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Fantasy Puck Preview: New York Islanders

Scott Cullen
9/3/2009 11:52:50 AM
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Surely, if there is to be any great hoopla about any New York Islander for fantasy will be on first overall draft pick John Tavares, the junior scoring sensation.

While Tavares could prove to be a big-time scorer, expectations have to be held in check as he joins a team with a marginal supporting cast and Tavares' game generally requires someone to get him the puck rather than dangling on an end-to-end rush. As such, Tavares will be much more valuable long-term for those in keeper leagues, but his immediate value this season isn't likely to warrant early fantasy selection.

That's not to say there isn't some upside on the Island, as Tavares joins second-year right winger Kyle Okposo -- the leading returning goal scorer, with 18. If there is some chemistry between these two, and greybeard playmaking centre Doug Weight, then the Isles might have three forwards (as opposed to zero) with more than 40 points at season's end.

Digging deep on the Islanders roster likely means you're involved in a very deep league, but there could be some upside worth exploring in young centres Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey.

Last year's leading scoring for the Islanders, defenceman Mark Streit continued his stellar work on the power play (29 points with the man advantage in 2008-2009), but was even better at regular strength, posting the only plus rating on the team, among players who played at least 25 games. Streit is the anchor on the Isles defence, so don't expect his role to diminish.

Beyond Streit, the defenceman with the most fantasy value could be combative veteran Andy Sutton. While Sutton isn't a big point producer, and injuries have affected his game, he's still as nasty as they come and his 911 penalty minutes in 513 career games could provide some help in that particular category.

Perhaps the most intriguing position to watch for the Islanders will be goaltending. Rick DiPietro maintains that he's on track with his rehab but, after he played only five games last season, a wait-and-see approach is really the only way to judge him. If he's healthy, DiPietro could have some sleeper value.

The Islanders obviously weren't completely sure that DiPietro would be healthy, since they went out and signed two proven goaltenders -- Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron -- over the summer.

Neither Roloson nor Biron are elite goaltenders, but both are more than capable of starting for long stretches, so either one could get the call if DiPietro is unable to handle the starter's workload. Of course, if DiPietro is healthy enough to play, one of these NHL veterans is going to be a grossly overqualified third goaltender.

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