Believe it or not, it’s almost time for NHL training camps to open. For the New York Islanders, it’s time to get back to work. New York has been a promising team the last couple of years. They are hopeful the 2016-17 season will be a big season for the franchise, but heading into camp there are a number of key questions around the team.
The New York Islanders have three goalies on the roster heading into camp. Jaroslav Halak is the most established netminder for the blue and orange. The Czechoslovakia native is coming off another solid but injury-plagued campaign.
Last year the 31-year old goalie went 18-13-1 with 2.30 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Halak is signed for two more years with a cap number of $4.5 million.
Thomas Greiss opened up a lot of eyes last season. Regarded as a solid back-up, the 30-year old German goalie had a career year last season. Last year Greiss went 23-11-3 with 2.36 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
New York also has talented 25-year old goalie J.F. Berube as well. The Islanders brass like Berube’s talent and confidence. So what does general manager Garth Snow do with three goalies? Greiss ($1.5 million cap hit) is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
In addition, all three Islanders goaltenders might very well be stop-gaps until promising youngster Ilya Sorokin arrives in New York. The 21-year old Sorokin dominated the KHL last year going 17-7-4 with 1.06 goals against average and a .953 save percentage. No that is not a typo.
There is not enough playing time to go around for the three Islanders netminders both in games and practice. Does that mean one of them gets traded before opening night?
Is Barzal’s Time Now?
Mathew Barzal, 2015, 16th overall pick enters his second NHL training camp this September. Barzal impressed everyone in the organization at last year’s camp with his play and attitude. The 19-year old center is coming off another stellar season with the Seattle Thunderbirds (58 Games, 27 Goals & 88 Points).
The ball is in Barzal’s court, or should I say the puck. A strong camp by Barzal and New York will be forced to give Barzal at least a nine-game tryout. Barzal is a highly skilled, gifted skater, and a power play force. However, the British Columbia native’s best attribute is that he makes everyone around him better.
The only thing going against Barzal making the opening night roster is the depth New York has at the forward position. Barzal projects to be an impact player for the Islanders. But is his time now?
Bridgeport Bound ?
One of the biggest strengths of the Islanders organization is their talent depth. However, because of this depth, it means New York’s top prospects have to bide their time.
Both Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield have paid their dues at the AHL. Both have played in a sampling of NHL games. Pelech and Mayfield are ready to begin their NHL careers as a third-pairing defenseman. However, with Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey as the Islanders fifth and sixth defenseman, both youngsters might have to start the season with the Islanders AHL affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
However, with Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey as the Islanders fifth and sixth defenseman, both youngsters might have to start the season with the Islanders AHL affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In terms of the Islanders young trio of Alan Quine, Michael Dal Colle, and Josh Ho-Sang, it’s going to be difficult for any of them to crack the opening night forward lineup. Quine can help New York in a complementary role as he did in the post-season last year. But again he might be a victim of the Islanders depth.
Quine can help New York in a complementary role as he did in the post-season last year. But again he might be a victim of the Islanders depth.
The best thing for both 2014 first round picks, Dal Colle and Ho-Sang is to spend the majority of the upcoming season honing their game in the AHL. It’s possible Dal Colle and Ho-Sang could contribute to the Islanders down the stretch this season.
These questions all stem from one overarching theme: depth. The Isles have depth across the board. From the crease to the forwards, the team has a number of options. How the team answers these questions will be something to watch for the remainder of the offseason.