While fans of the team may not agree, the New York Islanders are certainly not the most exciting team in the NHL.
Outside of Mathew Barzal, they lack star talent and have on paper what is one of the weakest lineups in the entire NHL. Despite that, they have made the Playoffs two consecutive years, including making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019-20, and a quarter through the 2020-21 season they look poised to do so again.
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Their team success in recent years is in large part due to Barry Trotz, who many view as the best Head Coach in the entire NHL. Trotz was hired by the Islanders during the 2018 offseason, fresh off a Stanley Cup Championship with the Washington Capitals. He lacks the firepower on this team he had in Washington and, as a result, has had them play very structured hockey where they give up little to no scoring chances throughout a game. This often results in games being quite boring to watch, but there is no denying it is working.
As mentioned above, this is a team who lacks much star power, particularly up front. The good news for New York Islanders fans in that regard is that while their team doesn’t have the best prospect pool, they do have some forwards near the top of the list who have the talent to become high scoring NHLers in the future.
As mentioned in every other Top 8 Prospects articles throughout this series, any player who has played in more NHL games than any other league in a season, regardless of the season, will not be included. (Exception has been made for the 2020-21 season, given that many leagues, including the AHL have just begun their seasons).
Here are the Top 8 Prospects in the New York Islanders System:
8. Ruslan Iskhakov
The first prospect to pop up on this list is Ruslan Iskhakov, who the New York Islanders selected in the Second-Round (No. 43 overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. At the time he was drafted, he had just wrapped up his first and only season in the MHL (Russian junior league), posting an impressive 30 points in 34 games. Given the fact that just 24 of those 30 points were assists, it wasn’t hard to figure out what type of player Iskhakov was.
The very next season, Iskhakov headed overseas and played two seasons for the University of Connecticut, posting 21 points in 32 games both seasons. The now 20-year-old would have played in his junior year for Connecticut had it not been for the pandemic delaying the season. Instead, he chose to once again head back overseas, and is currently playing for TPS Turku in the SM-liiga. At the time of writing this, Iskhakov has scored four goals and added 16 assists in 31 games played. While he is still a ways away from becoming an every day NHLer, the skill level is clearly there.
7. Otto Koivula
One of the most under-the-radar prospects the Islanders have in their system is Otto Koivula, who they selected in the Fourth-Round (No. 120 overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Finnish forward was able to appear in his first ever 12 NHL games last season, but didn’t make much of an impression as he was held pointless. He also played 36 games in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season where he had 22 points.
Koivula’s skill has been apparent for some time now, as he had a 21 goal, 46-point season during his first AHL season in 2018-19. Like many this season due to the pandemic, he chose to head to Finland, his home country, and suited up in 14 games with HIFK Helsinki, where he posted 11 points. One other positive for the 22-year-old is that he has a ton of size, standing at a massive six-foot-five, 223 pounds. With that frame, he could be a great addition to the Islanders lineup in the near future.