For New York Islanders fans, it certainly feels like Garth Snow is back in the building.
Lou Lamoriello’s first full summer as Islanders president and general manager has been a difficult one as he’s been faced with the same problems experienced by his predecessors.
Following a surprising season in which the Islanders defied the odds, going from an expected doormat to the Eastern Conference semifinals, the organization looked as though it would need just a few extra pieces to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.
Those upgrades had to come in the form of scoring as New York’s offense was ranked near the bottom of the East. Only the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, and New Jersey Devils scored fewer goals than the Islanders last year in the conference.
Instead, Lamoriello has been unable to find any upgrades, yet.
The Islanders whiffed on Artemi Panarin — who turned down more money to join the crosstown-rival Rangers ― Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel while letting Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner walk in free agency. To cushion the blow, Lamoriello brought in veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov to restore a platoon alongside Thomas Greiss.
The only other notable moves the Islanders managed to pull off this summer was bringing back the trio of Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Anders Lee.
Meanwhile, the Rangers added Jacob Trouba alongside Panarin, signed Adam Fox, brought last year’s first-round draft pick Vitali Kravtsov over from Russia, and took stud prospect Kaapo Kakko with the second pick of June’s draft.
Their other geographic rival, the Devils, came away with Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick of the draft, traded for All-Star defenseman PK Subban, and acquired Russian winger Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. Gusev was one of the KHL’s top playmakers last year, recording 82 points in 62 games with SKA St. Petersburg.
So what have the Islanders been doing?
Their lack of activity on the market might suggest that the organization will look to the pipeline for its offensive upgrades. As it stands, the Islanders have several promising prospects that could make a serious push to make the NHL roster come October.
Josh Ho-Sang is still hanging around despite a multitude of rumors swirling that the organization is fed up with him.
The fact of the matter is Ho-Sang is a gifted puck handler who should continue to improve with experience. He’s 23 years old with a skillset similar to Mathew Barzal’s, but it just needs refining.
While he only recorded two points in 10 NHL games last season, the Islanders went 9-1 in those outings.
The Islanders also have a pair of promising youngsters in Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom who are poised to challenge for a roster spot in 2019-20.
At 21 years old, the left-winger has starred with the United States’ junior national team, but he did have a difficult first campaign in the AHL last season (12 goals, seven assists in 73 games). Should he excel at camp, however, management could give him a chance.
The 19-year-old Wahlstrom left Boston College to make his NHL push with the Islanders back in March. He’s considered to be a dangerous scoring threat for his age but has yet to take on the more seasoned competition.
Another name to consider is Otto Koivula, a 20-year-old left-winger who had a strong first season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. With 21 goals and 25 assists in 69 games, he might be the first youngster to get the nod for the Islanders this fall.
There are still some veteran options on the market for the taking, whether that’s Brian Boyle or Derick Brassard as a lower-line center. That won’t provide the scoring punch that the Islanders are craving, however.
One thing worth remembering from the Garth Snow era that could pertain to this offseason: One of Snow’s largest days came just before the start of the 2014-15 season when he traded for both Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. So a notable move could still be on its way despite this being the dog days of summer.