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New York Islanders

Three Players the New York Islanders Could Take in 2020 NHL Draft



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The New York Islanders will not be drafting in the first two rounds of this week’s NHL Draft, so excitement surrounding the event has been a bit muted. The Islanders first pick of the draft doesn’t come until the third round with the 90th overall selection.

With picks so late in the NHL Draft and none in the early rounds, the Islanders will be drafting players that could help the organization a few years down the line and won’t be making an immediate impact. That doesn’t mean the Islanders won’t find some quality players, but the later rounds in the draft are where selecting the right person can get a bit trickier.

During an appearance on Hockey Night in New York this week, ESPN NHL Draft analyst Chris Peters highlighted a few players that Islanders fans should know heading into Tuesday and Wednesday:

Wyatt Kaiser, D, Andover Huskies

The 6’0″, 173 lbs defenseman might be a stretch for the Islanders with their first pick coming at 90th overall, but the 18-year-old high school product is one that Peters spoke very highly of. Kaiser recorded 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) in 25 games this year with Andover. He added another nine points (two goals, seven assists) during the postseason.

“I’m not sure Wyatt Kaiser will be there, but he’s a very talented defenseman. Great skater, good athlete,” Peters said about Kaiser, who he ranked 87th on his ESPN draft rankings. “Played in Andover this year and got his team to the state tournament in Minnesota. … He’s got good mobility. He makes good decisions with the puck.”

Kaiser has committed to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season.

Blake Biondi, C, Hermantown High

The reigning  Minnesota Minute Men Mr. Hockey Award winner, Biondi was a dominant player at the high school level. In 25 games this season, Biondi recorded 76 points (37 goals, 39 assists) and averaged 3.04 points per game for Hermantown. His success at the high school level earned him a spot at 63 by NHL Central Scouting on their rankings of North American skaters, was listed at 90 by Elite Prospects and 98th by ESPN.

According to Elite Prospects, “anticipation is his bread and butter, swooping into passing lanes and creating turnovers. He finds most of his offensive success near the crease, digging for rebounds, jamming in pucks, and acting as a screen-tip threat.”

Peters described his physical profile as that of a power forward but believed he still needed some refining.

Antonio Stranges, C/LW, London Knights

Stranges may be one of the most offensively skilled players listed here. Stranges’ game has been described by Elite Prospects as “captivation, frustration, and awe: three emotions that London Knights forward Antonio Stranges inspires, sometimes on the same shift.” The knock on Stranges has been his consistency and his play in his own end.

In 61 games this year, Stranges only has 19 goals and 40 points which is a bit disappointing for a player of his skill level. Stranges had been in contention to be a first-round pick, but he has slowly slipped down the NHL Draft rankings.

“He didn’t have a great year in London. Needs a lot of work in a lot of different areas,” Peters said. “He’s an incredible skater. A very unique skater. He’s a bit on the smaller side. But he’s the kind of guy where it’s like ‘hey if we  take a stab late there’s enough skill, enough talent there that if we let him develop and see where he goes we’ll be able to get him into our system and try to reign him in a little bit.'”

Stranges was ranked 48th by Future Considerations and 56th by NHL Central Scouting for North American skaters.

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New York Islanders

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice



Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.

Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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New York Islanders

BACK AT THE BARN: What It Was Like Being at an Empty Nassau Coliseum for a Game



The New York Islanders home rink of Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Prior to this week, the last time the New York Islanders had stepped foot on Nassau Coliseum ice was March 7, 2020. While it was only 10 months ago, in retrospect it seems like a lifetime ago.

COVID-19 had only just started to creep into the sports universe. What would transpire a week later wasn’t even imaginable at the time. So there was a sense of familiarity and brief normalcy when I walked into the Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the Islanders home opener against the Boston Bruins.

under normal circumstances, in January I am usually fully engulfed in the Islanders season. Weekends are planned around game and practice coverage, or that odd trip on the road with the Islanders. Instead, the first few months of the traditional hockey season were spent wondering if there would even be hockey games to cover at all.

To say I was looking forward to being at Monday’s game would be an understatement.

Nassau Coliseum exterior Walking into the Nassau Coliseum you were quickly reminded of the current state of the world. Signs about the need to wear a mask at all times inside the building were everywhere, as were Purell hand sanitizing stations. Security checked our temperature at the door and media members and staff entering had to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.

It’s a similar procedure for those of us that attend Islanders practices in person, so it had become a sort of second nature.

What was the most jarring thing on Monday was the quiet of the arena. Those of us covering games aren’t allowed into the Coliseum until an hour before game time, which would mean during normal times that the concourse would be bustling with fans and vendors selling overpriced beer and pretzels.

You would move at a snail’s pace trying to walk from the media gate to the press box elevators. Instead, it was a brisk walk onto the concourse and into the inner bowl where they have us set up to watch the games from. If there is any silver lining, then it’s the fact that we’re down a bit lower than where the Coliseum press box is, but I still enjoy watching from above to see how plays develop and get a different angle on the game.

The Islanders tried to keep the game presentation the same as they would if the building had been packed with fans. They blasted the music during warmups and during a stoppage of play — albeit at noticeably lower decibel than previously — pump-up videos were on the video board and goals and penalties were announced by the public address announcer.

Cardboard fans

And they pumped in crowd noise, which wasn’t all that bad and helped keep some figment of a normal game experience. When the Islanders faced the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the volume of the crowd noise did not go over so well, but Monday on Long Island, it was done just right.

In fact, on Thursday during the Islanders 4-1 win over New Jersey, the fake crowd noise was almost nonexistent.

To that end, what was the oddest part of the whole experience so far was the emptiness of the Nassau Coliseum. Sure, people have their jokes about how empty the building has been in years past when the team wasn’t doing well, but at its best, the Coliseum is one of the toughest places to play in the NHL

In large part due to the fans that inhabit it. Adjusting to the calm and quiet, except for the music and fake noise, was something that took time.

Through all of the oddities, it was good to be back in an NHL rink.

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New York Islanders

Barzal Dazzles, Drives Isles in Win Over New Jersey | NYHN+



Mathew Barzal

If there were any concerns about Mathew Barzal’s game because of his late arrival to training camp, the 23-year-old has quickly dispelled them with his dominant play on Thursday night.

It was Barzal’s three points (1g, 2a) along with linemate Jordan Eberle’s two goals that pushed the Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum.

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