With the departure of Valtteri Filppula, the New York Islanders will need a replacement to center the third line. According to Newsday’s Andrew Gross, Lou Lamoriello hinted that Casey Cizikas is likely to stay on the fourth-line with Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck but listed five players who could fill the role of third-line center: Anthony Beauvillier, Tanner Fritz and Otto Koivula, as well as Bobo Carpenter and Mason Jobst. This article will rank the five players on a basis of worst-to-best option to fill the role.
Carpenter is an interesting signing but nothing points to him being ready to hop right into a top-nine role in the NHL. Carpenter didn’t hit point-per-game numbers in any season with Boston University and he’s someone you’d want to see in Bridgeport for the year.
The last thing the Islanders need in their forward group is more uncertainty when it comes to the ability to produce.
He’s older than Carpenter and his production was better at the university level. Jobst was a point-per-game player with Ohio State and his maturity could potentially make for a better adjustment to pro.
But like Carpenter, we have no idea how Jobst is going to perform and it’s simply better to start Jobst’s professional career in the AHL. As we’ve seen, even university standouts like Jimmy Vesey aren’t necessarily going to be productive members of an NHL team right away.
Fritz makes sense as the easy choice but that doesn’t necessarily make him the best choice. Filppula was able to act as a decent third-line center and though not a game-breaker by any means, he was able to provide a bit of offense.
Fritz, on the other hand, has only scored three goals and eight points in 42 career games and though those numbers may improve depending on who he’s playing with, his 45.4 career CF% shows he’s probably not going to be driving a lot of offense himself.
Koivula is a really interesting option. The 6-foot-4 forward had 21 goals and 46 points in 69 games with Bridgeport and if you look back to his stats in the Liiga, everything points to him becoming a decently productive NHLer. He was drafted as a winger but after spending time as a center in Bridgeport, he makes for a younger and more skilled option in the role than any of the three already listed. There’s the question as to whether it would be better to integrate Koivula into the NHL as a winger then transition him later but again, it’s not like the Islanders have a ton of other excellent options for their third-line center spot.
Beauvillier makes a lot of sense here. He could use a bit of a spark to drive more offense, yet having him on the third-line means there’s less pressure on him to put up points as opposed to him being in a top-six role.
The negative here is that the Islanders are already at a loss for scoring wingers. Beauvillier was probably the best option to slot into a top-six role on the wing and if he’s not going to, someone else would have to try. Michael Dal Colle would be a bit of a gamble to start in the top-six right out of the gate but one that could have huge upside. Imagine if Beauvillier and Dal Colle both become the legitimate top-six forwards that they were supposed to be when drafted? Not saying it’s a lock but it certainly lends the opportunity to let it play out.
I was torn between Beauvillier or Koivula for the “best option” and realistically either would fit well. However a goal-starved Islanders team simply can’t use Carpenter, Fritz or Jobst in a top-nine role if they’re going to succeed.