The Islanders leadership group saw its first major shakeup in a few seasons, as longtime alternate captain Josh Bailey now resides with the Ottawa Senators That turnover could continue next offseason, as fellow alternate captain Cal Clutterbuck will be an unrestricted free agent next season, leaving both of last season’s regular alternates out of the organization. With change well underway, the Islanders will appoint new leaders alongside captain Anders Lee, but who could his new alternates be?
Brock Nelson wore the “A” on his sweater when Josh Bailey was a healthy scratch last season, and for good reason. Nelson has emerged as a strong center on both sides of the ice, earning his first All-Star nomination. With the puck, Nelson scored 36 goals and tallied a career-high 75 points, complemented by strong defensive play as well. As a result, Nelson is a player that has consistently made an impact on both sides of the ice. If the Islanders roll by meritocracy, Nelson is a strong choice with his previous experience, both as an alternate and on the scoresheet.
Another candidate to ascend to an alternate captain’s role for the Islanders is a newcomer from last season. Bo Horvat arrived on Long Island through a trade from the Canucks, where he wore the “C” on his jersey from 2019-2023. Following the trade, Canucks general manager Patrick Allvin said Horvat was, “a great leader and ambassador,” for the team, and the Islanders hope the same carries to Long Island. Horvat provided sturdy two-way play, despite an extended scoring drought, and some time to adjust could do wonders for his production next season. As a result, like Nelson, Horvat can make an impact on both sides of the ice, and his experience as Canucks’ captain could earn him a higher role.
A longtime member of the Islanders, Casey Cizikas has surprisingly not held an alternate captain’s role during his 12 years on Long Island. Cizikas has gone on record showing his passion for the team, noting he will, “die an Islander,” and that passion reflects to his play. He has always been one of the top two-way centers on the team, killing penalties and regularly helping grind down opponents. He’s not much of an offensive threat, but the care he takes on representing the Islanders is apparent in everything he does. As a result, Cizikas could receive the long overdue honor of having the “A” on his jersey regularly moving forward.
While these three are prime contenders based on previous experience, there are other candidates for who could rise to the role. The likes of Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Scott Mayfield each assumed the roles due to injuries, so both could be prime candidates to assume leadership roles. However, new faces could also step up, such as Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. However, with what the Islanders did in Bailey’s absence last year and evaluating prior leadership roles, these three are candidates to assume roles in the leadership group next season and beyond.
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