New York Islanders Mailbag: Quest for Calder, chance of Trade and more

Mar 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates his game winning goal with center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) and defenseman Andy Greene (4) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the overtime period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates his game winning goal with center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) and defenseman Andy Greene (4) against the Philadelphia Flyers during the overtime period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s plenty to discuss and cover in this week’s edition of the New York Islanders Mailbag.

This past week the New York Islanders showcased a new habit, and not a good one. In the three games they played (2-1-0), the Isles failed to score the first goal in each game and had to come from behind in their two victories, both ending via Overtime goals by Anthony Beauvillier.

In the loss on Saturday, the Islanders dug themselves into too big a hole, as they were down 5-0 at one point to the Pittsburgh Penguins before losing 6-3. With the Washington Capitals beating the New York Rangers on Sunday, the Isles now find themselves in second place in the East Division but the Penguins are knocking on their doorstep.

Let’s get to your questions and comments after a rather weird week.

New York Islanders Mailbag: Calder hopes, Trade Deadline, More

I know Vegas doesn’t love Sorokin/Wally to win the Calder but do you think the youngsters still have a chance to catch up to Kaprizov and the rest of the new talent in the league? If so what do you think it will take throughout the rest of the season for them to be top candidates? (@abergerbrian)

Thanks Brian for your question here. Despite the unreal seasons that Ilya Sorokin and Oliver Wahlstrom have put together, I do not see a Calder Trophy ending up on the Island.

Kirill Kaprizov, the 23-year old Minnesota Wild forward, is having an unreal start to his NHL career. Not only does he have 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 32 games, but he has been going against the number one defensive pairings in a rather strong West Division.

As a rookie, he is slotted on the top line and is a spectacle, much like Mat Barzal, when he steps foot on the ice. The Wild have not had a player of his pedigree in a very long time and he may be challenged for most goals by a rookie, but no one is going to pass his points total if he keeps his elite level of play up.

Personal achievements are merely that and for the Islanders, they are fortunate that both their rookies have played focal roles in their position in the East Division standings. Without their play, particularly Wahlstrom’s, I’m not sure where the Islanders would be situated at this moment.

After a rough start to his NHL career, Ilya Sorokin has found his game. He is 8-0-1 over his last nine games, as his eight-game winning streak was snapped this past Saturday. He owns an 8-3-1 record on the season, with a 2.24 Goals Against Average and a .911 Save Percentage. But for Sorokin, the statistics do not mean as much to me as the development.

He has only played in 12 of the team’s 35 games as veteran Semyon Varlamov has been the clear-cut starter all season long, serving as a mentor to the rookie netminder. Head Coach Barry Trotz has split their play as of late, but still, Sorokin is learning each and every game, and we are witnessing his growth right before our eyes.

Oliver Wahlstrom is having a stellar season as well, in way fewer minutes than Kaprizov. Despite that, he more than likely will finish this season as the Islanders leading goalscorer. What is crazier about that is the fact that he has only averaged 11:59 a night, but has made the most of his opportunities. He has nine goals and seven assists in 28 games and has showcased that he is the sniper that this Islander team has been longing for.

With Anders Lee out for the season, his play is so astronomical to how much success his team has this season and in the Playoffs, if applicable. He has been a real difference-maker and should be proud of what he has accomplished so far this season.

How high of a chance do you think there is that Lou Lamoriello trades for Lee’s replacement on the top line? (@bill_fond)

Well Bill, after seeing that Leo Komarov is Barry Trotz’s most trusted option right now, I think it is a must. Komarov has no business being on the top-line and we have seen top-line center Mat Barzal set up his left winger plenty of times but to no avail. Kieffer Bellows is in Trotz’s dog house, but got an opportunity to play on the second-line last game in the absence of Michael Dal Colle (lower-body injury). With $7 million to play with, Lamoriello has to find a way to give Barzal a suitable linemate.

The easy answer is to put Wahlstrom alongside Barzal, as that is probably the end game. But not right now. New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri is a must grab.  Now the Devils will probably ask for more due to the Isles being divisional rivals, which is understandable. As a UFA, the Islanders have to make sure they do not give up too much if a contract extension is not part of the plan.

But based on his finishing ability and the way he plays the game, he seems like the logical answer alongside Barzal in Lee’s absence.

Also, do you think Hickey has played well? If so can you see him as a swing 7th D man to give guys a breather and maybe push Mayfield for time? (@bill_fond)

When Noah Dobson went down with COVID-19, the Islanders’ defensive depth was tested. Sebastian Aho got the first crack at it but showed to be a liability in his own zone which allowed Thomas Hickey to get an opportunity. For not playing in the NHL since the end of the 2018-19 regular season, he has been real strong. In the four games in which he has played, he has two assists, with eight hits, two blocks, and has only turned the puck over one time.

Prior to his play, the Islanders were in need of a no. 7 defenseman. But now with Hickey playing well, it looks like he can serve in that role, if not a bigger role when Dobson does return. As for the second part of your question, I believe Hickey deserves to play over Scott Mayfield, who has truly struggled this season. However, Coach Trotz does not remove his starters and Mayfield plays on the penalty kill and is a big body.

Through his play, Hickey may have earned himself a chance for more minutes, on another team if anyone comes calling at the Trade Deadline. But if I am the New York Islanders, I keep Hickey as he has shown to be reliable in his own zone and this team could put forth their assets towards other areas for improvement.

Do you think Trotz should put in Ross the Boss and taxi squad Leo or Bellows for him? (@KC1798)

Hey Ken, hope all is well. Komarov is not the answer on the top-line no matter “how good” he is in his own zone and on the penalty kill. When the top-line goes out there, it seems that they are down a man with Komarov’s lack of offensive skill. The opposing defenses can double team Barzal and that is not going to lead to his line producing at the rate in which this team needs them to be.

Kieffer Bellows, assuming the Islanders make a trade, will more than likely be a key piece in the package. Is it time for Ross Johnston to get an opportunity with Barzal? My answer is no. But I think Johnston should get a crack on the second-line tonight in Dal Colle’s spot.

Johnston has not played in a game since Jan. 26, and has only suited up a total of six times on the season with no points to show for it. Johnston has shown in the pass to have good offensive awareness and is a great skater. He stands at 6-foot-5 and could play a similar style to Anders Lee, planting himself in front of the opposition’s netminder and at least forcing the opposition to pay attention to him. We saw last season in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning that Johnston has a sneaky release.

Next. Evaluating the Flames' postseason chances. dark

Thanks to everyone for reading and sending in their questions and comments. You can follow me on Twitter @stefen_rosner. My DM’s are always open hockey fans so let’s chat!