Fantasy Hockey

2015 Fantasy Hockey Team Preview: New York Islanders

Hockey season is almost here! This is the latest in a series of team preview we have been doing this off season. You can check out all the other team preview on our fantasy hockey page.

Year in Review

  •  Record: 47-28-7 (101 points)
  • Goals per game: 2.99 (4th)
  • Goals against per game: 2.73 (23rd)
  • Power play: 18.7% (16th)
  • Penalty kill: 78.0% (26th)
  • Shots per game: 33.8 (2nd)
  • Shots against per game: 28.3 (7th)

The New York Islanders came into last season as an underdog to make the playoffs. The Metropolitan Division is one of the toughest in hockey, but Jack Capuano and his troops took everyone by surprise and came up one win short of making it past the first round. With the team set to make their debut at the Barclays Center, fans are ready to see their team take the next step and bring Lord Stanley back to the state of New York.

So what made the Islanders so successful?

For starters, the Islanders were a great offensive team. Lead by their captain John Tavares, New York finished fourth in goals per game and second in shots per game. Any team that averages a high volume of shots is bound to score some goals. According to Sporting Charts, four Islanders finished in the top 100 in shots per game, including youngster Anders Lee (71) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (59). As a team, New York finished sixth in CorsiFor (52.7%) and gave up the seventh lowest number of shots per game.

So how do they get better next season?

Assuming the offence produces at the same level as last season, their goaltending will need to be better to help take them to the next level. Despite goaltender Jaroslav Halak having a mediocre year, the Islanders gave up their lowest number of goals since 2003-04. There’s some room for improvement and most of that will need to come from Halak in order for this team to make a serious push for the Stanley Cup.

Offseason Game Plan

New York didn’t make many major changes over the offseason, which is always a good thing. Their core remains intact and some players will be counted on to produce more this season.

Two players looking to rebound are Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.

Both Kulemin and Grabovski had disappointing first seasons with the Islanders. Kulemin totaled 31 points (15G, 16A) in 82 games, while Grabovski totaled 19 points (9G, 10A) in 51 games played. Both players will make a combined $9.1M next season, so management is hoping to get a little more production out of those two.

On the flip side, both Ryan Strome and Anders Lee are looking to build off last season’s success.

Strome collected 50 points (17G, 33A) in 81 games, good enough to finish third on the team in scoring. Not too bad for a youngster. This season, the 22-year-old will be a key part of the Islanders offence and should be able to better his totals from last season.

For Lee, last season was a breakout year for the 25-year-old. Having collected only 16 points (10G, 6A) in 24 games over two seasons, last year Lee finished with 25 goals and 41 points. The 25 goals were good enough for him to finish second on the team behind only Tavares. He signed a four-year deal over the summer, so expectations will be there for him to repeat his success from last season.

On defense, the Islanders have some question marks heading into the season. For starters, the average age of their starting defensemen is 26.6 years old. As talented as they may be, playing defense in the NHL is a hard position to master and growing pains are just part of the process.

Nick Leddy and Calvin De Haan are only 24 years old, but both are projected to be top-4 starters on the team and both will be counted on to play big minutes in crucial situations. Veteran Johnny Boychuk is without question the backbone of this defensive group, while Travis Harmonic and Thomas Hickey continue to grow into their roles on the team.

To help with the lack of experience on the blueline, management decided to bring in veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky on a one-year deal. Zidlicky isn’t exactly a young chicken anymore, but his experience and leadership will surely help this team both on and off the ice. Baring injuries, Zidlicky should see anywhere from 15-17 minutes a night with some light exposure to the power play.

In net, Halak will once again be the starting goalie in New York. Despite winning 38 games (good for fifth in the NHL), the 30-year-old finished with a .914 SV% (23rd) and a 2.43 GAA (23rd). Halak benefited greatly from a high scoring team in front of him to support his below average GAA and SV%. Can the former ninth round pick bounce back this season? Probably, but it’s also likely that we see the Halak from last season again at some point this year.

The Islanders play in the tough Metropolitan Division and their defense hasn’t changed much from last year. If I had to set the over/under at 35 wins for Halak, I’d take the under in a blink of an eye. He’s good, but I don’t expect him to be that lucky again this season.

Overall, the Islanders are a team that will compete for a playoff spot. They’re relatively young and have a ton of talented players still growing. Whether they get over the hump and win a round in the playoffs is still a question mark, but they will be a better team than last season and push teams like the Penguins and the Rangers for a top spot. It should be a very exciting first season in Brooklyn.

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