Hockey fans, we’re almost there. The season is just around the corner and the New York Islanders’ opener is now less than a month away. For now, feast your eyes on their rookie camp and all the possibilities that await them.
The team’s official training camp is set to open next Thursday in Brooklyn’s Barclays, and though the young stars are vying for the few vacant spots left on the team there are some current UFA that could prove useful.
Tim Thomas has certainly had an interesting year. After losing in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Thomas decided that he wanted to take some time away from the game, and spend it with his family. The former Stanley Cup champion camped in Colorado, and while there was traded over to the Islanders for a conditional second round draft pick. The condition: Tim Thomas must play a game for the Islanders.
He never did come over to Long Island last season, and the Islanders didn’t decide to toll his contract, thus making him a Free Agent.
Fast forward to September, and Thomas is still a UFA, making him fair game for an invite to training camp. The Islanders would be foolish not to invite. Not suggesting that he’d even make the team, but his mere presence may force Kevin Poulin to speed up his progress.
As Eyes On Isles own Chris Triantafilis writes on islandersoptimism.com, Poulin could use the competition. Let the young kid prove himself. If Poulin makes the team with Thomas at camp, we know that he is ready to play at the NHL level. If he doesn’t make the cut, then we know that Poulin needs just a little more Bridgeport time.
Thomas really couldn’t do anything but help the Islanders in Training Camp, which is why he should get an invite.
This UFA scenario is really more of a “take your pick” kind of thing, the two picks being Tim Thomas and Jose Theodore. Both players would serve the same purpose in training camp. They’re supposed to put back-up Kevin Poulin to the test.
Theodore is capable of having an NHL job. And again, if he takes the job, great. If he doesn’t, Kevin Poulin merits the back-up position.
Some Islanders fans prefer Ryan Whitney over Tom Gilbert, but upon closer inspection Gilbert is the better choice. Whitney has a slight edge in offensive production, but Gilbert is stronger on defense. But make no mistake about it, Tom Gilbert is an offensive-minded defenseman: he likes to jump up in the offensive rush (sound familiar?).
Gilbert also has a keen eye on the ice, and would make for a solid power-play lay quarterback.
Regardless of pitting Gilbert and Whitney, many may consider the aforementioned prospects a moot point with Matt Donovan in the fold, for he is the most qualified prospect in the Islanders’ system to take the vacant spot on the blue line left by Mark Streit. Donovan should be the guy to make the team, but bring in Gilbert just in case.
Their next best prospect to take the job would be Calvin de Haan, but he could use another season in Bridgeport after missing nearly all of last year with an injury. Griffin Reinhart is a solid player, but he isn’t just ready for the big league yet.
Donovan is in all likelihood the Islanders newest defenseman, but it’s always good to have a solid ‘back-up’ plan.
What do you guys think on the situation? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.