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Season Preview 2019-20: New York Islanders

The Islanders didn't exceed expectations. They blew them to smithereens. Are Trotz's Islanders the real deal?

Can they do it again?
The Islanders shocked the world with a second-place division finish and a first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, bolstered by the league’s best defense. First-year coach Barry Trotz was a big factor, but so was goaltender Robin Lehner – who was allowed to walk in free agency and subsequently signed by Chicago. The Islanders also tied for the highest PDO (combined 5-on-5 save percentage and shooting percentage) in the NHL, and that usually means a regression is likely. But how much of a regression will there be? Thomas Greiss played just as well as Lehner and is still around, while new guy Semyon Varlamov is out to prove he’s still got it in net. The defense remains intact, and Trotz’s system works.

Does the collective triumph over the individual?
The new New York plan saw Mathew Barzal produce 23 fewer points and captain Anders Lee go from 40 goals to 28. But the Isles won – a lot. Offense was spread out, and checker Casey Cizikas was one of three players to hit the 20-goal mark. Still, having someone you can count on night after night is usually the way teams win in the NHL, and it’s strange to see a team rise while flattening out offensively. No one on the Islanders even hit 65 points last season, and it’s hard to see that as a repeatable recipe for success in the future. If that means leaning on the top guys a little more, so be it. No Islanders forward averaged more than Brock Nelson’s 17:58 of ice time last year.

What do you do with Noah Dobson?
Like Ty Smith in New Jersey, Dobson is ready for the NHL, but the timing isn’t ideal. As you likely surmised, the Islanders had the stingiest defense corps in the league last year and lost no one over the summer. Plus, Devon Toews is still on the rise back there. But Dobson is still junior eligible, even though he has won the past two Memorial Cups, first with Acadie-Bathurst, then with Rouyn-Noranda. He can suit up for Canada at the world juniors again and would undoubtedly be a rock for that team, but what about the rest of the year? Is there a spot for him in the NHL, or does he get traded to a third QMJHL squad and go for a third Memorial Cup?

Stanley Cup Odds: 38/1

Rookie Watch
Leaving Boston College after one season, right winger Oliver Wahlstrom found his game right away in AHL Bridgeport, where he preferred the style of the pro ranks (four goals in 10 regular-season and playoff games). If the Isles need scoring, this kid can bury pucks. His compete level and smarts rank high.

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