Most teams are about three or four games into their season, so we have to take the futures market with a grain of salt at this point. Sure there are favorites to make a strong case for, but the NHL is a league of parity with cases to be made for at least a half-dozen teams to represent the east in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is what makes the New York Islanders such an intriguing look. They sit around the middle of the pack with +2000 odds to win the east, sandwiched between the Washington Capitals (+1800) and rival New Jersey Devils (+2800).
The Islanders are coming off a down 2021-22 season, a campaign in which they played their first 13 games on the road as their arena finishes some renovations. They won just five of those first 13 contests, putting them behind the eight ball from the get-go.
Many are sleeping on the Isles as a result. This roster isn’t far removed from back-to-back trips to the Conference Final before bowing out to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in each case the two seasons prior to their down 2021-22 campaign.
In the 2020-21 season, they lost a Game 7 in overtime, coming just that close to getting into their first Stanley Cup Final since winning it all four straight seasons from 1979-80 through 1982-83.
Let’s explore why the Isles make sense as a long-shot value bet to take down the Eastern Conference.
It Starts in Goal
There’s a handful of impressive goaltenders patrolling creases league wide, but few have been better than Ilya Sorkin since the Russian entered the league two seasons ago.
Through the first 76 regular-season games of his NHL career, Sorokin has turned in a dynamite 2.40 GAA and .924 Sv%. In 52 appearances last season the former KHL superstar posted a 2.40 GAA and .925 Sv% while his 29.81 goals saved above average finished second only to countryman and Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin of the heated rival New York Rangers. Through two games this season, all Sorokin has done is post a 1.52 GAA and .941 Sv%, stopping 48 of the 51 shots he’s faced.
Veteran Semyon Varlamov remains a reliable veteran backup on Long Island, but the No. 1 job is now firmly in the hands of a Vezina favorite in Sorokin. That’s good news for Isles futures.
Core Largely Intact
If you look at the names on this Islanders team, plenty remain from the clubs that nearly marched their way to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons.
Up front, it’s Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier. Let’s also not forget the vastly underrated fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, surely the best fourth line in the league over the last number of seasons. Veteran additions such as Kyle Palmieri and Zach Parise have been added, but also some young additions such as goal-scorer Oliver Wahlstrom.
On the back end, you have another hugely underrated player in Adam Pelech, quietly one of the very best defenders in the NHL. Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield are another pair of defenders from those deep playoff runs. Youngster Noah Dobson is establishing himself with authority in this league while Alexander Romanov can be a tough player to play again in his own end of the ice.
This team knew how to win once, they likely do again. That’s one of a few reasons why the Islanders hold notable value to win the east at +2000.
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