New York Islanders Player Grades: Forwards

The Isles’ forwards are clicking and this group looks strong from top to bottom.

The New York Islanders went through a rough stretch earlier in the season and haven’t looked back. Some of their forwards were struggling in a big way, especially the fourth line that had been so solid for them in the past, but that’s no longer the case.

Mathew Barzal is still the team’s best player and a significant reason why the Islanders have done so well. Anders Lee is having a bounce-back year and showing why he deserves to be captain.

Oliver Wahlstrom is breaking out and emerging as a legitimate scoring threat.

The hope is that left wingers Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle can get going, and even they’ve shown signs of life.

This is a strong group of players that exhibit great chemistry and each one of them has a valuable skill-set that’s contributed to the team’s success.

Here are the player grades for the Islanders’ forwards through the first 20+ games of the season.

Note: Players are ranked according to average ice-time, from most to least. This list does not include players who have been featured in fewer than 10 games.

RAPM charts are courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.

Courtesy Twitter: @NYIslanders

Mathew Barzal, C

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 19:22 TOI, 8 G, 3 A1, 9 A2, 20 PTS, 30 PIM, 13.6 Sh%, 4.8 Off, 3.9 xOff, -0.1 Def, 0.1 xDef, 1.6 SPAR, 1.4 xSPAR, 4.7 EVO, 3.9 xEVO, -0.1 EVD, 0.1 xEVD, 0.1 PPO, 0.1 xPPO, 4.6 GAR, 3.9 xGAR, 0.8 WAR, 0.7 xWAR

Another year, another season of Mathew Barzal being the best player on the Islanders. The offense flows through Barzal, who’s one of the fastest skaters and the best at zone entries in the league.

His game in transition is practically unmatched, and that’s what makes him so good.

So far this season, Barzal has been great offensively, but not as impactful on the defensive end. He hasn’t been as effective as most would want on a power play that’s only been doing well lately.

Barzal’s most significant issue this season has been staying out of the penalty box, as his PIM indicates. He cooled down a bit recently but does have two goals and three assists in his last five games. He also leads the team in points.

If Barzal continues to play and produce as he has been, the Islanders will be in good shape as they get closer to the playoffs.

Grade: A

Anders Lee, LW

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 18:06 TOI, 10 G, 5 A1,1 A2, 16 PTS, 10 PIM, 13.9 Sh%, 4.3 Off, 5.3 xOff, -0.4 Def,- 0.3 xDef, 1.6 SPAR, 1.9 xSPAR, 4 EVO, 3.8 xEVO, -0.4 EVD, -0.3 xEVD, 0.3 PPO, 1.5 xPPO, 4.5 GAR, 5.6 xGAR, 0.8 WAR, 1 xWAR

Anders Lee has been quite the scorer for his team this season. He hasn’t been particularly great in his own zone or on the power play, but he’s doing well in terms of scoring.

Lee leads the Islanders in goals and has scored some big ones in important moments. Lee didn’t have the best of seasons in 2020, so it’s refreshing for his team and the fans to see him do better offensively.

Lee’s scored two goals and recorded three assists in his last five games. His success in the offensive zone has been a driving force for his team.

Grade: A-

Josh Bailey, RW

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 17:59 TOI, 2 G, 7 A1,4 A2, 13 PTS, 2 PIM, 5.1 Sh%, -0.3 Off, -0.1 xOff, 0.8 Def, 0.9 xDef, 0.1 SPAR, 0.2 xSPAR, -1.3 EVO, -0.1 xEVO, 0.2 EVD, 0.2 xEVD, 1 PPO, 0 xPPO, 0.3 GAR, 0.7 xGAR, 0.1 WAR, 0.1 xWAR

Josh Bailey got off to a notoriously bad start this season, but is getting back to proper form slowly but surely. He’s been streaky, but the points are coming.

Bailey scored just one goal and three assists in his first 13 games, but has recorded nine points in his last 10. The problem with Bailey has been the goals (he’s scored just two all season).

Bailey’s never been a prolific goal-scorer and has never scored more than 18 in a season, but the coaching staff definitely wants more from him. He’s always been streaky, but the hope is that he can get hot, especially at even-strength.

He is third on the team in assists, though, something that’s impressive and important. Bailey’s been pretty bad at even-strength this season, but surprisingly fantastic on the power play (six of his 10 assists have come on the man-advantage).

Getting Bailey going in time for the playoffs, where he thrived last season, is crucial.

Grade: B

Courtesy Twitter: @NYIslanders

Brock Nelson, C

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 17:29 TOI, 6 G, 3 A1, 2 A2, 11 PTS, 6 PIM, 13 Sh%, 0 Off, 2 xOff, -0.1 Def, 0.5 xDef, -0.2 SPAR, 0.8 xSPAR, -1.7 EVO, -1 xEVO, -0.6 EVD, -0.2 xEVD, 1.6 PPO, 3.1 xPPO, -0.5 GAR, 2.2 xGAR, -0.1 WAR, 0.4 xWAR

If you thought Bailey’s RAPM looked weird, just wait until you see Brock Nelson’s. Nelson had somewhat of a breakout season in 2019-20 and emerged as one of the better second line centers in hockey.

Expectations were obviously sky-high for him coming into 2021, and he’s disappointed. Nelson has recorded points in back-to-back games just twice this season and has earned two points in a single game once.

Unfortunately, he looks nothing like the Nelson we saw last season.

However, that can only be said for even-strength Nelson. Power play Nelson has been another story. Five of Nelson’s goals have come on the man-advantage.

He looks like a completely different player on the power play and head coach Barry Trotz shouldn’t do a thing that would hinder Nelson’s performance there.

Unfortunately, Nelson seems to have gone cold again, having earned just three points in his last five games (two of those coming in the same game). The fact that the Islanders have been playing this well without much help from Nelson is impressive.

Imagining how much better they’d be if Nelson could get even a little bit of momentum at even-strength is scary.

Grade: B

Jordan Eberle, RW

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 17:18 TOI, 9 G, 3 A1, 2 A2, 14 PTS, 8 PIM, 16.1 Sh%, 3.2 Off, 6.8 xOff, -0.7 Def, -0.2 xDef, 0.9 SPAR, 2.3 xSPAR, 2.7 EVO, 7 xEVO, -0.7 EVD, -0.2 xEVD, 0.5 PPO, -0.2 xPPO, 2.5 GAR, 6.7 xGAR, 0.4 WAR, 1.2 xWAR

Jordan Eberle has been so valuable to this Islanders team, especially as a goal-scorer at even-strength. He lit the lamp more often than any of his teammates to begin the season and has played a huge part in getting that top-six going again.

He leads the team in even-strength goals, but has also put up assists.

The top line is always praised for being home to the team’s best player in Barzal as well as the captain Lee, but Eberle has been almost as important. He saw some action this season on the second line, but has returned to the top and is doing well.

Eberle hasn’t been scoring at the same high rate as earlier in the season: he has three points in his last five games.

However two of these points, a goal and an assist, came in Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres and the hope is that that’s the beginning of another point-streak for the veteran winger.

Grade: B+

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 17:00 TOI, 9 G, 2 A1, 3 A2, 14 PTS, 6 PIM, 19.1 Sh%, 1 Off, 2.2 xOff, -0.7 Def, -0.2 xDef, 0.2 SPAR, 0.8 xSPAR, -0.2 EVO, 0.9 xEVO, 0.4 EVD, 0.3 xEVD, 1.2 PPO, 1.3 xPPO, 0.6 GAR, 2.3 xGAR, 0.1 WAR, 0.4 xWAR

Jean-Gabriel Pageau continuously proves to everyone that the Islanders were right to trade for and extend him. He hasn’t been as impactful at even-strength, but much of that can be attributed to playing on a third line that was a revolving door at the wings.

However, his line has stabilized and has been producing lately, so we should look for his five-on-five numbers to improve.

Pageau’s been great because even when he wasn’t doing too much at even-strength and when that third line looked lost, he was getting it done on the power play.

Pageau has been one of the Islanders’ best players on the man-advantage, recording three goals and two assists. He also has two shorthanded goals this season.

Much of Oliver Wahlstrom’s recent success can be credited to Pageau, who makes his linemates better. Pageau has two goals and an assist in his last five games and will look to keep his young line hot.

Grade: B+

Courtesy Twitter: @NYIslanders

Anthony Beauvillier, LW

His numbers so far: 14 GP, 16:07 TOI, 2 G, 3 A1, 5 PTS, 6 PIM, 8 Sh%, -0.7 Off, -0.6 xOff, 0.6 Def, 0.6 xDef, 0.1 SPAR, 0.2 xSPAR, 0.2 EVO, -0.7 xEVO, 0.8 EVD, 0.7 xEVD, -0.9 PPO, 0 xPPO, 0.4 GAR, 0.4 xGAR, 0.1 WAR, 0.1 xWAR

It’s been a weird season for Anthony Beauvillier. After putting up 39 points in 68 games last season, it seemed like the young left winger was breaking out. However, this season has been nothing short of messy for Beauvillier.

He was sidelined for nine games with an injury and hasn’t looked great since returning. It’s honestly very impressive that the Islanders have done so well without him, especially considering how important he was to the team’s success just last season.

Beauvillier hasn’t looked great, but he’s shown signs of heating up. He has three points, including both of his goals, in his last five games and the hope is that this scoring is building his confidence as he looks to get back into peak form.

Grade: B-

Casey Cizikas, C

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 13:22 TOI, 3 G, 3 A1, 2 A2, 8 PTS, 15 PIM, 10.7 Sh%, 0.4 Off, 0.4 xOff, 0.8 Def, 1 xDef, 0.4 SPAR, 0.5 xSPAR, 0.6 EVD, 1.3 xEVD, 1.3 GAR, 1.5 xGAR, 0.2 WAR, 0.3 xWAR

Casey Cizikas has pretty much been vintage Casey Cizikas this season. A key piece on one of the best fourth lines in the NHL, Cizikas is a physical, defensive forward with a valuable skill-set.

He’ll never wow viewers or analysts with his offense and is never relied on to produce in that regard, but he’s as important as most of his teammates.

His linemates as well as himself struggled early on in the season and served as a contributing factor to the rough spell the team was experiencing. Cizikas also had trouble staying out of the penalty box early on.

However, he’s turned it around and has looked much better lately. Cizikas has three assists in his last five games. The Islanders will need him to maintain his strong play as that fourth line is arguably the team’s x-factor.

Grade: C+

Cal Clutterbuck, RW

His numbers so far: 21 GP, 12:53 TOI, 1 G, 4 A1, 1 A2, 6 PTS, 2 PIM, 5.9 Sh%, 2.2 Off, -0.4 xOff, 0.1 Def, -0.5 xDef, 0.9 SPAR, -0.2 xSPAR, 2.1 EVO, -0.4 xEVO, 0.6 EVD, 0.4 xEVD, 2.7 GAR, -0.5 xGAR, 0.5 WAR, -0.1 xWAR

Another member of the “identity line”, Cal Clutterbuck is valued for his physicality and ability to take on the opponent’s top lines without backing down.

Like Cizikas, Clutterbuck went through a rough stretch earlier in the season and even missed two games with an injury, but he’s bounced back. He’s been especially effective defensively, for which he must always be given credit.

Clutterbuck has one assist in his last five games.

Grade: C+

Leo Komarov, C/W

His numbers so far: 12 GP, 12:05 TOI, 1 A1, 1 A2, 2 PTS, 5 PIM, -1.4 Off, -0.4 xOff, 0.7 Def, 0.2 xDef, -0.4 SPAR, -0.2 xSPAR, -1.1 GAR, 1 xGAR, 0.2 WAR, 0.2 xWAR

There isn’t much to say about Leo Komarov’s season so far. He’s been useful as a filler on the third and fourth lines, but we shouldn’t expect to see him much more this season.

The third line is clicking and it seems like every forward has been playing good hockey. Komarov hasn’t been particularly good at anything when he’s on the ice and there just isn’t a place for him in this forward group.

His future as an Islander looks bleak.

Grade: C-

Courtesy Twitter: @NYIslanders

Oliver Wahlstrom, RW

His numbers so far: 16 GP, 11:12 TOI, 4 G, 2 A1, 2 A2, 8 PTS, 4 PIM, 11.8 Sh%, 2.9 Off, 2 xOff, 0.5 Def, 0.3 xDef, 1.1 SPAR, 0.8 xSPAR, 1.3 EVO, 1.4 xEVO, 0.5 EVD, 0.3 xEVD, 1.6 PPO, 0.6 xPPO, 3.3 GAR, 2.2 xGAR, 0.6 WAR, 0.4 xWAR

Oliver Wahlstrom appears to be breaking out, and he’s doing it at the perfect time. He’s been playing well in all aspects, even defensively, but he’s scoring goals, too, and opposing teams now have another Islanders player to fear.

Wahlstrom’s been particularly fantastic on the power play: one of his goals and four of his assists have come on the man-advantage.

He’s been the team’s best forward in the past five games, recording five points over that span (three goals and two assists). The 20-year-old is making the third line a force to be reckoned with.

Grade: B

Michael Dal Colle, LW

His numbers so far: 12 GP, 11:10 TOI, 1 A1, 1 A2, 2 PTS, 2 PIM, -0.3 Off, -0.2 xOff, 0.7 Def, 0.6 xDef, 0.3 SPAR, 0.2 xSPAR, -1.1 GAR, 1 xGAR, 0.2 WAR, 0.2 xWAR

It looks like this is the season where Michael Dal Colle proves that he deserves a permanent spot on this team. Dal Colle has had an up-and-down season.

He missed a chunk of time with an injury and didn’t have consistent linemates prior to finding a home on the third line. Dal Colle hasn’t done much offensively, but has actually been a solid defensive presence on that third line.

He brings good physicality and is showing that he can be a valuable two-way forward. If the scoring comes, Dal Colle will make a strong bottom-six even more so.

Grade: C

Matt Martin, LW

His numbers so far: 23 GP, 10:04 TOI, 4 G, 1 A1, 1 A2, 6 PTS, 16 PIM, 1.3 Off, 1.2 xOff, -0.5 Def, -0.3 xDef, 0.3 SPAR, 0.3 xSPAR, 0.9 GAR, 1 xGAR, 0.2 WAR, 0.2 xWAR

Matt Martin is the third and final member of the Islanders’ great fourth line. He doesn’t get much playing time, but he’s so impactful when he is on the ice. The intangibles he brings to the table are invaluable.

He’s the embodiment of what a team wants in an enforcer and is such a gritty player. Martin has even been an offensive contributor with four goals already. He has a realistic chance of tying and even passing his career-high of 10 goals.

Martin was a surprisingly great scorer in the playoffs for the Islanders last season and clearly hasn’t lost his scoring touch. Imagine how impactful he’ll be if he can do it again this time around.

Grade: C+

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