Ilya Sorokin, Mathew Barzal on top


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We missed the halfway mark by one game — the Islanders played match No. 42 on Tuesday against Dallas. Still, with the season a hair over 50 percent gone, now seemed like a good time for a report card.

Here are our grades for every Islander with more than 10 games played as they look to make a run to the playoffs.

Ilya Sorokin: A+

Sorokin is your first-half MVP, going away. It’s fair to say the Islanders wouldn’t be in the playoff race without Sorokin, whose 20.8 goals saved above expected ranks second in the league, per MoneyPuck, and who has bailed out the Islanders more times than anyone cares to count. He may soon add a Vezina Trophy to his cabinet.

Mathew Barzal: A+

If you want to ding Barzal for having scored just 10 goals, consider he’s averaging a perfect point per game and has taken a step forward as a two-way player. With essentially the same rotating cast of linemates as last season, Barzal has been a dynamic, consistent player and one of few on the roster who can create with the puck on his stick.

Mathew Barzal has been the dynamic hub of the Islanders’ offense.
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Semyon Varlamov: A-

The Islanders are paying a $5 million premium to their backup netminder, and getting the best backup goalie in the league in return. Before his mid-December injury, Varlamov was on a run during which he was playing even as well as Sorokin, and hanging onto him amid trade rumors last season now looks like a smart move on Lou Lamoriello’s part.

Brock Nelson: A-

The first All-Star nod of Nelson’s career has been well-earned. He’s been nearly a point-per-game player so far (15 goals, 24 assists). A 10-game scoreless streak keeps him from getting a perfect grade, but even when the pucks haven’t gone in, he’s contributed on a nightly basis.

Zach Parise: A-

At age 38, Parise turning in a season in which he’s on pace to make a run at 25 goals while yet to miss a game since joining the Islanders is nothing short of remarkable. He’s also played both special-teams units and been a leader in the dressing room. For someone whose career appeared to be on its last legs in Minnesota two years ago, it’s something to behold.

Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders tries to takes the puck away from Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers.
Ryan Pulock takes on the Islanders’ toughest defensive assignments, including against the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl.
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Ryan Pulock: A-

Pulock gets a lot of credit here not just for drawing a tough matchup every night, but for adjusting well after Adam Pelech suffered a head injury just over a month ago. That broke up the Islanders’ best defensive pair by force, and since that game, Pulock has a 61.82 goals-for percentage.

Adam Pelech: A-

Had he stayed healthy, Pelech might be in line for a second straight All-Star bid. No injury has hurt the Islanders as much as his — Pelech was averaging 20:49 per game and playing nightly shutdown hockey against the opposition’s top line before slamming his head into the boards on Dec. 6. He can’t get back soon enough.

Noah Dobson: B+

Dobson continues to take steps forward as one of the most promising young offense-minded defensemen in the league, but his play in his own end needs to be better before he’s considered a true star. Everyone from Lamoriello on down has acknowledged that, and if Dobson can do it, he’ll be in the Norris Trophy conversation. It hasn’t quite happened yet.

Anders Lee: B+

Lee has 15 goals and 15 assists with strong on-ice numbers across the board, and any lingering tentativeness due to his 2021 ACL tear has been left behind. The only nitpick: You’d like to see a little more from him on the power play, where his net-front presence should be a greater weapon than it’s been.

Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders scores a goal during the 1st period against the Dallas Stars at UBS Arena on January 10, 2023.
Anders Lee scores a goal against the Stars on Jan. 10.
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Jean-Gabriel Pageau: B+

Pageau hasn’t lit up the scoresheet, but he’s been a consistent two-way center who can play on both special-teams units effectively. His move to the first power play gave a temporary spark to that unit, and his 57.2 win percentage in the faceoff circle marks him as one of the best in the league at the dots.

Hudson Fasching: B+

Fasching has come from nowhere to earn a roster spot with the Islanders at age 27 in one of the better stories of the season. His straight-line play has fit well on the fourth line, and he’s shown flashes offensively, particularly his charge to the crease for a goal against Vegas last month.

Oliver Wahlstrom: B

Wahlstrom is still considered out indefinitely, which can’t be a good sign given that the Islanders almost always stick with day-to-day designations for their injured players. Prior to the injury, the season was shaping up to be a step forward for Wahlstrom — just not as big of one as the Isles might have liked to see. He was far more responsible with the puck, which checked a huge box, but hasn’t turned into a consistent scorer, nor a player who can give Barzal what he needs on the wing.

Scott Mayfield: B

Mayfield has cooled down a bit since a hot offensive start, but he’s still likely to hit career highs in scoring and possibly overall points. He also continues to be a steady presence on the back end who can play alongside everyone and match up with anyone, and should be in line for a raise when he hits free agency this summer.

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Scott Mayfield #24 of the New York Islanders scuffle during the third period at the UBS Arena on December 27, 2022.
Scott Mayfield, whose play has put him in line for a raise, scuffles with Penguins star Sidney Crosby on Dec. 27.
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Sebastian Aho: B

Aho, who looked to be on the outs during training camp, has been a pleasant surprise as an everyday defenseman. He’s cut down on the turnovers that kept him out of the lineup in the past and has played a responsible game more often than not.

Casey Cizikas: B-

The Identity Line has faltered in effectiveness for stretches, which is the main reason Cizikas’ grade isn’t higher. For a player who’s started just 30.51 percent of the time in the offensive zone, though, it’s impressive that Cizikas has an even 50 percent goals-for percentage at five-on-five, and he continues to kill penalties well.

Simon Holmstrom: B-

Holmstrom has gotten consistent praise from the coaching staff for his two-way play, a great indicator for a player just getting his NHL legs under him. Whether or not he ends up staying with the Islanders once they get healthy, he’s gotten valuable experience. Two points in 15 games, though, isn’t quite good enough, and Holmstrom needs to be a little more willing to shoot the puck.

Matt Martin: C+

It’s been a pleasant surprise that Martin has missed just one game this season after coming out of the lineup for Ross Johnston more regularly last season. His advanced numbers are also a tick higher than those of either of his Identity Line-mates, though still overall not quite as good as they should be.

Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins trips up Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders during the second period at the UBS Arena on December 27, 2022.
Matt Martin of the Identity Line has been a lineup staple, but his numbers lag a bit.
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Kyle Palmieri: C+

It’s a little hard to judge Palmieri’s season given he’s played just once since Nov. 21. Before the injury, though, “underwhelming” would have been an apt descriptor. His nine points put him on pace for a lower per-60-minute number than he put up last season, which was universally cast as a disappointment. The Isles don’t just need him to get healthy, they need him to score at a higher level.

Alexander Romanov: C+

Romanov’s first few months on Long Island have shown promise, but it’s been rocky at times. His 46.63 expected goals percentage is the worst among Isles defensemen with over 200 minutes, and fitting with Dobson has been a bit of a roller coaster. His physicality can change games and the potential is very much there, but it could take some time to be realized.

Cal Clutterbuck: C+

It’s not clear exactly what injuries the 35-year-old Clutterbuck has dealt with this season, but he’s been limited to just 29 games and has the lowest expected goals percentage of any Islanders player with more than 100 minutes. That’s in part due to his defense-oriented role, but it’s still nearly five percent lower than even last season, when all three players on the Identity Line hit a noticeable decline.

Anthony Beauvillier: C

Tuesday’s loss to Dallas was a good example of what Beauvillier’s game should look like every night when he’s not scoring: forechecking hard, playing below the hashes and making life hell for opponents. Too often, though, he’s disappeared on nights when the puck hasn’t gone in — and it’s gone in just eight times.

Josh Bailey #12 of the New York Islanders gets tripped up against Radek Faksa #12 of the Dallas Stars during the first period at UBS Arena on January 10, 2023.
Josh Bailey’s stumbles may lead to more scratches in the second half.
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Josh Bailey: C-

Aside from a memorable 1,000th game in Carolina, Bailey’s first half has been one to forget. His 46.16 xGF% at five-on-five is the lowest among the Islanders’ top nine forwards, and he’s been healthy-scratched by Lane Lambert twice. You wonder if that might be a more common occurrence once the Isles get healthy.

Robin Salo: D+

Salo going on loan to AHL Bridgeport Wednesday morning put a bow on what’s been a rough first half for the Finn. After making the opening-night lineup, Salo quickly lost his spot, and hasn’t been able to get it back, playing just 11 NHL games and struggling with regularity. He’s been supplanted in the lineup by Aho and by recent call-up Parker Wotherspoon, and it’s hard to see Salo drawing back in without more injuries forcing the Islanders’ hand.

Incompletes (fewer than 10 games): Ross Johnston, Parker Wotherspoon, Aatu Raty, Nikita Soshnikov, Cole Bardreau, Kieffer Bellows

Sending Raty down was the right call

Aatu Raty #16 of the New York Islanders skates during the first period of a game against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on January 1, 2023.
The Islanders demoted Aatu Raty to avoid burning a year of his entry-level deal.
NHLI via Getty Images

Unless the Islanders saw Raty as a lineup mainstay once they got healthy, which it seemed clear they did not, sending him back to AHL Bridgeport before he reached 10 games played and burned off a year of his entry-level deal was nothing short of imperative. Yes, getting NHL minutes is valuable, and Raty did look as if he belonged. That is a good sign.

But it was also clear he had yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff. Seven games into an NHL career, that is not a stain on Raty’s resume — it is to be expected — but another year of team control is plainly more valuable to the Islanders than an extra few games of playing under 10 minutes. Raty may be able to challenge for a full-time NHL job as soon as next training camp. Until then, assuming injuries do not require another cameo, the Islanders are best served by keeping him in Bridgeport.

A good power-play wrinkle

Putting Ryan Pulock on the halfwall in place of a forward on the second power play unit is a worthy move by Lambert. Pulock has a weapon for a shot — playing there will let him use it. Trying him there on the first power play unit might even be worth a shot at some point if the struggles continue at five-on-four (though Lee’s power-play goal Tuesday counts as a positive sign).

“Well, we weren’t really able to get into our natural spots just with the way it worked out, but on the other side, I like it,” Pulock told The Post after the 2-1 shootout loss to the Stars. “I’m able to shoot, get some good looks down there. Tonight, just couldn’t get over there.”

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