New York Islanders: 5 Bold Predictions for 2011-2012 NHL Season
The Islanders have played very well so far—just not well enough to get the number of wins they deserve this far into the season.
The Islanders are waiting for their abundance of young talent to break out and turn the team into a contender. They already have the veteran leadership necessary to build the young core into a strong hockey threat.
With young stars like John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and friends, the Islanders have high hopes for this season—and the fans should start expecting the same.
We we will continue to see this talent develop—and exceed our expectations.
The Islanders are a different team this year. And they are hungrier than ever.
5. John Tavares Will Reach the "Superstar" Level
At only 21 years of age, John Tavares has already shown that he is one of the serious threats in the NHL. Tavares just signed a six-year extension with the Islanders.
Only nine games into the season, Tavares has already reached 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists), outscoring Alex Ovechkin, who currently has 10 points in 10 games.
I understand that it's still early in the season, but Tavares is already showing signs of being the star he wants to be. He has increased his two-way play, been named one of the team's four alternate captains and has generally put up big numbers.
Tavares will likely continue to have an amazing season. If he stays healthy, he'll break the 80-point mark—just what the Islanders need.
4. Nino Niederreiter Will Make an Impact This Season
The Swiss fifth-round pick unfortunately suffered a groin strain in the preseason against the New Jersey Devils and has yet to play an NHL game this season. Nino was assigned to Bridgeport on Tuesday on a conditioning stint to get him back on the right track.
The big question surrounding Nino Niederreiter is where he will play on the team.
Originally, I expected Nino to play on the first line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, but his injury allowed P.A. Parenteau to take over that role, where he has performed exceptionally well.
But wherever Jack Capuano places him, Niederreiter will play his part and will play it well—he could be the scorer the Islanders need. I expect Nino to put up a solid 45-50 points, depending on when he gets his start and where the Islanders play him.
Either way, the Islanders and their fans are excited to see him take the ice and work the magic they are hoping to see.
3. Kyle Okposo Will Play the Entire Season and Reach the 60-Point Mark
Unfortunately, Kyle Okposo missed a majority of the 2010-2011 NHL season. He's also having a tough start this season, putting up only three assists in nine games played—but I don't doubt that he'll eventually break out.
Okposo has been one of the Islanders' alternate captains since his second season in the NHL—a born leader.
During the 2009-2010 season, Kyle put up a very respectable 52 points—and I believe he has more in him. I can easily see him breaking the 60-point mark. And with exceptional line-mates Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, Okposo's life will be much easier.
Kyle is a phenomenal athlete who could play for any team. The seventh overall draft pick in 2006 is ready to produce the numbers he is capable of.
With Okposo on top of his game, along with Niederreiter, Tavares, Moulson, Grabner and others, the Islanders are built for success.
2. Al Montoya Will Arise as the Starting Goaltender—Not Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya, who replaced Rick DiPietro last season after an injury, has developed into a solid starting goaltender.
Montoya played 20 games last season, compiling a 9-5-5 record with a .921 save percentage and a 2.39 GAA.
Jack Capuano gave him the home opener this season, and he played an exceptional game, allowing only two goals in a shutout loss to the Florida Panthers.
Overall, Montoya has started this season with a 2-2-0 record, a .930 save percentage and a 2.02 GAA. If only the Islanders' offense had shown up, Montoya's record would be even better.
With Evgeni Nabokov out and DiPietro returning from injury, the Islanders have some decisions to make. DiPietro, who lost his first start this season, has become somewhat unreliable lately.
If Montoya can continue his exceptional play, he should be named the starter.
1. The Islanders Will Make the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The young Islanders are finally making their way to bigger and better things. The young talent is rapidly developing, and the team has finally begun to earn respect.
With experienced veterans to guide the young talent, I can't see why the Islanders won't be able to make the playoffs.
The two-way play, the defense, the penalty kill and the power play are all strengths of this team.
When the Islanders' offense gets back on track and the goalie situation is sorted out, the team will emerge as a real threat.
I don't know if the Islanders can go far in the playoffs, but a strong showing would certainly provide something to build on.