With little change made to the New York Islanders’s roster this summer, many are wondering how much better they’ll be this upcoming season.
Although they’re not generally considered a shoo-in to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, Islanders’s captain Anders Lee is confident in where they stand following the offseason.
In a recent interview on Sportsnet’s 32 Thoughts Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, Lee discussed why he’s optimistic about the team this year, even if some of the best NHL sportsbooks may not be.
The Islanders have always been a tight-knit group. To a man, they’re deeply connected to one another. That goes for the newest players on the team as well, which is why Bo Horvat was such a welcome addition at last year’s trade deadline.
“He stepped in right away,” said Lee. “Not just on the ice but off the ice. He’s such a good person. He cares deeply about his game and his team wherever he’s at. I’m excited for him to get settled in and have a full season with us.
While Horvat didn’t necessarily meet expectations last season, he’s overcome many of the obstacles he faced this summer and is ready to contribute this year.
Meanwhile, many are eager to see the Islanders’s other deadline addition from a year ago pick up from where he left off. Pierre Engvall joined the team last year and immediately made an impact.
“I think he’s a great player,” said Lee. “He stepped into our team and made a big difference. The way he was carrying the puck for us, the way he was entering the zone, and using his speed and his body, he’s a big guy, he’s a strong player. He can go to work in the corners if he has to. That’s why he was having such great success and made an impact with Brock and Palmieri during the latter half of the season.”
Parise isn’t returning to the team, at least to start the season. As for the other three, there was never a doubt over whether or not they’d be back.
“You’re in the room with these guys all year,” said Lee. “You know where they stand and how they feel about the island and the team and what they want to do. These weren’t surprises. These guys got to do what’s best for them and their families, but their intentions are they want to stay and see this thing out with our group. By no means was I surprised at all.”
Now, as they return with much of the same group, Lee and the Islanders are ready to surprise their doubters this season.
“These guys have made an impact on our team, whether it’s been for a long time…or just even a short time,” said Lee. “We did a lot of good things at the end of the year. We didn’t like the way our season ended, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”