With ‘Pajama Boy’ leaving the Islanders for his hometown Maple Leafs, the Isles will need other guys to step up in a big way. Let’s take a look at a few players who I feel have the potential to have a breakout season:
- Brock Nelson
Islanders fans have been getting frustrated with Brock Nelson for what seems like every year now, due to the fact that he’s one of the most inconsistent players on the team. When you look at his stats, you see a guy who’s scored 20 goals in 3 of the past four seasons, falling just one shy with 19 last season. Based on those stats, any outside fan would think that Brock is a solid player, but when you watch the Isles on a nightly basis, you think differently. Brock Nelson is one of those players who can score four goals in three games, and then disappear for the next month. If the Islanders want to be successful this season, they need Brock to remain consistent, as he’ll likely be centering the second-line, which is a bigger role for Brock, who just signed a one-year deal worth 4.25 million to remain with the Isles. This is certainly a prove-it year for Brock, and if he wants a long-term deal next summer, he’ll need to show that not only can he put up goals in bunches to make his stats look good, but that he is a consistent and reliable scorer. I think that Brock will thrive under new head coach Barry Trotz, and needs a fresh voice to help him find his game. If the Islanders want to make the playoffs, they’ll certainly need help from Brock Nelson.
2. Andrew Ladd
It sickens me to say this, but Andrew Ladd still has five years remaining on his contract with the Isles. While many fans tend to forget about him and think he’ll be scratched every night, he won’t. Andrew Ladd is another player who will need to step up his game this year. Before Ladd got hurt in the middle of the season, he was putting up decent numbers and was very reliable both defensively and physically. Once he returned from injury, he wasn’t the same. He struggled to find the back of the net and seemed to disappear a lot. Ladd must find a way to get his game back to where it once was, as he’s previously scored as many as 29 goals in a single season. I think fans would be happy with anywhere between 15-20 goals, and 35-50 points from Ladd.
3. Ryan Pulock
Some may say that Ryan Pulock had his breakout at the end of last season, but with a full offseason of training and working hard, I feel that Ryan Pulock will be one of the best, if not the best, defenseman on the Islanders this year. Towards the end of last season, Pulock began to play with so much more confidence, carrying the puck all over the ice, and scoring more goals. We’ve seen his cannon of a slapshot that should just continuously be fed on the Power-Play, but Pulock is also a great skater who can bring the puck to the net and score goals. I think Pulock is one of the better offensive-defenseman on the Isles and could thrive under Trotz’s new defensive system that he’ll put in play for the Isles. Pulock is going to be a young leader of the defensive unit, and I’m very excited to see what he has in store this year.