The Islanders seemed to turn the page this past week after winning 2 out of 3 on the California trip and then beating Arizona on John Tavares bobblehead night. The offense is finally starting to exhibit some cohesion and is showing flashes of the offense the team had last season. It is crucial that the team continues to score goals and find their way to the top of the league in goals scored. If they can do this there is no reason that this team cannot make a run past the first round in the post season. In the early parts of this campaign, the goaltending and defense has been superb which isn’t much like the Islanders teams we’ve come to know and love over the past decade. Hickey has barely played so far this season so once he finds his way back into the lineup the defense should get better than it already is right now. In addition, if the tandem of Halak and Greiss keep up their stellar play then the sky is the limit for the blossoming team.
In the previous weeks, I’ve written about coach Jack Capuanos decision making and the philosophies that he teaches. I was very hard on him in his decision to send Ryan Strome back to Bridgeport as punishment for not playing up to Jack’s standards. My reasoning was that Strome is arguably the second most talented offensive player on the team behind JT. So this got me thinking, who actually is the second best player on the New York Islanders?
It’s hard to base it strictly on numbers because when players play alongside JT their numbers generally seem to be inflated for obvious reasons. So along with points, intangibles must be taken into account along with work ethic and pure skill amongst other things. I’m going to keep my list to 5 players that I think could be argued for as the second best player on the team, though there are definitely other players who could, and should, be mentioned with the rest of this list. So without further ado, here is my list in no particular order.
Kyle Okposo: I think KO would be most fans’ pick from the outside looking in. The majority of people who don’t follow the Islanders probably don’t know all that much about their young core of players, but Kyle has been with the organization for a long time now and has seemingly gotten better each season. The argument against Kyle is that people think his numbers are inflated after playing a few seasons on JT’s wing. While this may be true, anyone who watches him play knows he’s more than just a product of JT. He skates hard, plays smart, can shoot and pass, and plays a tough physical game.
Nick Leddy: It’s scary to think that Leddy is still only 24 years old. Early on this year, he had trouble racking up points, but his offensive game shouldn’t be slept on. He’s one of the better puck-moving defenseman in all of the NHL. He moves the puck almost effortlessly in transition from the defensive zone through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. Leddy is an excellent passer and has a respectable shot from the point. His defensive game is solid as well and whenever he does make a mistake or slips up, he has the speed to recover and make a play. Look no further than the Islanders’ record when he is in the lineup vs. when he is out of the lineup to see just how valuable he is to this team.
Johnny Boychuk: From the day “Johnny Rocket” first walked into an Islander locker room, everyone knew they had a great guy in their presence. His game speaks for itself as he is a hard-hitting, defensive-minded, stay at home defenseman, with an absolute laser beam of a slap shot. Although his play on ice has been impressive since day 1 in an Isles uniform, it is his leadership that makes him even better. He’s one of the only players in the locker room with a Stanley Cup under his belt and all the guys love him. He leads by example and will do anything for his teammates. He is one of the guys that the team gravitates too when they need a leader and that should speak for itself.
Jaroslav Halak: Rick DiPietro was meant to be the Islanders’ goalie for years and years and years. Obviously that didn’t work out as planned and it left the Islanders with a gaping hole at the goalie position for most of the past decade. That all changed last season when the Islanders signed Jaro. Halak had a solid season last year in his first campaign with the Isles and has been even better so far this young season. They say if you want to make it far in the playoffs then your goalie has to be your best player. Well, so far Halak has been one of the Islanders best players.
Frans Nielson: “The Great Dane” has been an exceptional piece for the Islanders for a long time now. He is rarely ever spoken of and is rarely ever given the credit he truly deserves. He plays on the power play, the penalty kill, and is one of the better face off guys on the team. He is stout defensively and almost never is seen making a mistake on the ice. He works as hard if not harder than anyone on the team and could be argued as one of the better 2-way players in all of the NHL. “Fransie” does just about everything for this team and never has a problem with anything he’s asked to do. He is the definition of a professional and a player that his peers look up too.
Obviously this list could have included many other names. There are cases to be made for players like Nelson, Strome, Lee, and even Kulemin. It’s always nice to hear the opinions of the fans of the team we all love.
Vote below to get your voice heard and Tweet me @SSRobSatt with why you think your choice is the 2nd best player on the team!