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New York Islanders 2022-23 Season Preview: A definitive guide to the forwards

An absolutely true and accurate guide to all the new faces on offense.

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
Approaching a milestone 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 2022-23 season is upon us! Once upon a time, in an era far, far away from the toxic effects of social media and surveillance capitalism, you waited for your newspaper (a publication on paper, which printed news...and home furnishing ads) to arrive to find out who made the team, maybe how they were acquired, and what the buzz was during training camp.

But now thanks to the technology made possible by Al Gore and Elon Musk, and the fan-friendly transparency of Lou Lamoriello, you already learned who made the New York Islanders season-opening roster well before opening night!

Still, how well do you know why each player is here? That’s what this guide is for. Today we start with the forwards...:

Anders Lee, LW

The captain returns for his 11th season (technically his first was just two games to burn an ELC though), and will reach 600 regular season games on this homestand.

A power forward with deft hands around the net, he would really be hated by opponents if he weren’t so darn wholesome and nice. He’s now more than a year past his brutal knee injury, so the hope is that he has an entire season that’s more like his second half of 2021-22.

Need to know: Lee’s jaw was chiseled from granite.

Josh Bailey, W

The entire Islanders fanbase wants to know-ow-ow either: 1) when he’ll score a goal, 2) when he’ll be traded for “someone who shoots/tries/is better/hasn’t been here forever/allows me to rant about something new.”

Incredibly, he’s entering his 15th NHL season, all with the Islanders. The man played for Scott Gordon. He was there for Sean Bentivoglio’s sole NHL game. He appeared in team promos with chains and mood lighting. Entering this season, he’s seven regular season games away from 1,000.

Need to know: He’s still heeeeeere.

Zach Parise, LW

Signed in summer 2021 on the cheap, he was renewed last spring as one of the Islanders’ major trade deadline moves. He was once signed to a 13-year, $98 million contract, therefore he belongs on Mathew Barzal’s wing.

Need to know: Zach Parise is the son of the late and beloved J.P. Parise, who was the first of many Islanders to humiliate the Rangers in front of their own terrible fans.

Mathew Barzal, C

Finally, our sweet prince is free.

Baptized in the “let ‘em rip!” wild days of Doug Weight, then drilled under the regimented structure of Barry Trotz, all of Islanders Country hopes the newly extended center has completed his Complete Jedi Training and will be a force under Lane Lambert.

Need to know: He loves Long Island and will outlast several coaches to prove it.

Kyle Palmieri, W

Without his playoff beard, the former Devil had a snakebit first half. It wasn’t as bad as it appeared on paper. This season should be more balanced, one would think.

Hopefully the shaving requirement has not permanently drained him of his powers, because like most Islanders forwards he’s signed for a bajillion years, and chances are Lou will be in charge for most of them.

Need to know: You’ve probably never heard this, but he’s from Smithtown.

Anthony Beauvillier, W

He’s the other-than-Bailey guy everyone put in trade proposals this summer, because he’s one of the few who 1) isn’t signed for a bajillion years, 2) doesn’t have a NTC, and 3) is young enough to have some upside trade value.

He scored that playoff overtime goal to close out the Coliseum, and since then everything went dark. For all of us. He needs a bounce-back year, as do all of us.

Need to know: Is not dating Anna Kendrick, Page 6 has learned.

Brock Nelson, C

This guy continues to get better. He is apparently a student of the skills of other players, and has improved his already dangerous shot by watching and imitating the release of the league’s snipers. He will score his share of goals simply crossing the high slot and whipping a shot the goalie is slow to pick up...

...which is a nice skill to have along with his two-way play and reverend duties.

Need to know: The rare Islanders center who is only signed for three more years ($6 million cap hit).

J-G Pageau, C

Pageau is a skilled, all-zone, utility knife guy and like all Islanders centers, he has a not-insignificant cap hit. It feels like he’s already been on the Island for a long time, but it’s only been 138 games (plus 41 very memorable playoff games).

He’ll again be called upon to do all of the things, including checking/line-matching roles that depress his offensive numbers. Inevitably he’ll go through a scoring slump where people will complain that he’s not doing enough, but he’ll probably be doing a whole lot, actually.

Need to know: Is pingpong ninja.

Casey Cizikas, C

Okay, not all Islanders centers carry $5 million-plus cap hits. Cizikas’ version of the lower-cap, sign-for-life approach has him at $2.5 million per through age 36.

It’s not a bad deal, especially if he stays reasonably healthy through half of it and the cap starts rising again. But it’s a commitment, and the answer to that “if” is “this guy lays it all out there, compiles his share of injuries.” So he will be a heart and soul guy until he’s running on fumes, and it will still be a while before he becomes the problem with the fourth line. {Foreshadowing...}

Need to know: Has skated through the walls of the Coliseum, Barclays, and UBS.

Matt Martin, LW

This guy, he loves the Island. And he too will play until there are no fumes left. It will be interesting how Lambert handles fourth-line guys who bring energy, battle level, what-have-you but not so much speed and skill. The previous two coaches would almost never scratch him but for injury, though that started to change.

Martin was once sent on a mission to research the Toronto organization on behalf of a then-Isles captain. Alas, the captain grew impatient and jumped ship before Martin returned with his scouting report. Ah well, it all worked out for everyone.

Need to know: Martin has never scored less than three goals in a season.

Ross Johnston, W

It’s admirable what Ross the Boss has done with the narrow circumstances afforded to him. And there are several chapters in his book left to write.

He is always there, prepping diligently while biding his chance to step in, as he will be through...2025-26?! For all the Garth Snow-Lou Lamoriello contrasts (which are cultural and stylistic, mostly), I cackle at the ways in which they do exactly the same thing, just with different rules and clothing.

Johnston signing consecutive 4-year deals with those two different GMs is one of those things that will be overlooked by history, but will live on in the back of our minds as we stare blankly out the window at the nicely groomed courtyard of the nursing home.

Need to know: Johnston’s career .08 goals per game rate is just at the legal limit, and .01 below Martin’s.

Cal Clutterbuck, RW

Oh, are we still talking about the fourth line? Clutterbuck has accumulated bruises and injuries over the years, so it’s hardly surprising nor really his fault that he’s slowed down. Another surgery ended his season and he appeared ready to go, but was placed on season-opening IR for “soreness.” Which is probably more of a punt on the roster decision about the next three forwards.

Need to know: Each season his wrist shot coming down the wing is guaranteed to surprise at least three goalies, and 35 fans sitting at the glass in the corner.

Kieffer Bellows, Oliver Wahlstrom, Nikita Soshnikov, W

Evidently these three are all fighting to not be the guy sent to Bridgeport. Wahlstrom is still waivers exempt, but clearly has the highest upside of the three. Bellows gets the enigma treatment, given a shorter leash because his offensive threat isn’t as great. Soshnikov is the guy who has Lou’s trust and can do multiple non-scoring related things, apparently.

Soshnikov signed late, escaping from the KHL, so he’ll probably take whatever assignment he can get. Wahlstrom is still waiver-exempt. Bellows is “the best.”

In keeping and reinforcing tradition, in the morning media Lambert would not confirm who got the nod for the home opener.

Need to know: Soshnikov is your new face up front. Catch him before he’s gone.

The Islanders open the 2022-23 season Thursday night at home against the Florida Panthers. Here at Lighthouse Hockey we’ll have spirited in-game threads, game recaps, daily news dumps and other absurd things as we follow them all season.