Well folks, it is that time of year again...HOCKEY TIME! The leaves are changing color and the warm air turns cooler, which only mean fall and winter are around the corner and lets face it, the only thing that keeps these two seasons manageable and bearable is hockey.
Today the Islanders trimmed their roster from 50 to 26, as Goaltender Parker Milner was sent to Bridgeport yesterday.
However, I take a look at the 26 players who were kept at NHL camp today and moving forward.
Lets start with the forwards and the Captain:
#91 John Tavares: Tavares is the face the franchise and now the Captain of the team for years to come. He needs no explanation because his talent level far surpasses most in the league...some might argue Stamkos or Crosby might rival him in production but Tavares is one gifted athlete.
#26 Matt Moulson: Being good friends with a superstar and the Captain of the Islanders has its perks. Since Moulson joined the Islanders he has done nothing but be a solid player for this team scoring 30+ goals a season. With his contract up at the end of the season I wouldn't be surprised if he got a nice 4-6 year deal to stay with the team. Oh and the likely hood of JT wanting him around will probably help the situation.
#96 Pierre-Marc Bouchard: Having signed a one year deal when free agency opened on July 5th is here to help in any which way he can. Playing in Minnesota all of those years he has done a decent job compiling goals and assists and if he produces on the Island, you can bet he will get a nice raise to return to the team.
#12 Josh Bailey: After signing a new five year deal with the team in the offseason, it is his time to finally prove to the fans that he is more then just blip on the screen. When he was drafted a lot of fans, including myself, thought that he should have been sent back to his junior team. However, Garth Snow decided to keep him on the Island and hamper his development as an NHL player.
(Just a little side note... Garth Snow and Charles Wang have a tendency to keep players that just aren't cutting it or just aren't ready for the NHL.)
#51 Frans Nielsen: Lets be honest folks, he is a solid overall player but is he a second line centermen? No. He has good hands and can win faceoffs and has good hand-eye-coordination which is what you need to succeed in the NHL. Lets not forget his signature back hander in the shootout...can't get much sweeter than that move.
#21 Kyle Okposo: What do I say about KO...he is talented I will say that much but he better hope the playoffs last season sparked a fire in him because he still is making simple mistakes that shouldn't be made. He can't hold onto the puck, he does one to many toe-drags and he misses thenet more often then not.
#40 Michael Grabner AKA Speedy Gonzalez: For Grabner to be successfull in the NHL he must first learn to hone his great speed and be able to finish on breakaways and he will be good to go.
#16 Peter Regin: Like Bouchard, he signed with the Islanders on a one year deal. While he is not a flashy player in scoring goals he will impress you with his hard work and determination. In the few pre-season games he has played in he has looked like a good signing for the Islanders. If he can produce and be effective then I could see him getting a 2-3 year extension.
#36 Eric Boulton: Probably wont see much ice time unless they feel they need a fight or two.
#17 Matt Martin: Martin is a physical presence body on the fourth line and he will continue to be a mainstay on the Islanders for years to come. While he known more for his hard hitting he can also light the lamp from time to time.
#53 Casey Cizikes : Also ticketed for the fourth line, he is more of a scorer than Martin but does bring a physical aspect to the game.
#13 Colin McDonald: Signed a two year extension last year and a well deserved one. He proved to be a key part in the team moving forward. He is a hard nose player and plays with an edge as well.
#15 Cal Clutterbuck: I only put Cal last on the forwards list because he is hurt and not for any other reason. He has the ability to score, hit, and be a team leader. Right now he is out with a leg laceration but should be back before the end of October.
Three players who are fighting for a spot on the roster are Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Johan Sundstrom. All have had impressive camps and all have a chance to make the team.
Now on to defense:
#37 Brian Strait: Brian was a wavier wire pick up last year and had been playing well until a freak injury derailed his season. His hard work and dedication earned him a new three year deal. Even though he came back for the playoffs, he wasn't the same player he was at the beginning of the year. Granted he only had about a week and a half to get back in to the swing of things.
# 3 Travis Hamonic: Having signed a new mega contract of seven years this past off-season Hammer is poised to continue his hard hitting and his growing leadership.
#11 Lubimor Visnovsky: Since he came over from the Ducks last year it was evident that the Islanders knew they lacked experience and leadership on the blue line. After he signed his new two year contract he has been nothing short of exceptional.
#14 Thomas Hickey: The jury is still out for this young defender who was awarded with a new two year deal this off-season. The Islanders where able to sign him for a reasonable price so if he fails to impress the coaching staff they could trade him rather easily. I'm not saying they will trade him, I'm just saying if he doesn't work out the contract is favorable.
#47 Andy MacDonald: He is heading into his contract year and has become a fixture on the Islanders blue-line the last few years. He has become a great blocker and has great vision on the ice. If he does well this year the Islanders will have a tough decision on their hands, keep him or let him get paid elsewhere. I say they will probably keep him.
#7 Matt Carkner: While many fans still don't like this signing, I do. I think he adds more toughness and leadership to the blue-line. Do I think he will play everyday, probably not but he is a decent player to have around.
The prospects on the outside looking in are Matt Donovan and Griffin Reinheart. Both have had great camps but only one can make the team. If I had to guess I would say Donovan has the upper hand and Reinheart may still need one more year of juniors. However, he could still get a 9 game trial.
Now last but not least the Goaltenders:
#20 Evgeni Nabokov: Nabby is Nabby. He can stand on his head and make the big saves when needed. In what is likely his last season, maybe not, he still has fight left in him and more importantly he helped guide us to the playoffs last season.
Last, but not least, is #60 Kevin Poulin: Folks, the fact that he is your back-up as of now should scare you. He is good but lets be honest he isn't a number 1 goalie in the NHL. If he plays on Friday against the Predators and does not do well I would have to imagine they either make a trade for a better back up or they bring in Johan Hedberg who is still a free agent.
My prediction back in August stays the same, as I have the Islanders making the playoffs as either the sixth or seventh seed.