Matt Moulson (left) and John Tavares
This is the first of a few articles I'll be writing to predict what the Islanders lines and defensive pairings will be for the 2012-2013 season.
Obviously, these are my thoughts before the NHL Draft and offseason trades.
I'll be making assumptions about some of the departures the Islanders will be facing. Those include Jay Pandolfo, Marty Reasoner, Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton and Steve Staios.
I won't be making free agency or trade predictions, however.
To start off, Matt Moulson and John Tavares are fixtures on the first line.
Nino Niederreiter could join them, as he needs a confidence boost and could benefit largely by playing with the dynamic duo. If Nino somehow continues to struggle even on the top line, then you could switch him back with PA Parenteau.
Parenteau excels on almost any line he plays on, which is very useful. He can help Michael Grabner get back to speed.
Ryan Strome could center the second line for the first nine games of the season.
If he does well at the NHL level with two decent players, then keep him at the top level.
Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo were dynamite at the end of last season for the Isles. It would be smart to keep the line together.
The fourth line was a little tough to create.
Matt Martin will certainly be on the fourth line, as he's a bona fide leader in the NHL's hits category and provides some offensive depth.
We may not see Brock Nelson or Kirill Kabanov just yet if the Islanders elect to try free agency or the trade pool. But, they will definitely be ready in a couple of seasons—if not now.
Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald were a great pairing last season for the Islanders.
MacDonald is a pure shutdown guy and Hamonic provides a booming shot from the point, as well as solid defense.
Mark Streit isn't a top pairing guy anymore, but he and Dylan Reese would make a great second pair.
Matt Donovan saw time in the NHL last year and did well. He would be good to play with either a decent free agent or an NHL-ready drafted player, like Ryan Murray or Mathew Dumba.
DiPietro or Poulin
Evgeni Nabokov clearly established himself as the team's No. 1 goaltender. That's not in question.
Based on how Rick DiPietro does during the preseason and barring injury, he would provide a decent backup to DiPietro.
However, if DiPietro doesn't do well or gets injured, Kevin Poulin would be a great backup to Nabby.
He would be well-taught by Nabokov. It would be wise to get him some more NHL experience under his belt for when it's time he takes the reigns as the Islanders number one.