The New York Islanders will be competing in a slightly altered division when the NHL season begins in under two weeks. Leading up to opening night, I’ll be looking at how the Islanders’ roster compares to other teams in the East Division. I thought today, we’d start with the Battle of New York and look at how the Islanders may fare against the New York Rangers.
Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad put up huge numbers for the Rangers last season and now we can add Alexis Lafreniere to that mix as well.
In addition, Ryan Strome was also on pace for nearly 70 points last season and you can’t forget about Pavel Buchnevich or Chris Kreider. Considering Kaapo Kakko should also take another step next season, as could Filip Chytil, and the Rangers are building one of the league’s scariest forward groups.
The Islanders, on the other hand, still lack at least one more top-line winger. Mathew Barzal is a star and the team does have depth, with the likes of Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, but one more addition could really help to round out the forward group. Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a solid addition but we also don’t know what the third line will look like this season and as of now, the Rangers have the stronger offense.
The Rangers have a defense group that can certainly produce offensively. Tony DeAngelo, Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba all have the ability to put up big numbers. That said, the Rangers’ ability to actually defend isn’t necessarily on the same level and the addition of Jack Johnson won’t help that. While Ryan Lindgren had a strong rookie season, Brendan Smith can’t really be relied upon and the Rangers aren’t an overly strong defensive team overall.
The Islanders’ defense, however, is certainly an asset. Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock form a top pairing that can both defend and add offense, while Nick Leddy has improved in his own end and Scott Mayfield was effective in a larger role this season.
The team lost Devon Toews and Johnny Boychuk in the offseason but they did bring back Andy Greene, who can help to mentor Noah Dobson on the team’s bottom pairing. Overall, the Islanders are the better team defensively.
This is a very interesting comparison. When you debate Semyon Varlamov and Alexandar Georgiev, they’re fairly comparable, at least statistically. However, the x-factor for both teams are their highly-touted netminders in Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin, who have limited/no NHL experience. Either could be a future star but again, we can’t be sure, based on the limited sample size. As a result, I think the two teams are fairly even in net.
The most exciting part of the matchups between these teams in the coming years could be a goaltending battle between Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin. Heading into this season, the two teams should be fairly evenly matched, with the Rangers having the offensive advantage and the Islanders remaining the better defensive team.
***NOTE: We've launched a HockeyBuzz Islanders Twitter account! For anyone interested, you can follow @HB_Islanders for updates on articles, Islanders news, etc.***
Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussions will be posted in a future article):
Do you think the Islanders will finish ahead of the Rangers in the standings this season?