John Tavares of the Islanders grimaces after falling into the...

John Tavares of the Islanders grimaces after falling into the net during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum. (Jan. 23, 2014) Credit: Jim McIsaac

1. Who will be the odd men out among the crowded Islanders forward group?

The Isles have 16 forwards with NHL experience beginning camp. Several of them will end up disappointed; those could include familiar faces like Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, Matt Martin and Colin McDonald. Young talents Ryan Strome and Anders Lee played well at the end of last season but neither needs waivers to be sent to the AHL, which could factor in the final roster up front.

2. Will the Isles' defense improve?

Garth Snow made major moves this offseason, but not on defense. The current plan is to presume that the upgrades in goal, with Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson there, will offset the need for a big-name defenseman. Griffin Reinhart, the team's first-round pick in 2012, has the inside track on a spot, but there are a few teams near the salary cap with spare defensemen if the Isles don't like what they see.

3. Where does John Tavares stand?

At the head of the class, as usual. His high-profile knee injury at the Olympics ended what would have been his best statistical season, but the Isles captain felt he had a lot more to give. He badly wants to lead a winner and his typically relentless work this offseason means he's physically and mentally ready to bring the Islanders into a competitive season.

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