How the Islanders Became a NHL Contender

The Islanders shocked the hockey world this season as they are at top of the standings after a terrible 2013-2014 campaign. Becoming a threat in the NHL wasn't easy as they were considered a joke not too long ago, here's how they did it.

1) Built effectively through the draft

Chicago, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh all did it.  There should be no surprise that the Islanders have come into form after their impressive draft record. They have taken the same path as the other NHL powerhouses, and as per usual it pays off. 

Travis Hamonic (left) and Calvin de Haan (right)

Yes the obvious names that come to mind are John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Ryan Strome but there are other names on the roster that are quietly beginning to make a name for themselves. The first defensive pairing of Calvin de Haan (selected 12th overall in 2009) and Travis Hamonic (selected 53rd overall in 2008) have been playing perfectly this season, showing the league they are worthy of being  No. 1 and No. 2 defencemen. The trio of Anders Lee (selected 152nd overall in 2009), Brock Nelson (30th overall in 2010), and Josh Bailey (9th overall in 2008) have also provided excellent depth up front, often moving up and down the lineup and producing effectively. 

2) Fixed lineup holes through trades

Because the Islanders have had recent draft success, they could afford to trade high draft picks for great roster players this past offseason. The biggest roster holes were goaltending and defence, which were addressed through the acquisitions of Jaroslav Halak, Nick Leddy and Jonny Boychuk. Halak finally solidified the crease for New York while Leddy and Boychuk added much needed skill on the blue line.

3) Added forward depth through free agency

Kulemin (left) and Grabovski (right)

Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin are not superstars in the league, but for the Islanders they were a perfect fit as they added depth on a very skilled forward squad. As well, both players can easily be moved up and down the lineup if need be, which has given coach Jack Capuano more options this season. 

To summarize, the majority of the Islanders were all drafted by the team, and the holes that needed to be fixed were done so through the trade market. The added forward depth brought players with much needed NHL experience to a young team. After years as a bottom dweller in the standings, the Islanders waitied patiently for their players to develope and in the right offseason added the necessary pieces to push them into Stanley Cup contention.