With the start of the regular season now less than a month away, the New York Islanders are set to open their highly anticipated rookie camp Sunday morning.
Defenseman Noah Dobson and forwards Oliver Wahlstrom, Otto Koivula and Kieffer Bellows will have the spotlight on them the most as each have a chance at cracking the opening night roster. Bode Wilde was also supposed to be in that mix, but Newsday’s Andrew Gross reported earlier this week that the 19-year-old D-man was in a walking boot with a sprained ankle. It’s a tough blow for Wilde, who is coming off a sensational first season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit that saw him record 70 points and get named to the OHL’s Second All-Star Team.
Wilde will probably sit out most if not all of rookie camp and the start of training camp, but that opens up opportunities for others to make a little noise and inspire some chatter among fans and the front office. One of them is Arnaud Durandeau.
— Alec Gearty (@gearty83) June 28, 2019
Durandeau, the 2017 6th-rounder, is riding into camp off a stellar campaign with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. The 20-year-old notched 38 goals and 73 points in 68 games — third-most in points on Halifax — and was a key piece in their run to the Memorial Cup, where they were defeated by fellow prospect Noah Dobson’s club, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
Back in July at the Isles’ prospect camp, Durandeau turned some heads, according to reports, with a highlight-reel goal in the team’s blue and white scrimmage. If that wasn’t already a reason to watch Durandeau, he has moved up the depth chart among the organization’s winger prospects; Durandeau sits behind Bellows and newcomer Robert Carpenter right now, but could raise his stock with a solid showing. In addition, with him heading to Bridgeport this season, Durandeau can give fans a first glance at what he will bring to a burgeoning offense.
Another Quebec product, Samuel Bolduc, should gain some traction.
At 6’4″, 193 pounds, Bolduc is an overpowering presence, similar to his fellow D-man Dobson. Ironically, both are the same height and weight; Bolduc is a year younger though.
The Laval native was drafted in the second round this past summer after a breakout season with Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Bolduc is already physically developed for his age, has been acknowledged as a good skater for his size, and occasionally has shown untapped upside when on the rush. At 18, Bolduc’s nowhere near ready for the NHL and is set for his fourth season in juniors, but his size and shot are two things that fans can start to gush over as camp gets underway.
Moving to the goaltending position, many people’s focus should be shifted towards Linus Soderstrom and Jakub Skarek.
The two Europeans, both playing in North America for the first time, are set to duke it out for what will likely be the top or backup spot in Bridgeport this coming season.
Soderstrom, 23, is extra motivated to finally get back to being that championship-caliber goalie that had wonderful success in his native Sweden.
The 2014 fourth-rounder should have had some experience on North American ice by now, but he was ravaged by injuries over the past two years, having undergone sports-hernia surgery during the 2017-18 campaign and dealing with a lower-body ailment all of last season. In goal, the organization already locked up Semyon Varlamov for the next four seasons, has hope that Ilya Sorokin — the goalie drafted 17 picks ahead of Soderstrom — will finally come to the States next summer and has Thomas Greiss in the final year of his contract. Soderstrom’s arrival adds more intrigue to that current crop while adding another possible option down the line.
As for Skarek, it’s all about making good on his decision to leave his Pelicans squad in Liiga and develop in North America.
The 19-year-old, drafted 72nd overall in 2018, had a spotty season last year in Finland backing up starter Juho Olkinuora. In 22 games played, Skarek sported a 6-8-7 record with a 2.45 GAA and .906 save percentage. Skarek had a hard time adjusting to the quickness of the Finnish Elite League compared to the speed of the Czech league. “Everything is much faster. We’re playing in smaller rinks than we’re used to in Czech so it was a little bit different. I had to play much more with the stick,” Skarek noted back in July. Skarek is going to have to make that same adjustment starting with camp this weekend. He’ll also have to deal with the stiffer competition with not only Soderstrom, but Jared Coreau (27) and Christopher Gibson (26) too.
There’s going to be a lot of eyes on the Islanders rookies these next few weeks, but the names listed above should stand out more than the rest.
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