For the first time in a long, long time, the Islanders have bolstered their lineup with players from within the organization. Even if it wasn’t general manager Lou Lamoriello’s intention heading into this season – he picked up Dymtro Timashov from the Detroit Red Wings before the beginning of the season – the organization is benefiting from players stepping up.
With Derick Brassard and (handsome) Tom Kühnhackl no longer on the roster – though Kühnhackl is in Bridgeport, reinforcements were needed to be found from within.
The most obvious is defenseman, Noah Dobson.
With Devon Toews being traded to the Colorado Avalanche and Johnny Boychuk’s (unofficial) retirement, we knew Dobson would be put in this position at the beginning of the season. Head coach Barry Trotz felt Dobson’s play during the 2019-20 season, including the playoffs, showed considerable growth, instilling confidence in the coaching staff and management. As we’ve seen through the early parts of the 2020-21 season, Trotz and Lamoriello continue to make the right calls.
Dobson has continued to prove he’s an NHLer, contributing at both ends of the ice, most recently with an unreal pass to Anders Lee for a goal against the Buffalo Sabres.
Kieffer Bellows, and most recently Oliver Wahlstrom, have both shown they’re also ready for the NHL. They’ve adopted their games quite a bit, being more physical than pure offensive talent, but we’ve also seen both players do something not many Islanders do – shoot the puck without hesitation.
Against Buffalo, Wahlstrom had a few opportunities, at even strength and on the power play. And while he didn’t score, he made sure to get the puck on net. Both players have NHL quality shots, and, if they can start to find the back of the net, can be a huge catalyst for this team.
Ilya Sorokin, much like Dobson, knew he would be coming into this season playing a role on this team. Though Sorokin’s is carrying a much lighter load than Dobson at the moment, it doesn’t make his contributions any less important. The shorter season means he’ll likely get much less than half the starts, which is a departure from previous seasons under Trotz that saw both of his goalies essentially split the season. However, the points at stake are nearly as important during the truncated campaign. He picked up his first win earlier this week, a shutout against the Sabres, and did so in spectacular fashion.
This was the type of game Isles fans were expecting when he came over from the KHL.
The last, and least obvious, is Michael Dal Colle.
Dal Colle, the 2014 5th overall pick of the Islanders, doesn’t yet have 20 points or 100 games played in the NHL (at the time this was written). He was given the “Nino Niederreiter” treatment for his first couple of years, together with time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, playing in the Islanders bottom-six with lower-level players. Both of these players’ growth may have suffered from that. But what we’re seeing now with Dal Colle, is an emergence of confidence. Now, he isn’t lighting it up just yet, but he’s much more confident with the puck and with his role on the team.
No longer is he depended on to score goals; he’s being asked to create space for his linemates, which at the moment are Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson, and he’s doing so with success.
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