New York Islanders: Reviewing the Contenders for Final Forward Roster Spots
By Brian Wagner
With just one preseason game remaining, the New York Islanders NHL roster is fairly well set, but with a wing position up for grabs and a few scratchpad slots open, which forwards are the most likely to earn those roster spots?
New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz last week said that two lines were locked in – the Barzal–Eberle combo (with assumed linemate Anders Lee) and the Martin–Cizikas–Clutterbuck line.
That leaves some flexibility on the second and third lines. We know Nelson will be 2C and we know some combination of Bailey, Komarov and Beauvillier are locks at three of the four wing slots. Brassard looks to be as close to a lock at the 3C role as you get.
"“You saw the way Jordan played in the playoffs; that helps Barzy take the next step,” Trotz said. “The guys had a real good playoffs. They all have these glass ceilings and they get through these glass ceilings by how they play in the playoffs. So we’ll start that way and build the other lines around it. Clutterbuck-Martin-Cizikas is one we can’t take apart. They have to go everywhere together.”"
So where does that leave you?
Lee – Barzal – Eberle
Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey
______ – Brassard – Komarov
Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
One open left wing slot (Beau may instead slot in on the third, of course) and (possibly) two scratchpad slots.
With the way that Dobson is playing I’m not so sure that the Isles management doesn’t decide to keep eight defensemen to start the season, but let’s assume they stick with the traditional seven and either Dobson goes back to the Q or someone gets traded, leaving two forward slots on the scratchpad.
Contenders for the open spots
Wahlstrom and Koivula performed well and will likely get the year in the AHL to grow their games, but Barry Trotz seems to like what he sees, for good reason.
You know what you have with Johnston, and as much as I am a fan of his, he’s less dynamic than the guys above him on the above list.
Jobst is the preseason darling and clearly Trotz and his staff have a great deal of confidence in him, but I think he at least starts the year in the AHL.
So with 3 spots, to me it feels like 4 real contenders to fight for them. Dal Colle, Kuhnhackl, Fritz and Ho-Sang.
Who earned it?
Dal Colle, Fritz and Jobst.
When you earn it, you earn it. After so many games on the third line playing Barry Trotz-style hockey last year I think it is MDC’s spot to lose. Fritz has been I think one of the top five Islanders in the preseason and Jobst looks like a much-needed burst of energy and has a knack for the big play.
Who will Trotz and team choose?
Dal Colle, Kuhnhackl and Johnston, at least to start the season.
Isles management aren’t known so far in their tenure as disruptors, and going with the known commodities would be on brand.
I guessed a few months ago that we’d see a similar roster to last year and, other than the addition of this year’s slightly-modified-Filppula, Derick Brassard, that hasn’t changed.
I wouldn’t be surprised necessarily if Ho-Sang or Fritz get a look in place of Johnston or TK, but my guess is that the season starts safe and familiar and those players can be added in due time or to cover injury.
I do wish the Isles had the roster luxury of having Ho-Sang on the big club but as a scratch most games as a true (and likely final) test of how mature he can be while sitting on the sidelines, but he’d be able to practice with and learn how an NHL team prepares like professionals. The numbers just don’t add up right now to make that happen though.
Of course these are just educated guesses based on the past year and change of Isles management under Lou Lamoriello, Barry Trotz and team, but fielding a similar roster to last year’s to start the season is what it looks like we’re trending towards. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.