Who's the third man? No, I'm not referring to this. I'm referring to who's the third man on the New York Islanders first line. I sent out a tweet a few weeks ago asking who Islander fans thought it should be. I received several responses including Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, and even a loyal supporter saying Josh Bailey should be skating alongside John Tavares and Matt Moulson.
I would think that the top four candidates, in no necessary order, are Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Brad Boyes, and Josh Bailey.
Despite the addition of Boyes, I believe that Kyle Okposo is the leading candidate by a landslide. I believe this for several reasons. First off: Okposo was phenomenal when playing on the first line. He went on a run that included 17 points in 20 games. Secondly: The Islanders line at the time became arguably the most productive in the league.
Then there's the new guy, Brad Boyes. Boyes was a stud for the St. Louis Blues. He had a pair of 60+ point seasons with the Blues, and after a couple of years struggling with the Buffalo Sabres, Boyes is hoping he can resurrect his career with the Islanders. While I don't personally believe Boyes is the best choice, the Isles may opt to balance out the lines and throw Okposo on the second line, at least for the time being. Boyes will need a strong camp and preseason to show he deserves to play on the first line. If he gets the chance and produces, he could be there the whole season. He certainly has the ability to succeed there.
Josh Bailey adds a different look. The Islanders have had him playing center for the majority of his NHL career. Any time you have a former center playing a winger position you are likely going to get above average puck-handling and passing at the position. The key is how assertively Bailey shoots the puck if he gets the chance to play on the first line.
Finally, there's the guy I see as the wild card: Michael Grabner. I have always felt that Michael Grabner is a great third line or fourth line guy. Grabner isn't a great passer, but he's among the fastest skaters in the NHL and can be a prolific scorer. On a defensive oriented line, it is easy for a team to fall asleep and have Grabner slip through on a breakaway. We saw it a number of times on the third line two years ago when Grabner potted 34 goals for the Isles.
Who do you think should be skating alongside John Tavares and Matt Moulson on the first line?
Christopher Benini is a New York Islanders Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and can be followed here.
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