Good morning Wilderness! With training camp starting in just a few days and pre-season games on the agenda for next week, the long drought of hockey-less season is almost over.
Obviously John Tavares and Matt Moulson, a formidable 1-2 punch. Last year Tavares flashed a little more goalscoring, while Moulson displayed some surprising setup abilities with his passing. Moulson's clearly a talent in his own right, and their chemistry is strong and adaptable.
Dark Horse: Michael Grabner, speed demon. A man who actually gets so many breakaways, fans complain that he "never finishes" them (which isn't true, but we remember opportunities missed).
The Isles have an unsung combo in young Travis Hamonic and ex-ECHLer Andrew MacDonald. Lubomir Visnovsky leads the offense from the blueline, forming a great possession combo with Thomas Hickey.
At forward, Frans Nielsen is Selke incarnate.
Certainly Grabner and Nielsen, for the reasons mentioned above. People also probably don't realize what an impact Visnovsky made last season. If he doesn't play, they probably don't make the playoffs.
Not a pretty scene, that. Evgeni Nabokov has never been great and is now an older and at-best-average version of his younger self. With a full season, he will need support; unfortunately, both backup prospects Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson are raw.
Hey, did you know Jack Capuano has the ninth-longest tenure among active NHL coaches? He's been around so long, eight NHL coaches have coached two different teams during his tenure. Still, fans are torn on him based on a few usage curiosities. We'll see how things go in a season with elevated expectations.
Meanwhile, Doug Weight's presence behind the bench helps with the powerplay and with yelling at refs. For some reason, fans and the occasional media member insist the head job will one day be Weight's. Speculation for the win!
Nino Niederreiter, er wait... Ryan Strome and Minnesotan Brock Nelson are the brightest and closest to the NHL. Strome will make an excellent 1-2 punch with Tavares. Nelson has done nothing but show great two-way intelligence with each passing year. Other names to watch include Johan Sundstrom, Kirill Kabanov, and a bushel of defensive prospects like Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock, plus bruisers Andrey Pedan and Scott Mayfield. Closer to graduating are Matt Donovan (might make the roster this year) and Calvin de Haan (also a candidate, but coming off another injury).
How do you feel about the depth of your team?
Great! Except for in goal, the Isles are deeper than they've been in 20 years -- and better yet, they haven't gone dumping prospects, Niederreiter excepted. Their bottom six provides several fun options -- Cal Clutterbuck or P-M Bouchard will earn spots there -- and there are more on the way from AHL Bridgeport. The Isles have a ton of interesting, talented, bigger bodied defensemen in the prospect pipeline too.
Who are your fan favorites, and why are they favorites?
I adopted two-way center Frans Nielsen early in his career because I liked his game, was amazed at what he could do defensively with a small frame, and soon learned his appetite for defense and the numbers back him up. He's also lethal in the shootout (which makes that gimmick slightly more tolerable) and the first Dane to make in the NHL. So he's a natural cult figure that many other teams' fans don't really know about.
People enjoy Matt Martin of course, and will probably like Clutterbuck for the same reason. Grabner and Tavares of course draw plenty of fan love.
Who are must follow writers on twitter for your team?
Man, there are too many, so I will just nakedly pimp the more active ones on the LHH staff: @cultureoflosing, @KeithLHHockey, @Webbard . If you need links to Lighthouse Hockey and random Killing Joke songs, then by all means do @LHHockey
Who are must follow fans? (preferably non-crazy fans)
Um, I don't know, just don't follow this guy.