Regardless of the outcome of the John Tavares contract situation that the Islanders have to deal with over the next season, the Islanders remain a young, up-and-coming team. Many of their top players are 27 years old or younger, including Tavares, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy amongst others. Even 27-year-old trade acquisition Jordan Eberle fits the bill. With the team starting to hit its prime, the Islanders believe that this is the year to make the playoffs.
However, another bright spot is their incoming infusion of talent. There are several former first-round picks who are ready to make their mark this upcoming season, including center Mathew Barzal, winger Joshua Ho-Sang and defenseman Ryan Pulock. All three were recognized by The Hockey News in their Top 10 Calder Trophy Candidates for next season. The Islanders were the only team to have three prospect recognized, although none of them were among the top five candidates. Barzal was the top-rated Islander at No. 8. The others were honorable mentions.
Barzal, a 2015 first-round pick, returned to play in the Western Hockey League again last season, putting up 79 points in 41 games and finished out the year with two games for the Islanders. The 20 year old has a good chance to seize the second-line center position in training camp, but must show that he can handle the physical pressure of playing in the NHL.
Ho-Sang, a 2014 first-round pick, played 50 games last season for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, putting up 10 goals and 26 assists, but then was promoted for the Islanders’ final 21 games and he put up four goals and six assists in that span and almost helped them reach the playoffs. The 21-year-old wing is almost a lock to make the rotation next year and could have a big season.
Pulock, a 2o13 first-round pick, has played three full seasons in the AHL so far, but after two average seasons, the blueliner took that next step last year. His 15 goals and 31 assists almost doubled his previous point totals, which gives him a chance to make the defensive rotation next season, possibly even hopping into the team’s top four. He did play 15 games for the Islanders two years ago, but didn’t get called up the following year and only played one game for the Islanders last year.