EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — While the Islanders as a whole are preparing to run it back in 2023-24 with a virtually identical roster from last year, the new campaign will allow an opportunity for the trio of Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri, and Pierre Engvall to work together for a season.
After acquiring Engvall at the trade deadline in February from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the unit scored a combined 15 goals in 14 games, which was the second-most goals scored by an Islanders line all season despite their nearly 144 minutes together ranking only seventh amongst time on ice by a single line on the team.
During their first-round playoff exit against the Carolina Hurricanes, their line accounted for five of the eight goals scored by Islanders forwards in the six-game loss.
“We had quite a bit of success down the road last year,” Nelson said. “In the playoffs, I thought we were great.”
Nelson, the center and centerpiece of the line, continues his ascent as one of the top goal-scoring centers in the game. He scored 37 goals in 72 games two years ago and followed it up with 36 tallies last season — the 73 combined goals ranking 10th-most amongst all NHL centers during that span.
“I think you always strive to try and produce more,” Nelson said. “If we do play together on Day 1, I think we’re definitely familiar with each other and try to complement one another in-game with Pierre’s speed, Kyle’s strength, and then I try to support those guys. Both those guys are capable of creating space and scoring on their own.
“If it shakes up that way, making plays, those are two guys I feel pretty comfortable playing with. You don’t expect to play with the same guys the whole time, but when you do find yourself in a rhythm with those guys, you want to try and run with it for as long as you can.”
Engvall, who scored just 30 goals in his first 168 games played from 2019-2022, posted five goals with four assists in 18 regular-season games with the Islanders, which helped him reach a career-high of 17 goals last year.
A target of Islanders president and GM Lou Lamoriello for his speed and playmaking potential, Engvall’s end-of-season flourish, which included a goal and an assist in the playoffs, earned him a seven-year deal with New York during the offseason.
“I’m really excited to keep it going,” Engvall said of his success alongside Nelson and Palmieri. “I think we played good together last year. I’m excited to get it going. You want to score as much as you can and I think I can do better than I’ve done in the past years so I’m going to do my best and see how far it takes me.”
He’ll certainly have an opportunity to continue building on his game. He received more than two extra minutes of ice time with the Islanders compared to his time with Toronto and should receive comparable ice time moving forward. Carving out a partnership with an All-Star center will only further help his prospects, too.
“I think he could take another step offensively for sure,” Nelson said of Engvall. “Just watching him and his skating, his speed, his strength, his size, his reach. He can create from stationary points with how explosive he is and how he can beat guys.
“He can shoot the puck, too. He has a little bit of everything which is nice. A guy like that, you can feed him some plays and he can create on his own which is nice for you.”
The largest wild card, at least for now, appears to be Palmieri, who has yet to participate at Islanders training camp. The team has described his absence as “maintenance,” after picking something up during preseason training.
He is considered day-to-day, but it’s imperative that they get the veteran right-winger healthy. Palmieri has missed a combined 50 games over the last two seasons — his only two full years with the Islanders — due to injury issues.