The New York Islanders face the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night, in the first meeting of a two-game series. Recently, I’ve been looking at how the Islanders’ roster compares to other teams in the East Division and today, I’ll be comparing the Islanders and Devils rosters.
Note: We’ve already released five articles in this series, which you can read here:
Jack Hughes has come out of the gate flying this year, though it is a small sample size. Nico Hischier should keep getting better as well (when he returns from injury), while Nikita Gusev had a very strong first year in the NHL and Kyle Palmieri is consistently good for a 55-point pace. After that, however, it’s mainly secondary scoring for the Devils, with the likes of Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha and Travis Zajac. Andreas Johnsson was also added in the offseason, while Yegor Sharangovich has made an impact, but there still aren’t enough quality forwards at the top of New Jersey's lineup. The Islanders are missing a top-six forward as well, but still have Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, along with Anthony Beauvillier and Jean-Gabriel Pageau as well. That said, they won’t get more secondary scoring than the Devils from their bottom-six, however, they do have more legitimate top-six forwards. It’s not a huge advantage but the Islanders do have a slightly better forward group on paper.
The Devils added to their defense group over the offseason, bringing in Ryan Murray, Dmitry Kulikov and Sami Vatanen. Damon Severson is also key for the group, that said, P.K. Subban wasn’t the same player last season, while Will Butcher has been a healthy scratch this year. Ty Smith is a solid prospect but should be in a reduced role to start the year and while the Devils’ group has some nice pieces, the Islanders have a more well-rounded defense group, capable of completely shutting down other top forwards on opposing teams.
A year ago, goaltending would have favoured the Islanders but Mackenzie Blackwood is solidifying himself as one of the league’s best young goaltenders. He has a .917 save percentage across 73 career NHL games and has stopped 109 of 115 shots this season. So even with Corey Crawford retiring before he played a game with the Devils, New Jersey’s goaltending situation is sturdy. That said, Semyon Varlamov has been perfect so far this year as well and his .914 save percentage last season was solid. In addition, Ilya Sorokin will be another great option. Both teams have strong goaltending and this comparison should be fairly even.
The Devils could surprise this year, but the Islanders should still have an edge.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Do you think the Islanders will finish ahead of the Devils in the standings this season?