When you think about the Islanders, itís hard to believe they won four straight Stanley Cups in the 1980s. This once proud franchise has been nothing short of a disaster for quite a few years now. Whether itís bad contracts (Alexei Yashin, Rick DiPietro), ownership changes, hiring your backup goaltender to be your general manager, or keeping the fans guessing as to where the team will be located when the current lease expires in 2015, there is rarely any good news on the ice. The team is actually below the salary cap floor, not the cap itself, but the minimum amount a team is supposed to spend. Management will tell you they are trying to rebuild the organization with youth and not free agency. The results, so far, arenít all that pretty.
2007 first round pick Kyle Okposo has yet to surpass the 20-goal mark and may be facing a make or break season this year. 2008 first-round pick, Josh Bailey, only has 23 goals in two seasons. 2009 first-round pick, John Tavares, looks like the best of the bunch, as he lit the lamp 24 times in his rookie season and seems destined to be a future 40-goal scorer. The problem is the Islanders need to hit a few more triples or home runs in the draft, rather than singles. This past Aprilís draft brought Nino Niederreiter to Long Island. They need Neiderreiter to be closer to Tavaresí level and not on par with Okposo and Bailey.
THE BIG GUNS
John Tavares (C): The first overall pick in the 2009 draft had a solid freshman season for the Isles with 24 goals and 54 points. Like any rookie, Tavares struggled at times but looked like the type of player that the Islanders can build around for years to come. Tavares needs to work on a few things like skating and one-timers, but overall, there is reason to believe he will crack the 30-goal barrier this season and in years to come.
Josh Bailey (C): The Islanders' first-round draft choice from 2008 has yet to light up the NHL, but does have some value. His sophomore campaign showed improvement in all the important categories and the Islanders are starting to get better depth, which should surround Bailey with more talent. The one knock on Bailey is that he looks to pass rather than shoot. On some teams this may not be a bad thing, but with the lack of goal scoring talent around him, coupled with the fact that he shoots the puck quite well, he could help the Islanders and his fantasy team by putting the puck on net more often.
Mark Streit (D): Streit has been nothing short of fantastic since signing with the Islanders in 2008. He has rewarded the Isles' faith in him by stabilizing a defensive corps that was in disarray. In two seasons with the Islanders, he has scored 27 goals and added 78 assists. The Isles use him in all situations and he would be a help to any fantasy team.
ON THE RISE
Rob Schremp (RW): After not being able to crack the lineup in Edmonton, Schremp seems to have found a home on Long Island. Schremp had 25 points in 44 games for the Islanders last season, including 10 on the power play. He was also pretty close to automatic in the shootout. Schremp has always had vast amounts of potential and may finally be starting to realize it with the Islanders. The one concern is that he's coming back from right meniscus surgery, but that took place in March and he should be OK to begin the season
Kyle Okposo (RW): Okposo is another former first-round pick (2007) that the Islanders are relying on to bring the organization back to respectability. Okposo had his best season to date in 2009-10, with 19 goals, 33 assists, and 249 shots. The Islanders are slowly but surely building a solid team by using the draft to restock their system. This should pay off eventually, but it may not be this season for fantasy owners. Still, expect Okposo's production to slowly climb even while the rebuilding process is taking place.
TWO TO AVOID
Rick DiPietro (G): When you think of DiPietro, two things come to mind: 1) The huge contract he signed that was universally ridiculed, and 2) his history of injuries. The contract doesn't matter to fantasy owners, but the injury history does. The good news is that the Isles haven't signed a third goaltender yet this offseason. This could signify that DiPietro is expected to be healthy enough to at least be the backup goaltender, but of course with his history, fantasy owners should take a wait-and-see approach. Even if DP were to win the starting role -- highly unlikely -- the Isles are still a rebuilding team and wins won't be easy to come by.
Matt Moulson (LW): Moulson came out of nowhere last season to score 30 goals for the Islanders. That was certainly not expected when he signed a one-year deal with the team before the start of the season. The Islanders are waiting for Moulson to have another solid season before they sign him to a multi-year deal, so the incentive is there for Moulson to continue lighting the lamp. He should begin the season on the top line with John Tavares.
Nino Niederreiter (LW): Niederreiter is yet another first-round pick that the Islanders may plug into their roster this season. The Isles passed over a number of top defensemen to select "El Nino" in this past June's draft and he already has NHL speed and the kind of quick release that scouts rave about. The Islanders haven't been afraid to thrust their first round picks into the lineup right away, so a strong camp could see Niederreiter lining up next to John Tavares in October.
Calvin De Haan (D): The Islanders traded up in the first round of the 2009 NHL draft in order to grab De Haan. He is a skilled offensive defenseman who excels at leading the rush out of the defensive zone. However, two problems have slowed his progressions. One, he was only 165 pounds when drafted so he needs to work on his upper body strength, and two, he suffered a shoulder injury that cost him most of last season.
Kirill Kabanov (LW): Kabanov could be the type of player that puts the Islanders back on the map. He had quite a few red flags including the worry that he might opt to play in Russia, but his current girlfriend, a model, lives in New York, so there may be not better place for him to play and get his NHL career started. The only reason he wasnít a first round pick in the draft is because of his attitude. If he decides he wants to play for the Islanders and is willing to give it his all then the Isles may have hit a home run with the pick.