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We are now less than three weeks from the beginning of training camp for the New York Islanders and less than thirty days to the first pre-season split squad game against the Calgary Flames.
The pages at Eyes are sure to be filled with great material to take you right through to the season opener on Friday, October 4 against the New Jersey Devils in Newark.
What you will see, hear and read over and over again are pundits, hockey bloggers and armchair general managers alike begin to speculate on who might make this 2013-14 version of the Islanders when they begin play for real in the newly created Metropolitan division.
After an off-season that saw general manager Garth Snow sign Pierre-Marc Bouchard and acquire Cal Clutterbuck from the Minnesota Wild as well as bring in speedster Peter Regin from Ottawa, the thoughts and visions dancing in my head of seeing Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee began to fade.
Why you ask?
There are only so many roster spots to go around and it’s never a good gamble to bet on youngsters such as the aforementioned three coming in and taking a job from a veteran who has been around the National Hockey League for some time now. And yes, that includes Regin. I understand that he has been injury prone in his short career but you can bet your very last dollar that Snow did not acquire him just to be depth in Bridgeport or spend game nights in the press box. According to reports, Regin feels completely healthy and will be given every opportunity in camp to win a job on the bottom two lines as well as earn penalty killing duties.
Personally, I feel the Islanders are almost assured of sending Ryan Strome to the Sound Tigers for a full year of American Hockey League action which will acclimate him to the speed of the game as well as allowing his body to fill out more so he can be more competitive at the major level physically.
What we saw out of Anders Lee certainly does not bode well for his future on the Island this season. Yes he scored on his first shot (fluky as 99% of NHL goalies stop that rather easily) but always looked a step behind the play in terms of his reads. It does not benefit anyone to keep him here to play 6-8 minutes a night and potentially trump his development. Making the jump from college hockey directly to the NHL is almost impossible and Lee should not be expected to break that ceiling.
That leaves us with Brock Nelson, the 6’3, 21 year old centerman chosen 30th overall in 2010 by the Islanders. In the 2013 playoffs, with New York trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3 games to 2, facing a must win at Nassau Coliseum in game six, it was Nelson who earned the spot, playing 7:44 in the overtime loss and to be completely honest, not looking out of place at all. He seemed to be ready for the challenge in all zones and did not seem surprised by the uptick in intensity or speed over the AHL.
At the end of the day, it will be up to head coach Jack Capuano and assistant coach Doug Weight to take a long hard look in training camp and ultimately decide what is in the best interest of the player. For the Islanders fortunes in 2013-14 will not rest on the shoulders of Strome, Lee or Nelson, that I can pretty much guarantee.