The list skews to established NHLers at the top, with occasional detours for very promising prospects with high ceilings. Martin qualifies for the former after his four-year one-way contract signed last summer, but in the latter category he's nearing the extent of his potential.
We've seen Martin take some nice shots for some nice goals, but his instances of quality passes and puck advancement are more rare. Some fans advocate trying him in front of the net on the power play, but that's more a nod to his physicality than his hands. Still others say he could be a spark if occasionally inserted into a top-six line, but that too implicitly acknowledges his limitations.
In short, Martin is a bottom-six forward who hits a lot (and admirably within the rules, thankfully), eagerly stands up for his teammates, and can be that physical agitator teams look for on their fourth line.
To be more than that, he'll have to pick his hitting spots with a sharper eye to not leaving his position, hone the puck-management side of his game to be more than a dumper, and improve his penalty killing if given continued opportunity there.
But not "more than that" is fine, at least fine enough to make his presence felt in a regular if limited NHL role. His kind is always a fan favorite. His kind must always find that balance between the rough stuff and the puck stuff to preserve yin and yang for the team.
Here is how our panel ranked Martin this spring among Islanders players under 25:
And a few rationales from the voters:
Stat persons may disagree, but Matt Martin brings a good deal to the table for a young player in terms of mixing ability with toughness.
See Cizikas. [i.e. Results over potential, established play over future ceiling.] He's probably reached his ceiling but is a proven commodity and a useful NHLer at 24. Maybe he develops a scoring touch and can become more than a checking line winger, but the chances of that are slowly dwindling.
For his leadership and maturity, I think he might eventually get an "A" on the front of his sweater. But that only gets you so far. He seemed to have a tough time with the Pens in the playoffs (yeah, I know… small sample size).
Is Martin ever going to an All-Star game? No. But in his own right he's already an All-Star in Islanders Country. Martin knows his role and has, in three short seasons, made his presence known league wide. His offensive contribution has been pretty steady over his three NHL seasons, and no matter what anyone else thinks, I don't think he'll ever be a big offensive contributor at this level. But being a guy who gives 100% effort every single shift is enough to be a very important part of the Islanders team going forward.
What does the future hold for Martin? He is one of six Islanders forwards signed through 2015-16 or beyond (prospect Ryan Strome, by virtue of the slide rule, is one of them). That contract takes Martin over $1 million in salary by the end but keeps the cap hit at $1 million. It compensates well without making him an overpayment threat.
He's 24 now and will be 27 when the contract expires. By then the core of young Islanders forwards will have grown and probably gotten better, so competition for his spot will likely increase. But that's the life of a grinder: Keep hitting, keep doing the dirty work, keep finding roles to make them not want to let you go.
25U25 Spring 2013 Countdown
15: d Calvin de Haan
16: F Anders Lee