New York Islanders training camp opens up Friday at the Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. With camp opening there are a few questions fans have before the Isles take the ice. Here are ten important questions the Islanders will answer before they drop the puck for real against the Rangers October 13th.
Who are the new faces?
The biggest acquisition of the offseason was Andrew Ladd who split time last year between Winnipeg and Chicago. He will be participating in his first Islanders training camp, in addition Jason Chimira who spend last season in Washington will replace Matt Martin on the fourth line. Finally, PA Parenteau will be returning for his second tour of duty with the club.
Who won’t be there?
With the World Cup of Hockey going on some players will not be attending training camp on time. The biggest absence will be the captain John Tavares. With Canada already making it to the at least the semifinals of the tournament Tavares won’t be to camp until at least Monday but in all likelihood next weekend. Nikolay Kulemin is playing for his native Russia and both Jaro Halak and Thomas Greiss are representing the remainder of the European continent. Familiar faces Kyle Okposo will be in Buffalo, Frans Nielson in Detroit, Matt Martin will be in Toronto, and Brain Strait will be in Winnipeg.
Which young forwards will make the team out of camp?
There will be plenty of competition for the 12 forward spots. With 14 forwards on a one-way deal, (which means they can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers) the roster already looks full and that is without considering guys like Dal Colle, Barzal, and Ho-Sang. After a successful season last year in Seattle (WHL), it looks like Barzal may be the odd man out due to the labor agreement. As he has yet to reach 20 years of age, he is ineligible to play in Bridgeport for the Islanders minor league affiliate. It is either he makes the Islanders or he returns to Juniors until his team’s season is over. Ho-Sang and Dal Colle can go to Bridgeport which makes an in season call up of either of them much easier.
Looking at the history of Jack Capuano and this organization, I would consider those three to be long shots to make the roster as it is currently constructed. The Islanders do not have a history of pushing young players over veterans. No matter how good they look it would take multiple veterans playing below expectations, before they went with these younger players.
What is going on with Mikhail Grabovski?
It is unlikely he will be ready for camp as per Arthur Staple of Newsday and may move to IR. That would leave the roster with 13 forwards on one way deals. It cannot be expected that Grabovski will be much of a factor going forward with the Islanders.
Who plays with John Tavares?
The question will be does Tavares show up to camp next week or the week after? It all depends on how the rest of the World Cup goes. I can’t imagine Tavares treats this like a normal camp due to playing plenty of high intensity games already this season. It may be best for him to get some rest for the start of the season. Which will lead to some interesting competition amongst the rest of the wingers. Ladd will get the first shot to develop chemistry but the other wing looks to be wide open. The Islanders are yet again trying to find the other winger to play with Tavares, maybe this is the year they finally do it.
Has John Tavares mastered banking pucks off Ryan McDonagh?
Tavares had a goal in the Prelims and also in the Round Robin game against the USA, that went of Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers. The mastery of this skill will be a great asset in games against the cross town Rangers.
Will Ryan Pulock lock down the last defensive spot?
After looking good at the end of last year Pulock will have the opportunity to play every night for the Isles taking third pair minutes along with some powerplay time. If he can be solid enough in his own zone his offensive skill on the power play will make him a dangerous addition to this team. He will have to prove himself throughout the preseason to keep Pelech and Mayfield behind him on the depth chart.
Who will be the extra defenseman this year?
With the departure of fan favorite Brian Strait, the Islanders will need to fill in the rest of their defensive lineup. They currently have 6 defensemen with one way deals in addition to Ryan Pulock who is expected to take one of the top 6 spots. This situation seems to benefit Scott Mayfield and hurt Adam Pelech. While in a perfect world these two would compete for the 7th roster spot but in the world of contracts, this has already been decided. Scott Mayfield has to clear waivers to go to Bridgeport where Adam Pelech does not. Mayfield will make the team as the seventh defenseman and Pelech will be ticketed for Bridgeport. The question becomes, who plays if one of the top 6 goes down? This training camp will answer that question.
Who is the starting goalie?
After playing well down the stretch and into the beginning of the playoffs Thomas Greiss finds himself the backup again or at least the 1A. It was interesting to see the test case play out in the World Cup of Hockey for Team Europe, in which Halak and Greiss are the top two net minders as well. Team Europe selected Halak as their starter as should the Islanders. I would have no problem with Greiss getting the opening night call in Manhattan and/or Brooklyn (the more ceremonial events) but the first opportunity needs to go to Halak. Greiss needs to prove he is more than just a one year wonder which is why Halak is so important to this team.
What’s the deal with the three goalies?
The Isles will in all likelihood enter the season with three goalies again, and they should. Understanding that this is not the optimal situation but due to contracts and experience it is the hand the Islanders need to play. A goaltending tandem of Greiss and Berube would leave the Islanders extremely vulnerable in the back end. Neither of those two have ever played more than 41 games and before last season more than 25 games in the NHL. Asking Greiss with a Halak has the experience in carrying the load for a team and should not be traded unless you have the opportunity to bring in a big return. As we saw last year getting Berube through waivers may be impossible and with how much the Islanders like him that does not seem like a risk that is worth taking.