The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in the NHL right now, with an average player age of 26.8 years. And unlike most of the teams younger than them, the Isles are poised to compete this year, and make a playoff run. The only Islander forward older than 30 is Eric Boulton, who never sees the ice, and of the starting 6 defensemen, only one is above 30. The team is filled with youth, like the star John Tavares, and the team’s best defenseman Travis Hamonic, both of whom are just 23 years old. They’re a bunch of kids, now highlighted by rookies Brock Nelson and Matt Donovan, who already have locked up roster spots, and Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart, who are ever so close to making the jump, and becoming everyday NHL players. The next line of youth in this franchise is already stepping up.
Out of camp, three of the top 4 listed above made the team, all of them but Strome. Through this season’s first two contests, both Matt Donovan and Brock Nelson have played and excelled, while Griffin Reinhart was a healthy scratch each time. Reinhart is just 19, and is expected to be sent down to juniors any time, so he can gain some NHL experience without burning the first year on his ELC. Despite the fact that he probably won’t have a huge contribution this year, the thought that a 19 year old made the team out of camp shows just how talented this kid is. Strome, who is starting the year with the AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, is licking his chops in Connecticut, waiting for the team to have any excuse at all to call him up. As far as raw talent, Strome is nearly unmatched by anyone around, and with a little refining, he could be one of the best in the league. So while this pair of future stars wait patiently for their opportunity, which will come soon, Donovan and Nelson are doing just fine with the big club.
As of right now, most people will tell you that one of the best forwards on the ice for the Islanders in their first two games was Brock Nelson. Although he may still have yet to tally a point, he’s contributing in every other way possible. A tough defensive game, good size, and crisp passes are just a few of the strengths that Brock has showed off in his small sample. Nelson has a locked up spot on the 3rd line wing now, showing his versatility moving from his natural center position, and is continuing to show that he is ready for a bigger role, and could be moved up to 2nd line center if this keeps up.
On the blue line, Donovan is already shining. Noted for his excellent offensive capability, as well as a good ability to play a two way game, he has already shown that off in this young year. Donovan notched an assist in the season opener, his first NHL point, and is getting some experience quarterbacking the power play, his expertise in the minors. Along with that, his defensive game has been sound, even when paired up with the worst Isles D-man, Brian Strait.
So yes, the year has just begun, but so many positives are coming from the 4 young gems of the team. With Reinhart notching a spot out of camp, Nelson and Donovan already excelling in the league and Ryan Strome tearing it up in Bridgeport, the four bright stars in the organization are making their first impact, and showing their talent for the first time, before they dominate the league for a very long time.
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Main Photo Credit: teamleaks.com, CC