New York Islanders Future Rests in the Hands of Their Youth

Michael Schuerlein@IslesbloggerCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 03:  Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders celebrates with John Tavares #91 after Tavares scored his first NHL goal during a hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 3, 2009 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Penguins defeated the Islanders 4-3 in shootout overtime.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders may not have won their home opener this past weekend, but by coming away from the game with a point against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was a big step forward from last season.

It wasn't a win and there were definitely plenty of flaws in the Scott Gordon's system that need more work, but if nothing else we were also shown a glimpse of what this rebuild or "youth movement" is capable of.

Looking back at the game and some of the stats, you see just how much the Islanders youth played a huge role in the game:

John Tavares tallied an assist (his first NHL point) on a first period power play goal by Mark Streit, and would later score his first NHL goal off a feed by Matt Moulson on another power play in the second period.

Kyle Okposo also received an assist on the Tavares goal, making quite the potent power play unit. Second year center Josh Bailey would also earn an assist in the game, setting up Trent Hunter for an absolute bullet of a shot from the slot.

Aside from these young names showing up on the score sheet, they were all over the ice making things happen.

Kyle Okposo has really shown improvement already this year, in both the preseason and the home opener. Okposo has shown he is poised with the puck, smart positionally. He can dangle and pull out moves you wouldn't expect someone to do during the game. The same holds true for John Tavares—this first year rookie has been hyped beyond hype.

Sure, he has his detractors, but from what we have seen from him so far, I don't think he will have a problem making the New York Islanders a team to watch in seasons to come. Tavares just seems to know where to be positionally and the puck tends to find him—which is a skill only certain players possess.

A pleasant surprise this season, forward Matt Moulson made the Islanders right out of camp and has continued to impress. This is a player who grew up playing with Tavares and has really shown a level of comfort around the puck and his teammates.

Moulson was on the receiving end of a beautiful feed from Tavares during the only Islanders preseason game at home and as stated previously, fittingly assisted on Tavares's first NHL goal this past weekend. If the chemistry between his linemates of Tavares and Okposo continue to grow, he may stick with the club longer than anyone anticipated.

Josh Bailey is another player who came to camp this year bigger, stronger, and more confident. Bailey often showed glimpses of great on-ice vision and showed us once again he is a great passer when he found Trent Hunter wide open with a tape-to-tape feed. He has improved on faceoffs and could be seen chasing down loose pucks without the timidness he showed last season.

Looking at some of the "older" young players on the team, Sean Bergenheim and Jeff Tambellini have both come into the season eager to make an impact. Tambellini has shown early signs that he may finally break out of his shell and become what many have hoped he could become.

There were times with and without the puck Tambellini made smart plays and could have netted a goal on a few occasions. Bergenheim continues to play the roll of the antagonist; he crashes the net and digs for loose pucks. It's great to see him healthy again.

The Islanders also have a diamond in the rough regarding Robbie Shremp, whom they picked up off of waivers last week from the Oilers. Shremp is a 23-year-old first round draft pick of the Oilers (25th overall) who never really seemed to find his place in that organization.

His gifted hands and prolific scoring touch in juniors would be what the Islanders need to supplement some scoring and offset much of the attention opposing teams would give Tavares.

The big question is, will a change of scenery and Scott Gordon's system be what Shremp needs to come into his own? One never knows, but a player like him is surely one you take a flier and a chance on, as the Islanders have.

Looking into the Islanders farm system, which GM Garth Snow has nicely restocked during the last few drafts, you have defensive prospects Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness, and Dustin Kohn; goaltending prospects Mikko Koskinen, Nathan Lawson, Scott Munroe, Anders Nilsson, Kevin Poulin, and Steffan Ridderwall; and forwards Justin Dibenedetto, Matt Martin, Kirill Petrov, Rhett Rakhshani, Corey Trivino, Jesse Joensuu, and Robin Fingren.

With continued work in drafting well or signing key free agents and allowing the youth to develop properly, the Islanders' future really does rest in the hands of their youth.

Well, or the Town of Hempstead. Let's just hope the team remains on Long Island long enough for us to watch the continued development of our youth.


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