Left Wing: Matt Moulson – Age: 26
The pearl in the oyster the Islanders never seem find, Moulson’s consistently dogged style netted a 30-goal season and signaled the official beginning of his NHL career at 26. Mike Ricci without the nastiness, Moulson scored the kind of goals all year you simply have to have—the ugly ones from right in front. The Isles never find scrap heap players like this but they finally have one in Matt Moulson.
Left Wing: Jon Sim – Age: 32
The 32-year-old now has a very clearly defined roll on this club, as the poor man’s Sean Avery, and even seemed to develop a bit of a scoring touch in the second half, finishing with 13 goals in limited ice time. Not quite in Avery’s class as an agitator but Sim turned himself into a valuable fourth liner and is a smart defensive player as well. A UFA the Isles should bring back next season.
Left Wing: Jeff Tambellini – Age: 26
You wonder what the future holds for the 26-year-old Tambellini after a season in which he dressed for only 36 games. His continued reluctance to play in traffic coupled with the fact the team’s other young players seem to have developed more quickly have left Tambellini on the outside looking in.
Right Wing: Trent Hunter – Age: 29
What has happened to Trent Hunter? The player that showed such promise as a rookie in 2003-2004 netting 25 goals has all but disappeared. His goal totals since are 16, 20, 12, 14 and 11. Granted, he’s battled some injuries but it’s also fair to say that he’s never developed into the consistent scorer or veteran leader the Isles hoped he would. Looks too slow for Gordon’s system on most nights.
Right Wing: Tim Jackman – Age: 28
The team has to be happy with the role Jackman has filled, though injuries limited him to just 54 games. Another prefect fourth liner, Jackman throws his weight around every night and for a team that is not an overly physical one that’s important consideration. We said this earlier in the year about Jackman—if his hands matched his effort level he’d be a jewel. His size, at 6-feet-4-inches and 210-lb., is an important element up front as well.
Right Wing: Kyle Okposo – Age: 21
The sky appears to be the limit with Okposo as there are nights (many nights) you see a star in the making. Yes, his play slipped just a tad in the second half, and the -22 is troubling, but this kid has it all—girt, determination, skill and smarts. Once again, shame on Brian Burke for overlooking Okposo for Team USA, though our bet is he’ll be a lock for the 2014 games in Sochi (if the NHL goes).
Right Wing: Richard Park – Age: 33
There’s not much about Park’s game not to like. As the young core develops Park is the perfect veteran role player. Terrific penalty killer, solid defensively and can chip in with the occasional goal. His work ethic is contagious and that’s something vital for a club as young as this to witness every game. Another UFA the team should bring back.
The mere cups of coffee afforded the rest of the forwards including Jesse Joensuu, Matt Martin and Trevor Gillies were simply not enough to warrant a grade, though we’d like to see more of Martin and are guessing we will, at next season’s training camp.
Defenseman: Bruno Gervais – Age: 25
Haven’t seen much progress out of Gervais’ game as he’s essentially the same player he was three seasons ago…and still makes the same mistakes. Seems to get beat wide quite often and has never played with much snarl. Needs to step his game up to the next level next season or he’ll be hard pressed to stay in the NHL.
Defenseman: Jack Hillen – Age: 24
Quickly developed into a solid, puck moving defenseman and his play in the defensive zone got better and better all season. Hillen essentially played himself into a top four spot on the Isles’ blue line. At 5-feet-11-inches and 200 lbs., he might not have the size the club is looking for, but his skating and puck smarts have more than made up for that.
Defenseman: Andrew MacDonald – Age: 23
Was called up to the NHL in late November due to injuries and essentially never looked back. Displayed terrific ability handling the puck and certainly didn’t embarrassed himself defensively (+4 in 46 games). Need a longer look here but you get the feeling a job on the Isles’ blue line will be Andy Mac’s to lose next season.