Monday brings the end of this years preview of the club's forwards with the players at this time likely to be on the fourth line and the players on the outside.
Despite his suspension at the end of last season that will continue for the first five games of this season the Islanders re-signed Simon to a one-year contract with incentives. Last year he did not have to do much fighting but anyone who watched his game knew he kept the opposition honest on the ice. His on-ice intimidating presence was that of a leader and was missed during his suspension. He was used on the first, third and fourth lines last season, did a good job with Blake and Yashin early and saw limited pp minutes. This year it's tough to see where he fits beyond an enforcing role but Simon still at times displays the scoring touch he had earlier in his career and is a favorite of Ted Nolan because of how hard he works, he will make it tough to relegate to a fourth line role. Only problem is will the long suspension and the ramifications of what he did change his approach?
Park enters the final year of his two year deal and quietly did a very solid job last season in several roles. Mostly he was relegated to a checking line but on occasion got a cameo on the first and second lines. His special teams play was solid, brought a lot of energy to the ice and on occasion was amazing with a five on three shorthanded goal against Pittsburgh. Park was never shy about working in the corners and showed strong skating ability. Down the stretch he picked up his scoring and the final weekend was critical in games against Philadelphia and New Jersey, with key goals in both games. Expect more of the same from Park this season unless he beats out someone on another line.
Bates was reportedly almost ready to return during the Buffalo series. He has two more seasons on his Islander contract. Unless his groin problems are still hampering him or he is traded, the Islanders are paying him over a million dollars to play and that's what we have to expect. When he was healthy last season he did his usual solid skating and penalty killing job. Like Andy Hilbert he simply cannot finish his chances but is nowhere near the skilled offensive player. Is the likely fourth line center on the 2007-08 club if healthy unless he is traded off the roster or demoted for another player which is unlikely because he would have to clear waivers.
Tambellini is signed for this season and is the only player on last year's roster who would not have to clear waivers. This to me is his make or break year after being traded from the Kings and showing some good signs in parts of the last two seasons with the club. He has nothing more to prove in Bridgeport and has to beat out a Bergenheim, Park or Bates to hold his roster spot. He brings offensive skills that give him an edge over those players. His game is best suited to a top six role, last season he saw some time with Satan on a second line. With Simon suspended for the first five games, he will likely start the season with the club regardless but this is his year to step up or he becomes this organizations next Justin Papineau. I expect Snow and Nolan to give him his chance, I also expect Bergenheim to be the second line left wing because the intangibles in his game look better suited to the NHL when you look at both players career's to this point.
Nielsen is not this young prospect who needs much more seasoning. He's been an over aged prospect for a while now, it showed on the ice in Bridgeport and with his brief call up with the Islanders. He's strong on the puck, showed the composure a player who's been in several international tournaments against NHL veterans for Denmark in shootout vs Toronto and in a big game vs Montreal he scored his first NHL goal. Tough to see a spot for him right now with the Islanders. He absolutely has the skills and talent to break through now and force management to trade someone to create a spot for him.
Nokelainen hardly looked out of place as a rookie in the NHL before his knee injury but it's been a long road back to get back to where he was but according to several reports he finally seems healthy. This kind of injury usually requires a full year to bounce back as we have seen with Radek Martinek, Michael Peca. Anything can happen but it's going to take a fantastic camp or a lot of injuries for him to take a spot from someone and hold it with so many fourth liners. Seems best suited for the third line center role.
Blake Comeau-Jeremy Colliton-Steve Regier:
All three players had brief cameo's with the club last year. Ted Nolan was very impressed with Comeau's game but given the depth chart here and in Bridgeport they would have a very tough task to beat out so many older veterans for a spot unlike two years ago when the club decided to fill the fourth line with prospects. Good news is anyone who steps up, is outstanding and shows they can help the club now will have a spot cleared for them. Better news is nine preseason games provides more opportunities.
Part One Preview of Islander Defense