Islanders line projections 2023-24 after Alex DeBrincat trade to Detroit

Islanders Canadiens Brock Nelson
New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson (29) is congratulated after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 12, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Another summer, another big-name target that’s been missed by the Islanders. 

Alex DeBrincat is on his way to the Detroit Red Wings — the Michigan native’s hometown team that traded a 2024 conditional first-round pick, a 2024 fourth-round pick, Dominik Kubalik, and Donovan Sebrango to the Ottawa Senators for the 25-year-old winger. 

The Islanders were reportedly in on trade talks with Ottawa for the two-time 40-goal scorer, which would have supplied New York’s first line with a bona fide, imposing trio with him flanking Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal. 

President and general manager Lou Lamoriello now finds himself in an eerily similar position regarding his forward lines: A nearly-identical unit from last season that fared well enough in 5-on-5 play (they ranked 12th in goals for and T-6th with a +31 goal differential) but was undone by incompetent special teams situations. New York’s power play was ranked 30th out of 32 teams in the NHL.

A puck-moving defenseman is a must for the Islanders this summer, but it’s clear that Lamoriello’s interest in DeBrincat suggests that the organization was at least flirting with the idea of creating a staunch, imposing first line.

So what does the forward unit look like right now? It’s safe to say that 80% of the forwards are set, but uncertainty surrounds restricted free agent Oliver Wahlstrom — who has yet to sign a deal and could be trade bait — and Zach Parise, who is mulling retirement but has an open invitation to rejoin the Islanders.

Projected 2023-24 Islanders lines: Version 1.0

Oliver Wahlstrom-Bo Horvat-Mathew Barzal

Islanders Kraken Bo Horvat
New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates with teammates Sebastian Aho (25) and Mathew Barzal (13) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

A year of stability should only help Horvat, who had to adjust to the upheaval of being dealt amidst a career season from the Vancouver Canucks to the Islanders at the trade deadline. Both he and Barzal showed plenty of promise together in their brief run before Barzal went down with a regular-season-ending injury.

If all goes to plan, those two will be inseparable for the next eight years. But what of the left-wing spot? 

DeBrincat would have been the perfect addition to slot in there but is off the table. Anders Lee actually appeared to perform well in the brief stint with Horvat and Barzal. They accounted for five goals in just under 20 minutes of play together, which comes out to a goals-per-60-minute mark of 6.02.

There is something to be said about his style of play that could be similar to Horvat’s as they both generate chances down low near the crease, which makes Wahlstrom — for now — a logical first-line option. As a developing power forward with an above-average shot, the 22-year-old could benefit from Barzal’s playmaking while utilizing Horvat’s ability to wreak havoc near the crease. That provides the best opportunity for the youngster to prove that he can stick around and meet the high expectations that came with being selected 11th overall five years ago.


Pierre Engvall-Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri

Pierre Engvall Islanders
New York Islanders left wing Pierre Engvall (18) celebrates his goal with center Brock Nelson (29) and center Kyle Palmieri (21) during the second period of an NHL hockey game next to Washington Capitals defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57), Wednesday, March 29, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Islanders’ best line down the stretch of the 2022-23 season will officially run it back after Engvall — another trade-deadline acquisition — was secured on a seven-year deal on July 1.

Engvall put together a career year with the Maple Leafs and Islanders with 17 goals while Nelson flirted with 40 for a second-straight season, posting 36 goals a year after potting 37. Palmieri is the wild card as injuries and inconsistencies have limited his production with the Islanders. He has 33 goals in 141 games with the team after averaging 26 goals per year between 2015-2020.

Despite playing just 14 games together, the trio accounted for 15 goals. Only one other Islanders trio had more goals while playing together (Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, and Nelson accounted for 20 across 39 games). 


Anders Lee-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Hudson Fasching

Islanders Hudson Fasching
New York Islanders right wing Hudson Fasching (20) is congratulated after scoring against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

This might be the most uncertain line of the Islanders’ forward bunch at this point in the summer. Pageau’s name was linked in the DeBrincat trade talks and his $5 million AAV provides a considerable hit for a team with little cap flexibility.

Fasching emerged as a legitimate bottom-six option that worked well alongside Casey Cizikas — making him a logical fourth-line replacement when the time comes to split up the Islanders’ long-time identity line. 

At left wing, this spot could realistically be flip-flopped between Lee and Wahlstrom. However, this spot has been Parise’s for extended portions of the last two seasons and could very well be his if he decides to come back… or it could force Lamoriello into making some tough decisions.


Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck

Cal Clutterbuck Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, right, is defended by New York Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP)

The final act of this reliable line is nigh. But for the time being, it appears as though they’ll get at least one more go together after spending most of the last decade as the Islanders’ high-energy, physical unit. 

Clutterbuck and Martin are in the final years of their deals while Cizikas spent time last season forging a relationship with Fasching while Clutterbuck was out injured.  

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