Islanders First Line: Matt Moulson, John Tavares and ?
Today PA Parenteau officially become an unrestricted free agent for all 30 teams, including the Islanders, to try and sign. I think you can assume that Parenteau will go wherever he gets the biggest contract and if the past, under Garth Snow, has shown us anything, Parenteau has played his final game in orange and blue.
Lets be honest the Islanders aren’t going to be able to get a top-6 forward in this free agent class and even though many Islanders fans would like to see Snow make a run at Bobby Ryan, it’s probably not going to happen. Snow is on the right track with drafting, grooming players and signing role players in free agency. So Parenteau’s successor on the first line will come from within the organization, the question is who will it be?
Josh Bailey- Bailey has slowly been progressing towards being a solid NHL player since being taken 9th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. He also finished last season very strong with 13 points in his last 11 games including a great performance against the Penguins when he tallied two goals and three assists. A lot of fans think that Bailey is a “bust” but if you look at the numbers he is fourth in total games played by players in his draft class. He is also third in goals, sixth in assists and also fourth in points. I am not saying that Bailey is one of the best players in the game but he has the talent and if you surround him with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, he has a chance to put up some nice numbers. (Photo Credit: Lets_Go_Pens/Flickr)
Kyle Okposo- This past season was a great season for him as he put up a career high of 24 goals. This was also his first full season back from shoulder surgery that cost him most of the 2010-2011 season. Are we about to see what Okposo can finally do? Along with Tavares and Moulson I don’t see why not. He like Moulson is a big body that can put the puck in the net, and you put Tavares in the middle of them, it could be a solid line. But I think Okposo would be better off not playing with Moulson because they are similar but it could work.
Michael Grabner- One question what happened to Michael Grabner last season? Maybe it’s his inability to finish on breakaways but again like Bailey the talent is there, it just didn’t show up this past season. Grabner can be a great scorer and when he is at his best he is unstoppable. Has anyone forgot the 6 game stretch where he scored 10 goals two seasons ago? That ability is still there and he is only 24-years old. I think he would compliment Tavares and Moulson very well.
Nino Niederreiter- This one I expect to take a lot of heat for, I mean come on Rick DiPietro had more points last season that Niederreiter did (for those who don’t believe me check it out). Because of his struggles last season Niederreiter is my dark horse to play along side Tavares and Moulson. Yes his struggles were historic but it was his first season in the NHL; he did start the season in Bridgeport on a rehab assignment and he was drafted fifth overall only two short years ago. El Nino has so much talent that obviously hasn’t been tapped yet. I didn’t understand last season when he was playing along side Matt Martin, Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner how he was suppose to grow as a player and as a scorer. I think this season if he plays along Frans Nielsen and any of the forwards I listed before him on the second line at the beginning of the season, he could put up some very nice numbers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up on the first line sooner or later. (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)
Overall I think the Islanders will be fine in finding a replacement for Parenteau within the organization. I also think Bailey is the best fit to play along side Tavares and Moulson, Bailey can be the passer that Parenteau was and he has really excelled at the wing position. But don’t be surprised if Niederreiter breaks out this year and finds himself lining up with Tavares and Moulson.