Top Shelf – Islanders Daily 7/12/13


March 21, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing

Ilya Kovalchuk

(17) looks on from the bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Devils defeated the Hurricanes 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Of note in the NHL world was the surprising announcement that New Jersey Devils right winger Ilya Kovalchuk was retiring, citing a desire to return home to Russia and be with his family.

Of note in the New York Islanders world was the Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum last night, which garnered almost the same level of national attention as Kovalchuk’s decision.

Of course, I’m kidding. (The scrimmage was way more important.)

All jokes aside, Kovalchuk’s announcement that he would leave approximately $77 million on the table to leave the NHL was yesterday’s biggest news item in the hockey world. After signing a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Devils that began with the 2010-11 season, to say that Kovalchuk simply walking away from the NHL was “unexpected” would be putting it lightly.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was quoted as saying he’d had extensive discussions with Kovalchuk and that he wasn’t surprised by the star winger’s decision to leave the franchise. Something doesn’t seem quite right about that statement; read Graziano’s piece (linked below) for the EYES take on the situation.

The Devils will void Kovalchuk’s deal, which means his name will be on the books only in the form of a $250,000 cap hit each year until 2025.

As far as the Islanders’ prospect scrimmage at the Coliseum last night, the turnout was solid—an announced attendance of 5,000+ fans and media members—for the annual showcase of future Isles stars.

Uber-prospect Ryan Strome notched a goal and two assists, Long Island’s own Joey Diamond scored the game’s opening goal, and future Islanders forwards Kirill Kabanov, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson showcased the type of chemistry the fan base hopes to see on the Coliseum ice for a long time to come.

Even though it was just an intra-squad scrimmage between players mostly of AHL caliber, the fact that there was Islanders hockey in July last night was a good enough reason to be excited for the future of the organization. The Isles have plenty of prospect depth, which was on full display last night.

-MW (@MichaelWillhoft)

In Case You Missed It

Mike Ristano discusses the hypothetical Islanders signing of Damien Brunner (EOI)

Vote on a 2013-14 Islanders lineup, as drawn up by Shane Blackburn (EOI)

Andy Graziano talks Kovalchuk and whether his decision to “retire” is legitimate (EOI)

Miss the Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage? Chris Triantafilis has you covered. (EOI)

Sound Tigers Make Big Impact at Camp (New York Islanders)

Halak Just Wants to Play—and Win—With Blues (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

NHL Notebook: Gillis Heading to Florida for Chat With Luongo (Toronto Sun)

Avs Mailbag: Ambiance at Pepsi Center Gets Jolt With New Jumbotron (Denver Post)

Two Minutes For Tweeting

Liodice puts together a nice profile of Isles prospect Joey Diamond that’s well worth the read. The article focuses on his surprising performance in last night’s Orange vs. Blue scrimmage, and talks about Diamond’s style of play. For fans looking to brush up on their knowledge of one of the Islanders’ less-heralded prospects, this is a good place to start.

If you’re looking for more Isles prospect news, look no further than Stabile’s New York Islanders Top 20 Prospects, linked above. Tony does a great job of providing a comprehensive overview of the best players in the organization’s farm system, with insight and analysis based on his own scouting and his discussion with various Islanders personnel.

The knock on Ryan Strome has always been his relatively small frame; NHL scouts and talking heads have made it a point to say that Strome will need to put on some weight in order to compete with the big boys at hockey’s highest level. Those at last night’s scrimmage noted that Strome looked bigger than advertised, which is a good sign for his chances of making the Islanders’ roster out of training camp. Only time will tell if he gets his shot right away.

Blazowski deserves an award for not chasing down Islanders legend Mike Bossy at the Coliseum yesterday, considering how difficult we know that was. If I was in Blazowski’s position, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. (I’d also have the restraining order from Bossy to prove it.)

Seriously, try to find something not to like about Casey Cizikas. He does it all: he plays with heart; he does all the little things out on the ice; and he even takes time to meet with the fans at the Orange vs. Blue scrimmage when he isn’t playing in the game. Isles fans: this is the type of player GM Garth Snow is referring to when he talks about drafting high-character guys.

If the sight of the Coliseum in July doesn’t register on an emotional level with you, maybe go see your doctor. There’s nothing we can do for you.

As always, thanks for reading us at EyesOnIsles. Keep it right here for all of your NHL offseason coverage and up-to-the-minute Islanders news. Be sure to check the menu bar at the top of the page for ways to connect with the EyesOnIsles staff; we’re always happy to talk hockey.