The offseason departures of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen leaves a gaping hole in the Islanders’ offense.
Although offseason additions Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera will be expected to help in that department, the top goal scorer after captain John Tavares ought to be Brock Nelson.
Nelson, who turns 25 on Saturday, has averaged 41 points the last two seasons while missing just one game for the Isles. The 2010 first-round pick ranked second behind Tavares in goals scored last season.
The durable forward is a good bet to light the lamp 20 or more times for the third consecutive season, but what would really help the Isles this season is for Nelson to grow as a facilitator. After goal-to-assist ratios of 14-12 and and 20-22 his first two seasons, Nelson posted a disproportionate 26-14 rate in 2015-16.
Also troublesome is the minus-3 Nelson posted last season. Setting up teammates for more goals will do a bit to improve that figure, but growth as a two-way player will do even more for his standing with coach Jack Capuano.
Fortunately, Nelson is young enough to continue his growth and still could develop into a true cornerstone for the Isles.