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30 in 15: Islanders bank on young players to step up

Saturday, 09.21.2013 / 9:16 PM / Features
By Brian Compton
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30 in 15: Islanders bank on young players to step up
The Islanders need their young defensemen and forwards to step up if they hope to build on last season\'s trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The New York Islanders are set to begin play in the new Metropolitan Division with a roster similar to the one that last season ended a six-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Expectations will be higher for a team that boasts a talented young core, led by recently anointed captain John Tavares.

Tavares is one of six first-round picks expected to be in the lineup when the Islanders open their regular season Oct. 4 against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. That number could grow to 10 should forwards Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome and defensemen Griffin Reinhart and Calvin de Haan make the team.

The New York Islanders need their young forwards to step up if they hope to build on last season's trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI)

"We're extremely bullish on where we stand now and in the future," said general manager Garth Snow, who began rebuilding the franchise after the 2006-07 season. "It's nice to see. I know it was painful at times, but it's been worth the wait."

Here are three storylines in training camp as New York prepares for the 2013-14 season:

1. Kyle Okposo aims to build off his postseason performance -- Okposo struggled during the regular season (he had four goals and 20 assists in 48 games) but found his game during New York's competitive first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His fight with Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen gave the Islanders life in Game 2, the same night Okposo scored the game-winning goal to even the series. Now it's up to Okposo to prove he is a full-time top-six forward in the NHL.

"I was working hard, but maybe I wasn't working as smart as I could have been," Okposo told Newsday. "Our hunger as a team has been amplified this offseason and mine has as well."

2. Someone must replace Mark Streit's offense from the blue line -- The former captain, who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in June after failing to agree to a new contract, struggled a bit at times in his own end last season, but he did put up 27 points in 48 games. Snow did not acquire any defensemen during the offseason to try to replace that offense, a clear sign he believes the answer can come from within.

Perhaps the biggest battle in training camp will come down to three players most capable of filling the void left by Streit's departure. Matt Donovan is likely the favorite after scoring 93 points during the past two seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League. Calvin de Haan, a first-round pick (No. 12) in 2009, has offensive ability but missed almost all of last season with a shoulder injury.

The wild card is Griffin Reinhart, the fourth player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old could receive a nine-game tryout at the start of the season before the Islanders have to decide whether to keep him or return him to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League for one more season.

"This is a good chance for a few different things," coach Jack Capuano said. "We can evaluate our young guys pushing for a spot and see who needs more time in the American Hockey League. We'll also see some of our older guys and what kind of summers they had and where they're at. We have some new guys on our team, and that gives them an opportunity to get familiar with our system."

3. Brock Nelson could be the No. 3 center -- The Islanders had two second-round picks at the 2010 NHL Draft; Snow traded both of them to the Chicago Blackhawks in order to move up to the final selection of Round 1, where he took Nelson, a 6-foot-3 center now pushing for a spot on the big club.

Nelson is coming off a solid rookie pro season at Bridgeport, where he had 25 goals and 27 assists in 66 games. The Warroad, Minn., native is battling free-agent signee Peter Regin to be the No. 3 center, as Capuano seems set on keeping the fourth line of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Colin McDonald intact.

"I've seen enough of Brock to know that he's close," Capuano said. "He's a guy that's big and strong and has paid his dues in the offseason. He just goes about his business a certain way and we like the way he goes about it. He's going to get a real good look in this preseason."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL




1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYI 63 41 20 2 202 174 84
3 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
4 TBL 63 38 19 6 207 167 82
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 63 33 20 10 184 159 76
8 BOS 61 30 22 9 161 160 69
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 62 25 27 10 139 164 60
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 60 23 30 7 137 159 53
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43


J. Tavares 63 29 35 4 64
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 63 14 26 21 40
B. Nelson 63 17 19 6 36
F. Nielsen 63 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 57 20 12 12 32
J. Bailey 51 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 53 7 22 15 29
N. Leddy 63 8 17 14 25
T. Hamonic 53 4 20 16 24
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 7 1 .890 2.95 is the official Web site of the New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and are trademarks of New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P.  NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

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