New Lines, New Chemistry, and Strome?
The New York Islanders are gaining attention in the media once again as Gary Bettman recently announced that Brooklyn would not be a viable option for the Islanders to move to in 2015. With all of the question marks surrounding the Isles' arena situation, the Islanders will still have to finish out their lease agreement under some uncertainty.
However, some late season secondary has left fans wondering if the Islanders can sustain the type of chemistry that helped the team finish on a 6-5 note in their last 11 games. Josh Bailey closed off the season on a tear and has constantly left fans wondering if he has finally put everything together, but it seems as though the pivot was very comfortable playing on the wing alongside talented playmaker Frans Nielsen. Nielsen didn't seem to mind the adjustment as the pair combined for 24 points in the last 11 contests for the Islanders. Nielsen registered 11 points (3 Goals, 8 Assists) while Bailey outdid him with 13 points (3 Goals, 10 Assists). However, the most important part about their streaks was the fact that the two players were gelling together and looked very comfortable playing on the same line.
Meanwhile, Kyle Okposo was also enjoying his time on Nielsen's line as he registered 8 points (7 Goals, 1 Assist) with Bailey and Nielsen. Both Okposo and Nielsen finished with point totals in the 40s, but it is safe to say that the Islanders were expecting a bit more production out of Okposo than he provided them this season (24 Goals, 21 Assists). Okposo finished off the season in strong fashion and he will be expected to increase his total point production for 2012-2013, especially with some new found chemistry.
While Okposo and Bailey both finished their seasons on a positive note, the late-season play of Frans Nielsen provided fans and the organization with some optimism for the coming season. Nielsen has steadily been increasing his point totals since the 2008-2009 season and managed to play all 82 games for the Islanders in 2011-2012. Even though Nielsen finished with a -3 rating at the end of the season, there weren't too many Islanders that finished with a positive +/- rating. Nielsen actually had the best +/- of any Islanders pivot and once again proved that he is a solid two-way center that still fits into New York's long-term plans. (Robert Kowal/Flickr)
On the other hand, Islanders fans should be excited about the development of Ryan Strome. The OHL has produced some talented NHL players and the junior league is known for producing some well-rounded players (cough, John Tavares, cough). In only 46 games played in the 2011-2012 OHL season, Strome compiled 68 points (30 Goals, 38 Assists) and has not slipped up in the playoffs. With the Niagra IceDogs in the midst of a playoff run, Strome has helped the team out in a huge way as he has tallied 19 points (6 Goals, 13 Assists) in only 12 games played. Even though Strome was scoring less per game during the 2011-2012 regular season, the young pivot was shelved at times because of injury and it is not out of the realm of possibility that these injuries might have slowed Strome down a tiny bit.
While Strome's regular season production decreased slightly, the centerman showed up when it counted the most. Strome's 2011-2012 playoff numbers are much greater than those that he posted with the IceDogs last year (6G, 6A, 12GP). The Mississauga, Ontario native has already matched his postseason goal total from last year in two less games played, but has also shown a propensity for finding the open teammate as Strome's 13 assists illustrate that he is a far cry from a player that looks to pad his own totals.
It is safe to say that Ryan Strome will be a major addition to the New York Islanders when he is ready to make his transition to the NHL. If management feels that Strome is ready to make the Isles, then the center will be given every opportunity to make the team out of training camp. Strome's hockey IQ is extremely high and opponents would be tasked with shutting down another smart play-making forward when Strome finally makes it to Long Island. Even if Strome does take another year to develop before he transitions to the NHL, the pivot is one of a few pieces that will undoubtedly make his presence felt once he is ready to turn pro.