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NHL - New York Islanders 2018-19 season preview, rankings, projections, bold predictions, playoff chances

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-28 00:02:13

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios, and more.

It's Year One AT (after Tavares) for the New York Islanders, but the cupboard isn't completely bare for new head coach Barry Trotz.


How they finished in 2017-18: 35-37-10 (80 points), finished 22nd in NHL, 7th in Metropolitan Division

It all ended with a whimper for the Islanders. Despite trying to dazzle with a new Stanley Cup-winning coach in Barry Trotz and proven GM in Lou Lamoriello, John Tavares walked away anyway -- ending a sad championship-less chapter on Long Island (including Brooklyn).

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 82.5

Best-case scenario: That the rage and indignation the players undoubtedly feel, after being written off when Tavares left, manifests in a defiant run to the playoff bubble under Barry Trotz's expert tutelage.

Worst-case scenario: Trotz squeezes the most out of his hodge-podge roster, which compounds the biggest issue here: The roster isn't even good enough to feign as a winner. This is the first of a few seasons biding time until the vaunted prospects arrive.

Forward overview: There's still one elite forward on this roster: Calder Trophy-winner Mathew Barzal. Around him, we're expecting a lot of regression. Few people were inspired by Lamoriello's mission to sign just about every middling fourth-liner on the market. NHL rank: 24th

Defense overview: A perennial weak spot for the Islanders, defense is looking bleak again in 2018-19. The Islanders allowed 40-plus shots in nearly one-fourth of their games. Even one of New York's better blueliners, Nick Leddy, had a terrible 2017-18; even a slight rebound would be welcome. NHL rank: 29th

Goalie overview: The Islanders signed Robin Lehner in free agency. He bravely admitted this summer to battling addiction and finding out about previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder; New York offers a strong support system. He has potential to be a true No. 1. NHL rank: 29th

Special teams: The Islanders actually had the league's sixth-best power play last season. A regression should be expected considering they lost one of their best man-advantage weapons in Tavares (12 power-play goals).

Pipeline overview: The 2018 draft landed the Islanders a potential top-line scoring winger in Oliver Wahlstrom and defenseman Noah Dobson, who could be a top-pairing blueliner if he reaches his ceiling. The entire 2018 draft was pretty strong for the Isles, adding to already-established prospects such as sniper Kieffer Bellows and top goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: Barzal now has to follow up his Calder campaign with the job of filling Tavares' shoes ... no biggie. The Islanders still have plenty of help for him, and his chemistry with Jordan Eberle can continue. Barzal should be fine for fantasy squads as a top-75 asset, while Eberle will be worthy of most squads. The rest of the skaters come with some risk and questionable reward. Will Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee or Josh Bailey get the other top-line wing? Will Ryan Pulock finally break through? Can Brock Nelson hold down a second line with sneaky value? Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? Trotz finally has his Cup, but now he has a project. He's known for defensive structure and could earn every penny of his $4 million salary if this blue line looks even halfway decent. And no, he isn't in any danger of being canned this year.

Bold prediction: Lehner emerges as a saving grace for this team, which has been without a special goaltender for so long. Because of the porous defense, he sees a lot of shots -- but he finishes top 10 in the league in save percentage.

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