Puck77 Interview: Matt O’Leary of Eyes On Isles

Last night, Matt O’Leary of Eyes On Isles (New York Islanders blog site on FanSided) and I spoke regarding the Islanders farm system and their off-season plans.

I asked O’Leary several questions in regards to the Islanders. We talked about Jordan Eberle‘s contract extension, the possibility of adding Artemi Panarin, the goaltender of the future and more.

Let’s take a look at what O’Leary had to say.

Interview

Josh: What are your general thoughts on the Jordan Eberle contract extension? 

Matt: I think this is a very fair deal for Jordan Eberle. Obviously, he is coming off a down year but with how he finished the regular season and performed in the playoffs it’s hard not to assume that he will return to form and be the 50+ point player that he’s been throughout his career. If he does go back to putting up the numbers that we’re used to $5.5 million seems like a steal. You also can’t go without mentioning the fact that he wanted to extend with this team, which speaks volumes to Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz’s impact.

Josh: With the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers making quite a bit of noise so far, how do you believe that the Islanders will counteract. Do you believe that Lou Lamoriello might make a big splash and add a free agent like Artemi Panarin or do you believe he’ll look at doing a blockbuster trade?

Matt: He definitely has to do something to the top-six. Even if they bring back Anders Lee they should look to add someone like Artemi Panarin. The competition for him is sure to be steep but at the end of the day, Lou might have to pony up to get him. If the Isles miss out on him, then I could absolutely see them looking to move Nick Leddy in hopes for some forward help up front.

Josh: Do you believe that Anders Lee is in the Islanders’ long-term plans? If no, who do you believe might captain the Islanders after Lee?

Matt: I think at the end of the day Anders re-signs here. The Tavares situation from last year leaves a sour taste in our mouths but that’s honestly such a unique situation. I think the Islanders are looking for a shorter term deal while Lee is looking for more year. Ultimately a five or six year deal with a $7 million AAV should get it done.

Josh: Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss split time in net this year. Given the success that Lehner and Greiss had, do you believe that there will roughly a 50-50 split next season as well?

Matt: Assuming that Lou re-signs Robin Lehner, which he should, yes I think it will be a similar split with Robin getting the slight edge. It worked out so well last year it’s hard not to go back to the same formula. Lehner became a fan favorite last year with not only his play on the ice but his off the ice story and his openness on mental health. It’d be in the best interest of everyone to make sure Lehner is in blue and orange next year.

Josh: While Ilya Sorokin has looked outstanding in the KHL, the Islanders also have Linus Söderström in their system. Based on what you’ve seen from both goalies, who do you believe will be the next number one goalie for the Islanders?

Matt: I think Ilya Sorokin is the better of the two it’s just a matter of if he ever comes over from the KHL. His deal expires after this year so there’s a chance that he could come over but would he if Robin Lehner is under contract for the foreseeable future? With Linus Söderström it’s hard to judge, he missed all of this year with an injury, but from looking at his SHL numbers he’s been fairly solid and is an intriguing prospect.

Josh: Michael Dal Colle has taken a while to develop. Do you have any concern in regards to Dal Colle?

Matt: Michael Dal Colle is never going to be the player they drafted him to be in the top-five. At this point, if you can get him to be a solid third line winger I think you sign up for it but it seems like that’s his ceiling which is obviously a huge letdown considering where you took him in the draft.

Josh: Josh Ho-Sang had a great season in Bridgeport last year. Given how many pending free agents the Islanders have, do you believe that Ho Sang could have a full-time role at the NHL level next season? Or, does Ho Sang need more time in the AHL?

Matt: For Ho-Sang, I would love to see him get time in the NHL. For whatever reason, the Islanders and Ho-Sang just can’t seem to figure out what the issue is. They want him to be more defensive minded and cut down on turnovers but he’s at his best when he has the puck and is trying to make plays. In limited sample sizes, he’s shown that he can be a pretty solid playmaker, I just don’t know if it will ever work out here considering the Islanders also have Oliver Wahlstrom and Keiffer Bellows who are pretty close to being ready to make the jump to the NHL. 

Josh: Mathew Barzal is entering his contract season and will be a pending RFA on July 1, 2020. Given the contracts that we’ve seen Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and other sign, how much do you predict that Barzal will earn in his next deal?

Matt: I really think it depends on what he does this year. Is he giving you 60-70 points again like he did this past year, or is he going back to a point per game player? Right now, I’ll give an $8 million – $10 million AAV range depending on what he does this year. If it’s another 60 point season look for it to be closer to $8 million. If he’s back to his ways from his Calder season it’ll be closer to $10 million.

Thank You

Thank you Matt for taking the time to speak with me. Looking forward to interviewing you again in the future.

 
player profiles – hockey-reference.com

2019 NHL Draft: What makes Philip Tomasino such an intriguing prospect?

Philip Tomasino is one of the most intriguing prospects in the upcoming National Hockey League entry draft. His stock rose throughout the course of the season and he has the potential to be taken inside the top-15 picks this year.

Tomasino finished off his sophomore season with the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League above a point-per-game pace. He totaled 34 goals, 38 assists, and 72 points in 67 games this season. He finished with four goals, three assists and seven points in 11 games in the OHL playoffs. Niagara’s season ended against the Oshawa Generals in the second round of the OHL playoffs, after they lost in six games.

Skating

Tomasino’s skating is probably the most noticeable part of his game. He can get up to acceleration in just a few steps and is very dangerous on his edges. His high-end edgework helps him make sharp turns to high danger areas and create prime offensive scoring chances. It helps him to be extremely shifty all over the ice. His two-step acceleration is also a very noticeable part of his game.

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Passing

Tomasino is a very good playmaker and passer overall. He will take advantage of any open passing lanes available. He will deliver the puck perfectly to his linemates. His ability to draw defenders to him and deliver the puck to an open linemate is quite underrated

Shot

This is an area where he becomes extremely dangerous in around the low slot. Again, his edgework helps him smoothly transition from forehand to backhand. One thing I think that is very interesting with him is that his ability to find open spaces above a goaltender at such a tight angle. He will take advantage of that and accurately shoot the puck to that open area with the tight angle he has.

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Hockey IQ

Tomasino thinks the game very well. Whether on offense or defense, Tomasino can do just about anything. If he realizes that a defender is caught too high or on the rush, he will transition back to defense and play their position until they get back. Offensively, he is just about as gifted as you can get. We talked about his passing and shooting already, so those are a few things that obviously make him such a smart player.

Defense

Finally, Tomasino is a smart two-way player. He was used on Niagara’s penalty kill throughout the course of the season at center or wing. He also played in a shutdown role at times as well. He will use his quick feet to apply pressure and closes lanes by using a very active stick. Once he creates a turnover, he might be that type of player to transition to offense right away due to an explosive first step.

Potential

Tomasino definitely has the upside to become a top-six center at the NHL level. Think Mathew Barzal style-wise when it comes to him. There is potential that a team might end up drafting a steal depending on where he lands in the draft.

Stats via eliteprospects.com and ontariohockeyleague.com

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Jordan Eberle Is The Fuel That The New York Islanders Needed

Jordan Eberle was hot at the right time and helped power the New York Islanders to another victory last night. With last night’s victory, the Islanders managed to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the first period of play, Eberle dominated. In the two videos below, you’ll see Eberle and Mathew Barzal capitalize on a 2-on-1. Barzal and Eberle skate through the neutral zone and go straight to Matt Murray. Once they get to Murray, Barzal throws the puck to Eberle and Eberle wrists the puck past Murray. In the second video, you’ll see Eberle try his luck once again. He tries to put a backhand shot past Murray, but the puck sails a bit too high. While it wasn’t a goal, it was a great scoring chance for Eberle. 

Eberle’s Impact On The Series

Not only did Eberle’s goal help the Islanders best the Pittsburgh Penguins on enemy ice, but he’s been pivotal to the Islanders success in each game during the series. In each game, Eberle has tallied a goal at even strength. 

What’s even more remarkable is that on April 10th, Eberle scored his first playoff goal ever. Yep, first playoff goal. Prior to April 10th, Eberle played in quite a few playoff games. He had played in 13 playoff games with the Edmonton Oilers, but he wasn’t able to light up the lamp in those appearances in an Oilers uniform. You would have thought with the talent (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and etc) that Eberle had in Edmonton, that he would have had success in scoring goals in the post-season, but that wasn’t the case.

I guess Eberle just needed to wear a different blue/orange/white sweater. It appears that’s all the 28-year-old right-winger needed. 

Barzal/Eberle

It’s also evident that Eberle’s strong play has a lot to do with his line-mate, Mathew Barzal. Like Eberle, Barzal had a great series. Not only did Barzal help set up Eberle on his goal in the first period of last night’s affair, but he also helped set up eight of Eberle’s goals during the regular season. The Islanders’ top line of Anders Lee, Barzal and Eberle is working well and if general manager Lou Lamoriello can re-sign Lee and Eberle in the off-season, they could potentially replicate the same success or do even more damage next year.

Aside from Eberle and Barzal being a great combo, Barzal also showed off his vision, skating and speed last night as he tried to put a goal on the score sheet in the first period. In the video below, you’ll see Barzal cause a breakup in the Islanders zone. Then he skates from zone-to-zone unharmed. He weaves around traffic and takes a backhand shot against Murray. Unfortunately for Barzal, Murray read him well and shut him down, but it was an extraordinary sequence by Barzal. If Barzal continues to play just like that in the next round, the Islanders could keep their opponents up at night.

The Isles Can Prevail Yet Again

With Eberle and Barzal driving the ship, the Islanders can prevail yet again in round two. While we don’t know exactly who they’ll face, the duo was dominant against the Pittsburgh Penguins and there is no question that they can’t replicate their success again in round two. Watch out for these two.

stats from hockey-reference

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

New York Islanders

New York Islanders Top Pittsburgh Penguins In Overtime, 4-3

After Game 1, New York Islanders have a 1-0 series lead over Pittsburgh Penguins.

Game Summary

1st Period:

The Islanders could not have asked for a better start. They controlled the opening faceoff and were able to get a puck past Matt Murray, just 33 seconds into the game. The goal was overturned on an obvious offside call, but the tone was set. Just 1:07 later, they got a goal that was indisputable, scored by Jordan Eberle from Anders Lee and Adam Pelech.

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The Penguins were able to settle down the pace a bit after the goal. After a few good looks from the new-look Evgeni Malkin line, Jared McCann and Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh broke through with a goal by Phil Kessel from Dominik Simon and Brian Dumoulin. While much of the play in the first period was played in the Islanders defensive zone, New York was able to control the physicality of the game. At times the Penguins defensemen seemed to be bracing for hits rather than playing the puck.

When the Pens tried to match physicality with the Isles, they gave up ice position. One example led to a cross-checking penalty on Marcus Petterson. On the ensuing power play, the Islanders capitalized with a goal by Brock Nelson from Eberle and Devan Toews. While there was a few more big hits from the Islanders and a few more good scoring chances from the Pens, the rest of the first period was relatively quiet.

Takeaways: 

The Penguins inability to clear the defensive zone paired with the Islanders aggressive forecheck led to the penalty that eventually gave New York 2-1 lead.

2nd Period: 

Early in the second period, the Islanders were visibly frustrating the Penguins with the way they clogged the neutral zone. There was a point in the first three minutes that the Isles were able to keep the Pens in the neutral zone for 40 seconds while possessing the puck. The first five minutes of the second was a great back and forth battle, with teams trading chances at both ends. The goaltenders had to stand tall, while the defenders done a good job of limiting high-danger chances.

The momentum tilted a bit when Phil Kessel took an ill-advised tripping penalty. While Pittsburgh was able to kill the penalty, the Islanders generated a few good looks. The best chance coming off of an Eberle one-timer from the Ovi circle.

One of the underrated aspects of the game was the officiating. Sure, there was some missed calls, but this crew did a fantastic job of maintaining control of the game. There was not a lot of post-whistle pushing and shoving. When there was, the refs were not afraid to even up penalties and let the teams play 4 a side.

There were a few good chances traded, including a Kessel breakaway out of the penalty box, but eventually Leo Komarov took a very bad offensive zone penalty for holding at 8:33. The Penguins only mustered 3 shots on goal, two by Sidney Crosby, on the ensuing power play. At the immediate conclusion of that penalty, Evgeni Malkin and Scott Mayfield got matching minors for roughing. This is an element of Malkin’s game that the team has to learn to control. Trading Geno for Mayfield is not an even trade, especially considering how much a 4 on 4 game suits Malkin’s play style.

Without Malkin on the ice, the Islanders controlled much of the possession at 4 on 4. When the Penguins gained possession, Jake Guentzel and Crosby were able to get an odd-man rush and draw an interference penalty. On the abbreviated power play, Pittsburgh got the equalizer. Evgeni Malkin ripped a wrister off an Islanders stick and past Robin Lehner. The assists on the goal went to Justin Schultz and Phil Kessel.

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Much of the last six minutes were played in the New York defensive zone. Their best looks came from the third line of Nick Bjugstad, Dominik Simon and Kessel. New York had a few good looks from their fourth line of Casey Czikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. Matt Murray and Lehner were up to the task, and the remainder of the period was scoreless.

Takeaways: 

With the two instances of 4 on 4 hockey, the Islanders were forced to match speed with the Penguins. They struggled to establish their forecheck, which led to more clean exits and established zone times for Pittsburgh’s offense.

3rd Period:

The early part of the 3rd started the same as every other period. Barry Trotz sent the Czikas line out, and they established their forecheck. Early in this period, it was quite evident that the referees had swallowed the whistles, as Jordan Eberle took two pretty  obvious trips in the offensive zone. Shortly after that sequence, Clutterbuck got a beautiful look on Murray that required a highlight reel save.

Much of the third was a back and forth defensive struggle, with neither team really establishing dominance. At around the 9 minute mark, the refs made a questionable boarding call on Anders Lee. The incident left Pittsburgh without defenseman Erik Gudbranson for a while. The Pens had a few looks on the power play, but thankfully nothing came from the bad penalty call.

After a bad turnover at the blue line, by Matt Cullen, New York went on a 2 on 1 that was broken up by a beautiful diving poke check by Brian Dumoulin. Following two very bad icings by Pittsburgh, they were only able to get a four man change. This left defenseman Olli Maatta on the ice for well over a minute. He eventually made a bad turnover in his own zone that led to a goal by Nick Leddy from Valteri Fillpula and Leo Komarov.

New York kept pressing, forcing Murray to make a sequence of diving saves. A few minutes later, another pair of matching minors were called. The teams traded chances, with Evgeni Malkin and Bjugstad getting the best chance for Pittsburgh, while Matthew Barzal got a partial breakaway for New York.

Penguins chose to pull the goaltender with just under two minutes remaining. The move paid off as Kris Letang set up Justin Schultz with a one-timer from above the left faceoff circle. The secondary assist on the goal went to Malkin. The last 1:30 of the game did not decide thing, and we were off to overtime.

Takeaways:

What an exciting finish to this game. Each team had to battle for space, and the goaltenders were outstanding in this period.

Overtime:

In overtime, your best players have to be your best players, and this game was not an exception. Crosby was finally able to outduel Czikas to start the period, and led to a few great chances in the first minute. Shortly thereafter, Maatta got dangled by Tom Kuhnackl, which led to a great scoring chance. The play was reviewed, and it was deemed that the net was off before the puck crossed.

There was a few minutes of lull following the review, with each team trading a few shots on goal. After a terrible turnover by Kris Letang, just inside the attacking zone, Josh Bailey finds Barzal, who goes in on an odd-man rush with Jordan Eberle. Barzal ripped a backhander off the left post, but Bailey was there to put the rebound in. After a brief review for offsides, the Islanders claim game one.

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Takeaways:

One of the biggest gripes that Penguins fans had with this team was their propensity to give up odd man breaks. This play looked eerily similar to the play that ended their season last year.

Team Heroes:

New York Islanders: I have to go with Jordan Eberle here. He was noticeable on every play. One thing that may get overlooked is the play he made to set up the overtime goal. His center drive to the net pulled Brian Dumoulin away from Barzal, giving him just enough room to get off the clean backhand shot.

Pittsburgh Penguins: I am going with Phil Kessel here. Something about playoff hockey just brings out the best of Phil Kessel. He had a goal and an assist to go along with 5 shots on goal. People often criticize his defensive game, but he was pretty active on the backcheck and broke up a few chances.

Team Villains:

New York Islanders: Scott Mayfield. Despite having only 18:32 of ice time, he was a -2, and had only 2 hits. He was very active in the shot blocking department, as he led all Islanders with 4 blocks.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Left Handed Defenseman. I could not pick just one of them here. All three of the LHD played pretty terrible for the Pens. Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin were each a -2, while Marcus Petterson took the penalty that led to the Islanders PPG.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jordan Eberle, 1G 1A 5SOG
  2. Josh Bailey, GWG
  3. Phil Kessel, 1G 1A 5 SOG

Potential for next game

The Islanders will look to maintain home-ice advantage on Friday at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN/ CBC. They will have to maintain their physical play and continue to pressure the Penguins with their relentless forecheck. I don’t know if they will go with Robin Lehner or Thomas Greiss in net, but either will have to be stellar.

The Penguins coaching staff is going to have to revisit their lineup choices. I found it odd that they would scratch their leading hitter for a game against an opponent as physical as the Isles. I believe they will dress Jack Johnson in the next game, but that leaves the question as to who sits? Maybe they should just dress seven defenseman considering that Garrett Wilson and Zach Aston-Reese each played less than 9 minutes.

Those questions and others will be answered on Friday.

stats provided by NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Durandeau Could Be Something Special

If you are a New York Islanders fan, you have it made it in the shade.

Not only are the Islanders proving the impossible, as they are showing up hockey analysts and making it to the post-season without the Voldemort of Long Island (John Tavares), but they have a talented core and many outstanding prospects.

Barzal Is Getting Reinforcements

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Sure, Mathew Barzal hasn’t been as electric as last season, but that hasn’t necessarily slowed the Islanders down.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, Barzal’s numbers are down. After 81 games played, he has 18 goals and 44 assists. His 5v5 and power-play stats are down, when you compare it to last season, but I believe that has to do more with his wingers than him. Per DailyFaceoff.com, he’s currently being paired with Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee. Both, Lee and Eberle had fantastic seasons last year. Lee had a 19.2 S% (shooting percentage) and Eberle had a 13.7 S%. But, this season, Lee and Eberle have been less accurate with their shot attempts. Lee owns a 13.8 S% and Eberle owns an 11.9 S%. It’s pretty evident that when your wingers are less accurate that your chances of piling on points is going to be a challenge.

The good news is that the Islanders farm system is stacked with excellent wingers that have top 6 potential and could eventually play alongside Barzal. The Islanders have Arnaud Durandeau, Otto Koivula, Anatoli Golyshev, Oliver Wahlstrom, Josh Ho Sang, Kiefer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle in the system. In all likelihood, there is pretty good shot that at least 2-3 of these forwards will become dominant top 6 wingers in the NHL. Perhaps, we might see a couple of them (aside from Dal Colle and Ho Sang) make their NHL debut next season. In addition, with a lot of young talented forwards that are on the cusp of making it to the NHL level in the next few years, the Islanders could be one of the strongest teams in the NHL in 3-4 years.

Durandeau

If I’m sitting in Great Neck or Hampstead and watching highlight reels on YouTube, I’d take a look at Durandeau.

Durandeau, while he is an over-ager in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads, he is having a great season. He was able to average 1.07 points per game this season.

In the visual below from Colin Cudmore, you’ll see that Durandeau has been one of the best forwards in the QMJHL this season. He owns a low GA/60 and a high GF/60. It’s clear that Durandeau isn’t just talented in the offensive zone, but he’s also effective when it comes to puck possession and keeping his opponent away from his defensive zone. 

visual from Colin Cudmore, stats from prospect-stats.com

Game Tape

In the video below, you’ll see Durandeau’s two goals against the Saint John Sea Dogs from back in early March. From the video, you can see just how well Durandeau’s vision is. He’s able to fool defenders and create space for himself. In addition, his speed is superb and when he gets in front of the net, he’s spectacular at confusing the opposing goaltender with his stick handling.

Comparison

Based on his play and his size, I’d compare him to Brendan Gallagher of the Montréal Canadiens and if Durandeau does become a carbon copy of Gallagher, well then Isles fans are in for a treat. Just look at how well Gallagher has played this season in offensive zone in the visual below from Sean Tierney.

visual from Sean Tierney, stats from Moneypuck.com

From the visual, you’ll see that Gallagher is most effective when he’s driving to the net. He’s got elite speed and likes to fake the goalie out right at the crease. If Durandeau can emulate Gallagher’s success at the NHL level, he could be an outstanding asset for Barzal and the Islanders.

stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, Moneypuck.com, prospect-stats.com

visuals from Sean Tierney and Colin Cudmore

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals