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New York Islanders 2023-24 NHL Season Preview

New York Islanders

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

New York Islanders
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

New York Islanders 2023-24 NHL Season Preview

The New York Islanders, unsurprisingly, find themselves in a tough pickle ahead of the new season. On the one hand, they have an aging roster that lacks any true difference-makers. Lou Lamoriello has bet almost all of the team’s financial flexibility on this current group to go out and win a Stanley Cup. However, they’re in the middle of a very long queue of teams in the Eastern Conference that are looking to get over the hump.

On the other hand, they were a playoff team last year despite many factors that should have probably caused them to miss. A clean bill of health combined with the first full season for deadline acquisitions Bo Horvat and Pierre Engvall have the chance of creating success.

Regardless, the Isles are gonna most likely be the same team that people love to hate. Are they able to make it back to the playoffs and go on a run? Here’s what to expect.

Line Combinations (via

New York Islanders
Via Daily Faceoff
New York Islanders
Via Daily Faceoff

The goaltending tandem for 2023-24 is Vezina runner-up Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlomov as the backup. There’s a part of me that believes the lines will be slightly different from Lane Lambert once opening night rolls around. For starters, Alex Romanov is not a bottom-pair defenseman. The Russian had a shaky start to last season but seriously rounded into form in the second half. While some were confused about why he costed Lou a lottery draft pick, he’s got a chance of being worth a lot more.

Furthermore, the aforementioned Engvall should be on the second line without question. His size and skating ability complimented both Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri extremely well. While it is a small sample size, the data of those three in limited regular season time and against Carolina in the playoffs really show how effective they are:

New York Islanders second line
Via Moneypuck

New Faces

The Isles did not really make any serious additions. It is pretty much the same group that lost in the first round last year. However, there is one name that came in who could prove to be very interesting.

Julien Gauthier, the former first-round pick that bounced around teams like the Rangers, Canes and Sens, signed a two-year deal with the Islanders this summer. At face value, this looks like a virtual nothing burger. However, Gauthier could very well become the long-term Cal Clutterbuck replacement. His speed and physicality will give him a lifeline on Long Island.

Another low-risk gamble that Lamoriello took was Karson Kuhlman. The journeyman forward will provide some much needed depth that, if everything goes well, will probably just spend the year in Bridgeport with the AHL Islanders. The former Bruin even has experience in high-leverage situations as the Esko, Minnesota native scored a goal in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Three Players To Watch

The first player to watch has to be Mat Barzal. It was an up-and-down year for the Isles superstar. 51 points in 58 games would’ve put him on a 72-point pace over 82 games. However, almost all of those games were without Bo Horvat alongside him. If those two are able to generate some chemistry, then the offensive woes fans have cried about may finally start to go away. Adding a center in Horvat and moving him to the wing will limit his defensive responsibilities and emphasize his outrageous offensive skill. While it was tough to watch them at times against Carolina, restarting things in the friendly confines of the regular season will hopefully give them exactly what the doctor ordered.

My second player to watch might surprise you. If things go wrong for him, then it might be the last you see of Oliver Wahlstrom in an Islanders uniform. He signed a one-year deal with the Isles while recovering from a knee injury he picked up during 2022-2023. Everyone knows about his lethal shot and offensive ability. However, he hasn’t been able to put it all together and become an everyday NHL player. He will have chances to play on the top line and powerplay, mark my words. If he makes the most of those chances then a career revival could be on the cards.

The final player to watch has the chance to be one of the most important for defining this season. Can Kyle Palmieri stay healthy and consistently be one of the offensive performers this team needs so badly? His presence as a right-handed scorer is a core reason of why the second line is so successful. He finishes his chances at a strong rate and is a team player in all three zones. The New York Islanders are a considerably better team when he’s at full strength on the ice.

Riser and Faller

The riser for me has to be Hudson Fasching. We are talking about someone that had a bleak future in the NHL one year ago. Once an opportunity arose, he took it and simply did not look back. Based on his motor alone, you’d have to think all 32 GMs in the league would love to have him. It just so happens that he also has some offensive skill and will skate into the dirty areas with delight. Some continuity and playing with JG Pageau on the third line would hopefully bring out the best in him.

My faller would probably land on Noah Dobson. If he can either increase his offensive production or become more stable defensively then there’s a chance he can turn it around. However, some lapses in play in his own end were really frustrating last season. If the production isn’t worth the costly errors then things will get difficult once his bridge deal runs out. What makes it even more complicated is that he’s the main powerplay “quarterback.” With that in mind, a 5.6% PP efficiency against the Canes in the playoffs is not the greatest indictment!

The Biggest Question Is…

Can the New York Islanders skate with the big boys? The Vegas Golden Knights scored NINE goals in their Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5. To win in today’s NHL you need to be able to put the puck in the net. Like I just said, their powerplay is awful. Making teams pay for taking penalties is an incredibly valuable characteristic. All in all, there are simply just not enough proven scorers in this lineup to determine where they will finish.

However, a wise man once said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you believe in Horvat and Engvall in their first full seasons on the Island? Do you believe in a comeback year for Wahlstrom? Is a breakout year in Fasching fashion on the cards for someone? The Isles are a special team in the sense that you can only get a read on them from the ice. You can’t look at the team on paper. Some stats don’t do as much justice as others.

The Verdict

While a large part of me wants to say they make the playoffs, I don’t think it’s that simple. The East is just way too stacked. Carolina, Jersey, and the Rangers are all ready to run it back. The Pens and Caps also missed the dance for the first time in forever. You also have Buffalo, Ottawa, and Detroit all motoring for those wild card spots. Boston will regress but Tampa, Toronto, and the Panthers are in the middle of their respective windows.

The New York Islanders have proven many people wrong. I am hoping to be one of them. However, you can make an argument that the NHL has never seen this much parity. I look at the standings and see almost 25 teams that probably believe they’re playoff material.

Should the Isles be able to stay healthy into the Winter and start the season strong, then anything can happen. But right now, I think they miss the playoffs by a less than 5-point margin.

The New York Islanders are in for an interesting 2023-24 season. They’re not good enough to be a cup favorite, but not bad enough to be a legitimate tanking team. There’s just as many unknown factors as there are known factors. All I can say is to not be surprised if Lou makes one more trade. Either right before the season starts or before the deadline.


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