Islanders hope youngsters are ready for lineup
|Evgeni Nabokov stabilized the goaltending in 2011-12, his first season on Long Island (Getty Images)
Two seasons ago the New York Islanders scored plenty of goals but their goaltending was a mess. Last season, some of the young offensive talents regressed and while Evgeni Nabokov stabilized the goaltending, the defense in front of him remained lacking and the Islanders didn't make much progress reducing their goals allowed.
The future for New York remains John Tavares and a collection of other young talents, but the Islanders need some of his supporting cast to improve in order to take a step forward this season. PA Parenteau looked like he might be doing just that after a fruitful season next to Tavares, but he's now with the Colorado Avalanche after signing a four-year, $16 million deal.
To replace Parenteau's offense, the Islanders added Brad Boyes in a low-risk signing -- and will be hoping Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Michael Graber and David Ullstrom find a consistent level of production. Lubomir Visnovsky and Matt Carkner were added to bolster the defense depth, while several young rearguards could have an impact this season
For the first time in a while, there wasn't a lot of movement during the offseason in goal for the Islanders. There are still plenty of options available, and they won't be dependent on injury-prone Rick DiPietro if they don't want to be.
Lubomir Visnovsky - Andrew McDonald
Notes: The first big decision will be about Strome's future. If the Isles send their top pick from the 2011 NHL Draft back to the Ontario Hockey League, Nielsen and Cizikas likely will move up and Reasoner slides into the lineup. Boyes is expected to get the first crack at replacing Parenteau, but if Grabner rediscovers his scoring touch he could end up there.
The top four on defense are set, provided Visnovsky is with the team (he has filed a grievance against his trade from the Anaheim Ducks). Donovan is expected to compete with fellow youngsters Calvin de Haan and Aaron Ness for a spot in the lineup, with the other two likely to start the season in the American Hockey League. Griffin Reinhart, the team's 2012 first-round pick, would need to have a fantastic training camp to earn the spot, and even that might not be enough -- the Islanders have established a desire to be patient with their top prospects, especially on defense.
Nabokov enters the season as the No. 1 guy in net. DiPietro, if healthy, would push him for playing time and something of a platoon could develop. If either isn't able to stay healthy, Kevin Poulin will be waiting in Bridgeport, with Anders Nilsson not far behind.
Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter: @cmasisak22