Possible New York Islanders' Lineup Come January 19th

(Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek)With the NHL 2012-13 lockout finally over and the players in the process of ratifying the new CBA as of yesterday it appears that the beginning of the 2012 - 2013 NHL season is only days away. The league is set to begin on Saturday January 19th, 2013 and although the official schedule is not out many reports have leaked that the New York Islanders will host the New Jersey Devils on opening day. 

Here is what the Islanders' lineup could look like come the beginning of this shortened season. (Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek)

Forwards: 
Line 1: Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Brad Boyes

  • Moulson and Tavares are obvious first line choices they are a dynamic combination who can beat most NHL defense pairings, in more ways than one. Tavares is looking to continue on his streak of improving and proving that he was worth the number one draft pick. Tavares will continue to be an NHL super star and will lead the Islanders deep into the playoffs in the coming years. Boyes was brought in to replace P.A. Parenteau and also add his veteran presence to the young team. Although the young Tavares does play mature beyond his years Boyes' could be a good presence on this line, and his proven offensive productivity is an added bonus.
  • Other possible consideration: Kyle Okposo.

Line 2:  Josh Bailey - Ryan Strome - Kyle Okposo

  • It is a proven fact for Islander fans that Josh Bailey has to play on the wing, he is significantly more productive and visible when on the wing versus playing center. Now, finally, with the emergence of a star number two center for the Islanders in Ryan Strome there is room for Bailey to play in the spot the organization has planned for him since his signing. Strome has been unbelievably impressive in juniors and had an impressive World Junior Championship in Russia, earning him a spot at the Islanders' training camp, and most likely a spot on their opening day roster. Okposo is beginning to emerge as the player the Islanders were hoping he would be, a hard nosed offensive force on the forecheck, and along side Bailey and Strome this line could add the secondary scoring that the team has been looking for. This should effectively take some of the pressure off of Tavares, Moulson and Boyes now that opposing teams will have to cover a second prolific line. (Photo Credit: Nate Seager)
  • Other possible considerations: Brad Boyes and Nino Niederreiter.

Line 3: Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Nino Niederreiter

  • The 2012 - 2013 season could be Niederreiter's breakout season. After a disappointing first two seasons with the Islanders, Nino has been extremely impressive this season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL. He has definitely earned another shot at the show and this could be the year he proves he is here to stay. Grabner adds his speed and goal scoring ability to this line and with teams' best defensive pairs focusing on the Islanders' top two lines Grabner may get the room he needs to return to the 30 goal plateau. Frans Nielsen caps off this line with his tremendous defensive play and shutdown ability on opposing teams' top lines. He also adds an offensive touch with over 40 points in his previous two season. Look for this to be the Islanders big shutdown line who will also produce when called upon throughout the 2013 campaign. 
  • Other possible considerations: Brad Boyes, Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson.

Line 4: Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jesse Joensuu

  • Matt Martin has proved to be one of the grittiest power forwards in the NHL, he is a fan favorite, physical force who has also put up 14 points in each of his last two seasons. He is not afraid to throw his weight around or get his hands dirty. He adds alot to an NHL team's checking line. Many Islander fans will not agree with Reasoner being in the lineup on opening day but, he had a bad season and its time for him to prove he still belongs in the NHL. The 35 year old center is a potential 20 point player who also adds a veteran presence to a team of guys who are still young and in the maturation process as hockey players. Give Marty the benefit of the doubt through the first week or two of the season and if lasts season's struggles persist then decide who to replace him with from the field. To round out this line is the return of Jesse Joensuu, he plays with the same style and grit as Matt Martin this fourth line adds the grit, physical factor that the Islanders need. 
  • Other possible considerations: Eric Boulton, Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom.

Defense:
Pair 1: Travis Hamonic - Lubomir Visnovsky 

  • Travis "The Hammer" Hamonic has the potential to be the best Islander defenseman in recent memory. He is a physical, smart, well balanced defenseman who is not afraid to get his hands dirty and his face bloody. Hamonic who is a defensive minded defenseman has also tallied over 20 points in each of his first two seasons in the NHL. Add in the veteran presence of a proven, veteran defenseman with an offensive touch Lubomir Visnovsky. It appears that the NHL and IIHF will require that Visnovsky return to the Islanders against his wishes (Islander fans will forget about this once they see him on the ice, just like they did with Nabby). This will be a very competitive top defensive pair in the NHL and will help in an area where the Islanders have been hurting. (Photo Credit: anguscertified.com)

Pair 2: Andrew MacDonald - Mark Streit

  • MacDonald proved last year when Hamonic went down to injury that he could handle big time NHL minutes and be a big time shutdown player. A great shutdown defensive pairing and a possible key point in the game pairing would be Hamonic and MacDonald but that would leave an undesirable second pairing of Streit and Visnovsky. Streit is a great offense defenseman, who if he improves his defensive play could be a top defenseman in the league. With over 40 points in each of his first three seasons as an Islander he has proved his offensive worth, now it is his time to prove his defensive ability. 

Pair 3: Radek Martinek - Matt Donovan

  • After playing just seven games last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, injury prone Martinek is looking to return to the Island where his career began in 2001. Although plagued by injuries Martinek is a formidable defenseman and brings an added layer of veteran presence on the bench and in the locker room. A great way for a young prospect defenseman to come into the league is to start off playing average minutes alongside a veteran who knows how the league and the game work at the NHL level. This is a great spot for Matt Donovan to prove his worth as an NHL defenseman and replace Visnovsky when he leaves after his contract expires at the end of this season.

Other possible considerations: Matt Carkner (for physical rivalry games), Aaron Ness and Jon Landry (has been a pleasant, impressive surprise in Bridgeport).

                               

Goaltending:

  • Evgeni Nabokov
    • After refusing to report when first claimed off of waivers by Garth Snow and the Islanders, he quickly became a fan favorite in his first season as the main man between the pipes on Long Island. After going 19-18-3-2 last season he signed a one year extension with the Islanders and was not shy about exclaiming how excited he was in the direction that this young team was heading. Nabokov should get the starting position to begin this season.
  • Rick DiPietro
    • DiPietro's career has been plagued by an outrageous contract and an unbearable amount of injuries but the Islanders always seem to stay by him. This is DiPietro's last chance to prove that he can perform at the NHL level for a full season and lead this team to the playoffs. Although Nabokov should begin the season as the Islanders' starter, there is always the chance that Wang, Snow and Capuano will go with DiPietro. (Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac)

This could be a statement season for the young New York Islanders. They may be young and inexperienced currently but they have all the makings of a perennial playoff team in the years to come.

-Note: It has been reported the Josh Bailey will miss 2-4 weeks after having his knee scoped on Wednesday. It also appears that Jesse Joensuu will begin the season injured. With that the Islanders lines could look:
Line 1: Moulson - Tavares - Boyes
Line 2: Grabner - Strome - Okposo
Line 3: Nelson - Nielsen - Niederreiter
Line 4: Martin - Reasoner - Ullstrom

Nelson could play the first five games of the season and hopefully by that point either Bailey or Joensuu will be available to return to the lineup and Nelson will gain his necessary professional experience in Bridgeport. 

-Shane Blackburn
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Comments

Mike Flannery's picture

Great work, as always, nice to see you posting again.