Islanders Top Shelf: 10/7/14

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Islanders Insight
Islanders Insight - Credentialed blog covering the New York Islanders

With the start of the 2014-15 season staring at the Islanders, the team made its roster cuts yesterday. There were a few moves that came as surprises, and of course there was plenty of talk surrounding the newly announced lineup.

If there is one player who had to be crowned the most surprising roster member, it would be Cory Conacher. Conacher will be playing alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on the first line come Oct. 10. Ahead of training camp, Conacher was projected to be a fourth-line forward or just another AHLer. Instead, he’s kicking it on the top line with some of the Eastern Conference’s best scorers. It’s an interesting move, but no one worked harder than Conacher did, and hats off to him for earning a spot on this team. He’s been able to produce on a top line before, and with some star players to accompany him this year, he could be a great contributor to this offense.

Brock Nelson, who was thought to be the favorite for the wing position on the first line, will instead be centering the second line. Nelson is a natural centerman, and while the potential to produce on the top line was enticing, the second line fits Nelson’s two-way game very well. He’ll be flanked by two other natural centers, as Mikhail Grabovski and Ryan Strome will be his wingmen. There is offensive talent on this line, and all three players should have decent point totals this season.

I was very pleased to see that Strome made the team, since it looked like he was becoming the odd man out amidst the logjam of forwards. He will be playing on a line with a very solid defensive forward in Nelson, which should allow no. 18 to be even more aggressive up front, which should maximize his effectiveness in the offensive zone. We all know how gifted Strome is on the attack, and when he’s given the green light he can make great things happen.

Nothing was out of the ordinary in the bottom six, unless you consider Nikolay Kulemin not playing alongside his close friend Grabovski unusual. For Friday, the third line will be centered by Frans Nielsen, and he’ll be accompanied by Kulemin and Josh Bailey. Michael Grabner will be factored into this line when he returns from IR, which may spell trouble for Bailey if he struggles out of the gate. People are growing tired of the 25-year-old forward’s repeated underwhelming performances, and if he still is struggling by the time Grabner is ready to return, he could end up being an extra forward.

The defensive lineups were a bit shaken up, in light of injuries to the top-four. According to Arthur Staple of Newsday, Friday’s top-six will feature Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy on the first pair, Thomas Hickey and Travis Hamonic on the second pair, and Brian Strait will be teamed up with Griffin Reinhart on the bottom pair, with Matt Donovan serving as the extra defenseman. These pairings are sure to change when Lubomir Visnovsky and Calvin de Haan return to the lineup, and it will be interesting to see how the lineup will be scrambled in the coming weeks.

We’ve been saying it for a while now, but hockey is finally here. The regular season starts tomorrow, and if that doesn’t have you fired up, then I don’t know why you bothered reading to this point in the first place. A new season is upon us, and given the week that this team just had, fans should be as excited as they’ve been since the rebuild started. There is a legitimate playoff team lurking on Long Island

-Peter (@PJMcEntee)

 

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Dominik sheds some knowledge on new acquisition Johnny Boychuk (Lighthouse Hockey)

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Around the NHL

Ryan Johansen and Columbus finally got a deal done (CBS Sports)

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Five sleepers for your fantasy draft, if you haven’t drafted already (CBC)

Nick Leddy now has a chance to fully unlock his potential with the Islanders (NHL Official Site)

Islanders Top Shelf: 10/7/14
Peter McEntee