The Kids Are Alright: Isles Youngsters Aren't The Problem
The Islanders defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 last night in a game where the home team was out shot and out played for most of the night, but Capuano's squad found a way to hit the back of the net four times. The goals came from Comeau, Grabner, Parenteau and Wisniewski, with the last two both coming on the power play, and Dwayne Roloson stood on his head once again, earning him the NHL's first star of the week.
The kids are alright when looking at the Islanders offensive statistics. Almost all of the currently active members of the core, (Tavares, Bailey, Comeau, Nielsen, Moulson and Schremp) are on pace for the same scoring output as last year, if not better.
Tavares has 10 goals and 10 assists for an even 20 points in 30 games played this season and recorded his first NHL hat trick earlier this year against the Florida Panthers. He appeared in all 82 games in 2010 and amassed 54 points in his rookie campaign with 24 goals and 30 assists. He is already set to match that milestone if not finishing slightly better if he continues to remain healthy, indicating that his development is going as planned.
His partner in crime is Matt Moulson, who although is a bit older than the rest of the core is still young in his NHL career. In his second full season in the big leagues, Moulson has 11 goals and 6 assists for 17 points in 33 games played. He was the leading goal scorer for the Islanders last year, scoring his 30th in the final home game of the season for a point total of 48. The same amount of goals doesn't seem out of the question if he continues to be the hardest working Islanders after Dwayne Roloson - he has been all year long.
Despite his great hands in the shootout, Nielsen has never been as flashy offensively as his comrades. In the past two seasons, Frans has put up 33 and 38 points respectively, providing stability on the third line as the team's best defensive forward. He is a crucial member of the penalty killing unit and does a great job of shutting down the opponent's top lines. This year he has quietly put up 5 goals with 13 helpers for a total of 18 points in 33 games played. He is arguably on pace for his best season of his young NHL career. He may not find the back of the net as often as he would like, but there was a reason why former coach Scott Gordon considered him one of his favorite players; he gives nothing short of an honest effort every night.
Blake Comeau has had a typical year where in some games he will be the driving force behind the offense and in others is hardly noticed. That's what happens when the coaching staff forces a player of his calibre into a top-line role that doesn't fit him. When playing on the second or third line, Comeau is most effective with his size and skating ability. He has already accumulated 20 points on the year (8 goals and 12 assists) in the 33 games played this season. He's already 15 points shy of his career high (35) that was set last year in only 61 games played. If he is used properly by head coach Jack Capuano, there is no reason to expect anything less than a career year out of Blake, somewhere in the 50-point region.
Josh Bailey has hit a few speed bumps on his road to becoming a legitimate top-six forward in the NHL. He was rushed to the show straight from the draft and the Islanders organization began to see the repercussions of that decision this year. With one game left before losing his two-way contract status, Bailey was sent down to Bridgeport after going pointless in 13 games straight. Since his return to the Islanders, Bailey has scored 3 points in 3 games and is showing that the time spent in the AHL may have been beneficial and something that should have been done sooner. Due to that slump, Josh only has 9 points in 21 games but has plenty of time to break his career high of 35 points that was scored last season.
Rob Schremp has been one of the more consistent Islanders this season after missing a month of playing time due to a back injury he sustained in the pre-season. He has 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points in 19 games played this year after only scoring 25 points in 44 games last year. His hands almost go unmatched by any other Islander on this team, making him a serious candidate to be one of the most skilled forwards next to John Tavares. Like the others mentioned above, Schremp can easily set career highs in goals, assists and points this season if he remains healthy and continue to make the Edmonton Oilers cringe with every goal he scores.
None of these career highs or records that these kids are setting are necessarily earth shattering; but they are doing this all on their own without any veteran assistance with Doug Weight and Trent Hunter both on the Injured Reserve. Imagine if they had some skilled veterans to help them along the way...
This team does have the potential to be frightening in the future. But for now they are just a bunch of kids playing hockey. It's a good thing that the kids are alright.
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