Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. These players have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams this upcoming season. These players can be new faces or familiar ones looking to have a strong return to form. Each day we will be looking at a different team! Today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 New York Islanders key players.
When Jordan Eberle arrived on the Island, he quickly became a favorite. Scoring 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists) in the 2017-18 season was a good way to start the new chapter. Or so the Islanders thought. Eberle has not been delivering what he should be considering his $5.5 million AAV contract.
Being on the top line as Mathew Barzal’s right winger, it is expected of the 28-year-old player to produce a lot more. But, his stats show otherwise. He scored 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) this past season. This would be acceptable if his two linemates were anywhere near this mark. He did better during the playoffs, scoring 14 points in 22 games.
Josh Bailey, the second line’s right winger, scored 20 points this postseason. This is expected from a top liner. Eberle needs to bounce-back and start over, go back to being the playmaker and goal scorer everyone knows he can be. For a top liner with his type of contract, he needs to step up to his role. If he doesn’t, the Islanders will have a problem. Lucky for them, he has bounced-back before, so it might not be a big problem.
Nick Leddy was a tough choice to put as a bounce-back player when thinking about his defensive game – which is his job. He is great when playing defensively and his offensive game used to be as good as. But that has changed over the past two seasons. He went from scoring 40+ points in the 2015 to 2018 seasons to 26 in 2018-19 and only 21 in the past one.
To continue being a valuable and versatile player for the Islanders, Leddy needs to equalize his defensive game with his offensive one. Considering that the 29-year-old went from scoring 14 power play points in the 2017-18 season to only four this past season. Going back to his offensive game would do wonders for the Islanders power play unit…which needs substantial improvements.
The young Canadian player has found his game the past season and deserves the breakout position in this article. Anthony Beauvillier scored 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 68 games during the 2019-20 season. His performance broke his career-high record of 36 points in 71 games during the 2017-18 season.
Beauvillier’s growth became even more clear during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He scored 14 points in 22 games. Playing with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey is probably a big part of the young player’s development, but he is more mature and handles the puck a lot better than he did during the 2018-19 season. If he continues to improve like this, there is a bright future ahead of him – and the Islanders.
There are never too many great playmakers and goal scorers on a team. And Beauvillier has the potential, mindset, and skills to become a top liner sooner than most people would have thought.