Moving to the NHL roster are forwards Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom. Headed down to the taxi squad is Ilya Sorokin. The 25-year-old Sorokin may have just earned his first NHL win on Tuesday in Buffalo, but he also does not have to pass through waivers to be placed on the taxi squad, which is why he will not back up Semyon Varlamov tonight.
The transactions indicate that Kieffer Bellows could see his first glimpse of NHL action since January 30, when the Islanders lost the first game of a weekend back-to-back at the Philadelphia Flyers. Bellows was replaced on January 31 by Michael Dal Colle, who occupied his spot on the third line left wing next to J.G. Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom.
Also notable is Leo Komarov’s continued stay on the taxi squad. Komarov landed on the taxi squad before Tuesday’s 3-0 Islanders win at Buffalo so that room could be made for the returning Anthony Beauvillier.
Barry Trotz still Re-Tooling New York Islanders Forward Lines?
The New York Islanders are riding an eight-game point-streak entering Thursday night’s competition in Pittsburgh, so to see Barry Trotz making any lineup changes at all seems uncharacteristic.
However, despite a 3-0 victory in their previous outing, the Islanders didn’t play as well as they could have. Re-calling Kieffer Bellows from the taxi squad could be one way in which Barry Trotz seeks to continue optimizing his forward group on game nights.
Bellows, a left winger, seems most-likely to replace Michael Dal Colle in the lineup, should he get into action tonight in Pittsburgh. If that’s the case, I’ll be interested to see how Barry Trotz assembles his middle-six forwards tonight.
The last time we saw Bellows the Islanders rolled him with J.G. Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom. That third line trio turned in a particularly good performance on January 30 in Philly, which coincidentally was the game that kicked off this eight-game point-streak for the Islanders.
That night, matched against the Flyers line of Raffl – Bunnaman – Aube-Kubel, the Islanders third line were particularly effective at shutting their opposition down and driving play into the Philadelphia zone. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Bellows, Pageau, Wahlstrom trio held 83.33% of unblocked shot attempts at 5v5.
While Pageau and his young wingers didn’t create any high-danger chances for, or HDCF, (scoring chances closer in proximity to the net) the Islanders trio didn’t surrender any either. The trio played 6:10 of 5v5 time, and were deployed on five offensive zone face-offs on the night.
There is of course the possibility that Barry Trotz keeps Anthony Beauvillier on the left side of that third line, and in that case, should he play, Bellows would likely take over Dal Colle’s spot directly on the second line.
Though I see that as less likely, I’d also be interested to see Bellows play there, at least to start the game. Kieffer hasn’t shown himself to be an especially talented play driver in his still-small NHL sample size. But, alongside possession players like Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson, perhaps Bellows could thrive as a shooter or a net-front presence.
Wherever Barry Trotz ends up putting him tonight, if anywhere, I’ll be interested to see Bellows in action again. His metrics haven’t done much to wow me so far, but the eye test on him going back to 2019-20 has been fascinating, and I’ll for sure be keeping an eye on his game going forward.