The New York Islanders had been mired in so much disappointment and failure, it almost seems surreal that the franchise has finally turned the corner and their draft picks have now finally started turning into bonafide NHL stars and they have now started to win games.
The 2014 season will be the first season out from under the shadow of Rick DiPietro's long-term deal, as it was subject to deletion with the compliance buyouts and with a little bit more freedom on the books, the Islanders can move forward into a new age.
Now a part of the new Metropolitan Division, the team from Long Island, with stars like John Tavares, Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov in tow, will be able to make that push for a playoff spot and I think there some real hope for this budget NHL team.
The real question, however, is how many Islanders players could help my hockey pool team to some winnings this year?
Team Table (Players sorted by 2013 points)
Pool Worthy Forwards (35+ Points)
The pairing of Tavares and Matt Moulson will likely be a potent combination yet again this season, as they have been able to prove that playing together for a few seasons has remained consistent. Tavares being the lynch pin of the offense, he will be a top end pick again this season and guy you can really build around, while Moulson continues to ride some coat tails.
As a group, I think you will see some good seasons out of Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen, who have already been together for a few seasons and then you add some reasonable talent from Pierre-Marc Bouchard and you could get some real regular season production, assuming everyone stays healthy and happy.
Another newcomer, Cal Clutterbuck, will likely be relied upon heavily as a bottom-six player, but he does have some top-six ability and could figure in as a bit of a dark horse, if something goes wrong with one of the regular top-six players.
Pool Worthy Defensemen (20+ Points)
Right now, I have five defensemen on the list and so there is room for some more, but out of those five, I think three have pool potential. Lubomir Visnovsky is a lock for a pool team, no question, while Travis Hamonic has flirted with being a usual pick and should become one here soon and Andrew MacDonald isn't quite a household name yet, but a good season and a playoff push can change that.
I don't think Thomas Hickey is too far away, as he has been offensively gifted despite his small stature, but if he can use his speed well, he could figure into the 20-point range as well.
Pool Worthy Goalies (25+ Points)
With only one NHL starting goalie on the books heading into camp, there leaves little doubt that Evgeni Nabokov will be relied upon to put in some serious minutes. I am ready to push his projection into the 80-point range, which is a real possibility before the draft, but I want to see what the team does and looks like in camp first.
I suppose if I'm projecting the forwards to do so well, the goalie should be just as good, but goalies are a fickle position and we want to make sure the team in front of them can play defense first.
I think there is a real possibility that Casey Cizikas breaks out this year and puts up some real points. I have him penciled in at 40 points right now, but if the stars align for him, he could be a good player for the Islanders this year, not to mention your pool team, assuming you're drafting fairly deep.
There is also some room for one more player, so keep an eye and an ear out for guys like Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson, possibly making an impact through camp.
Everyone signed and ready to go.