Craig Custance chats with rival scouts and players to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the New York Islanders.
They don't have the depth of some of the Eastern Conference's best teams. They don't have the experience, either. But talk to enough people who have played the Islanders recently and you start to become convinced this team could be capable of winning in the playoffs. And more than one round.
"Has there been a better team in the last month? They have a lot of young guys, and all of a sudden all those young guys they've been going with the last few years, they've all matured," an NHL scout said.
They have the potential to crash the playoffs a bit, but it's not as if they've been an overnight success.
"It's been a process for them over the years," said a former Islanders forward. "They have the same core group of guys that have played together for a long time. They've added some pieces to the puzzle that have definitely helped them click."
With the right mix of speed and work ethic, this team is a horrible draw for any Stanley Cup hopeful.
KEY STRENGTH: "First of all, they have some high-end talent. Young guys that can really skate," said one Eastern Conference defenseman. "They play a fast, fast style of game. If you turn over pucks, they're off to the races. They play at a higher pace than just about anybody."