Aftermath: What Islanders fans can look to for the rest of 2013-14

The kids are alright - Bruce Bennett

A nice return at the trade deadline and the playoffs may be crossed off the list, but there are still a few things Islanders fans can hope for before the 2013-14 season ends.

No, the Islanders will not be returning to the playoffs in 2014. And no, John Tavares will not suit up again during the 2013-14 season.

Sure, Garth Snow broke your heart with his less than exciting returns for Andrew MacDonald and Thomas Vanek. But that doesn't mean its time to avert your eyes from the remained of the Islanders 2013-14 season.

As bleak as the season has been, in terms of entertainment, all is not lost. Here are a few things that are still worth watching for Islanders fans.

1. The Young Forwards

You've gotten a good look at Brock Nelson throughout the season, and you have most likely been happy with what you've seen. But with Tavares' injury, it's a good bet you'll get to see Nelson in an increased role. How Nelson handles the extra responsibility will help us gauge where Nelson will slot into the 2014-15 lineup.

Ryan Strome has looked good in his return to the NHL, and it will be interesting to see if he can bring more offense to the Islanders than he did in his first stint on the Island.

The Islanders will be looking for goals, and this is an opportunity for Strome to show he can be counted on to score some. In the process, he can show that he is ready to make his stay in the NHL a permanent one.

Anders Lee showed offensive promise at Bridgeport, and didn't stop lighting the lamp when he got the call up to the Islanders. With 3 goals and 4 points in 4 games since his recall, it will be exciting to see if Lee can continue adding offense where the Isles have been lacking all season, from in front of the opposition's crease.

2. The Defense

Andrew MacDonald is gone, being shipped to division rival Philadelphia. In losing MacDonald, we lose 8 million blocked shots, 4 million turnovers, and 1 popular whipping boy on the back end.

There is a chance we may see Griffin Reinhart in an Islanders jersey next year. But other than that possibility, you most likely will be watching your 2014-15 Islanders defensive unit in Edmonton tonight.

Aside from Radek Martinek (and who ever knows with Radek), all of the current Islanders defenseman are under contract, or will be do to restricted free agent status, for next season. So more than likely Islanders fans will be looking at Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Lubomir Visnovsky, Thomas Hickey, Brian Strait, Matt Donovan, and Matt Carkner patrolling the blueline one more year.

With MacDonald gone and Visnovsky near 100 percent, it will be interesting to see how the group gels over the final 18 games of the season. If the pairings can form some chemistry, and the group can chip in a little offense as a whole, it could leave the Islander fan a bit optimistic heading into next year.

3. Kyle Okposo

2013-14 has been a breakout season for Kyle Okposo. Tied for 8th in the NHL in points and 14th overall in goals scored, Okposo has taken the step Islanders fans have hoped he would for a few seasons now.

But with Tavares out for the rest of the season, Okposo becomes the de facto captain of the New York Islanders. With Vanek also gone, Okposo becomes the main offensive threat on the team.

It will be interesting to see if Okposo can continue to provide offense without his two linemates. It will also be of interest to see if Okposo can continue producing with increased responsibility on his shoulders and increased attention from the opposition.

If Okposo continues to shine through the rest of the season, Islanders fans can at least rest a little easier knowing the team will have someone other than Tavares penciled in on the team's top line next year.

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