take a shot at predicting those Islanders who would receive each of a handful of accolades for the ’22-’23 year.
Top Scorers: Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee
- Yes, these are the same three that finished at the top of the team last season but in a different order, but I can’t believe Barzy will maintain so little goals and points especially with a new coach. I believe he will have a renewed sense of offensive drive, feeling less pressure from the Trotz defensive structure. Additionally, Lee is a consistent point-scorer, whether it’s finishing on odd man rushes or parking his massive lower half in front of the opposing net for garbage goals. He has nice enough stickhandling to match his strength deep in the offensive zone. Nelson, finishing with 37 G last season, is unlikely to slow down, at least by a large margin. There is no reason he can’t continue to produce with a shot like his. It is also likely that these three will have sufficient power play time. Let’s hope the power play scores this year!
Top Defensemen: Adam Pelech
- It is difficult not to consider Dobson for this accolade after last season. He is growing into a true stud defenseman, but I can never count out Adam Pelech until he proves me wrong. Many fans would likely agree that he is the most important player on this team. He can skate incredibly smoothly with hands to match and is rarely out of position in his own end (he does tend to rush the puck a lot. But who wouldn’t on this team?). He played a huge role in our deep playoff runs to the EFC.
Team MVP: Ilya Sorokin
- Again, it is difficult to pick someone over Adam Pelech for this title, but few people on this roster can match the influence that Sorokin has already had in the NHL. In his first full NHL year with only 52 GP, he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy, losing to countrymen and in-state rival, Igor Shesterkin. The Ilya vs Igor rivalry is going to be exciting to watch again this season (assuming the Isles can play better in front of him). Should we make playoffs, I will feel confident in him to take us back to the ECF.
Breakout Season: Kieffer Bellows
- After signing a one-year deal and with a new coach, Bellows will surely be out to prove himself. He hasn’t been the worst of our young players at all. I personally thought he had a lot to offer offensively, and even more so than Wahlstrom was showing. Wahlstrom has the shot, but Bellows seems to have the overall instinct for offense. He skates hard and makes nifty plays that other guys might not. If he is not traded before the end of the year, I can see him earning a nice paycheck the following year.
Breakdown Season: Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck (Fourth Line)
- We may love our breakdowns when it comes to metal, but in terms of the Islanders roster you can pretty much throw a blind dart at it and hit someone who might not do a whole lot. If anyone will get worse, my money is on our fourth liners. It feels like sacrilege to type this, but you have to wonder how long they can maintain being as effective as they are without slowing down. Additionally, with most of the team underperforming last season there is not much worse we could get.