The New York Islanders have been surging. They have won seven straight, losing last on February 27th. That was in overtime against the Penguins, and considering they won the two games prior to that, they have a 10 game point streak and last lost in regulation on February 20th, also against Pittsburgh. They have lost just twice at home, and they were both in overtime. Right now, they sit atop the East division with a 17-6-4 record and a .704 points percentage. So of course, the Hockey Gods had to try to stop them.
In Thursday’s game against the Devils, captain Anders Lee got tangled up with Pavel Zacha, and was immediately hurt and removed from the game. On Friday, the team announced that Lee had a lower body injured, and would be out indefinitely. And on Saturday, Head Coach Barry Trotz said that Lee “won’t be with us for a little while.” As the Islanders prepare to play New Jersey again, they have a big hole on the left-wing on their top line aside Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. Not only is Lee the team leader in the locker room, but he also led the team with 12 goals this year. Since we may not see him for a month(s), a long-term replacement is necessary. Here are some options.
At the moment, Beauvillier should be the obvious choice. He is the second-line left winger after all, so a one line promotion makes sense. But, Trotz loves his chemistry, and Beauvillier excelled with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey in the bubble a few months ago and has played with them for most of this season. “Beau” played with Barzal and Eberle for a good portion of 2017-18, when they were the team’s second line, and Beauvillier scored 21 goals while Eberle scored 25, and Barzal won the Calder trophy. Another knock against him is that he plays a much different style than Lee, who is physical and a big body, while Beauvillier is not.
Wahlstrom may be the most exciting player of the season on Long Island. The 2018 first-round pick debuted in 2019-20 but went scoreless in nine games. He got to draw into the lineup on January 28th, as the team was looking for stable linemates for JG Pageau, and it worked. Wahlstrom has scored four goals with five assists for nine points in 20 games this year and has severely improved the second power-play unit. When asked about Wahlstrom and the top line opening today, Trotz said that he would trust Wahlstrom in Lee’s spot, per Newsday reporter Andrew Gross. But Trotz also said that he isn’t looking to disrupt his other lines, which would rule out both Beauvillier and Wahlstrom. Also, Wahlstrom is a right-winger and a right-handed shot, which would not work.
Yes, Dal Colle has been a consistent member of the Isles’ third line with Pageau and Wahlstrom as of late, and Trotz did say he isn’t looking to disrupt his other lines. But, just a few games ago, Dal Colle was scratched for Leo Komarov, who played on the third line. And, in the third period on Thursday, Dal Colle spent some time with Barzal and Eberle. He has 19 hits in 15 games, and his six-foot-three, so the physicality and size could work. However, he has just four shots in those games, which is terrible. He does fill a lot of the previous boxes, so for now he is seemingly the best candidate.
This one is a big stretch, considering Bellows is scoreless in eight games this year and has not appeared since February 18th. In that game, a 4-1 loss to the Penguins, Bellows was invisible, and Trotz was very unhappy with him in his post-game presser. “He’s been in every meeting, every practice, so there are no excuses. Dal Colle went in and did a really good job. Wahlly [Wahlstrom] went in and he’s done a really good job. That was Kieffer’s opportunity.” Yikes. So, has Trotz gained back trust in Bellows since then enough to play him on the top line when his captain is injured? Probably not. But, Bellows had 10 shots and 18 hits in those eight games and mostly adapted to the Islanders’ physical style. So, he is a long shot, but there is a chance.
Adam Lowry (or any other trade acquisition)
View this as just a simple “make a trade” option, but Lowry is the best fit out of pending UFAs. But, it is unclear if the Jets would want to move away from him, and if the Islanders did acquire Lowry, he would have to quarantine for two weeks, as he is currently in Canada. While he plays mostly center, he can move to wing and fits the big, physical tone that Lee brought. Lowry is 6-foot-5, and in 26 games this year, he has 72 (!!!) hits. Lowry also has 13 points. Once again, a massive long shot considering he is a Jet, not an Islander, but Lowry is one option GM Lou Lamoriello can explore.