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Islanders five questions going into 2021-22 training camp

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MARCH 14: Kieffer Bellows #20 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 14, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MARCH 14: Kieffer Bellows #20 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 14, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Training camp is right around the corner. The New York Islanders first pre-season game is only five days away. Less than a week. The offseason is almost over!

So as the offseason comes to a close and training camp opens up the team is basically set, but there are still some questions that need to be answered in training camp. So here are some of the questions that need answerin’.

Five questions for New York Islanders training camp

Can Erik Gustafsson play himself onto the team?

Signed to a PTO (officially now) Erik Gustafsson will be at New York Islanders training camp. Can he work himself onto the team? He’s got a ton of potential with a 60 point season back in 2018-19, but he’s a real defensive liability.

Not to mention that with Zdeno Chara officially signed the Islanders have seven defensemen on NHL deals (don’t forget about Sebastian Aho). That’s going to be hard for Gustafsson to break into the squad.

But again, he’s got that potential to be the puck-mover the Islanders need after Leddy was traded to the Red Wings. If he makes the squad (and is signed to an NHL deal) it’s because the Islanders deal he can be that player he was in 2018-19.

How much will Bolduc and Salo impress?

With Chara on the team, it’s clear that both Samuel Bolduc and Robin Salo will head to the AHL for the 2021-22 season. There they’ll have the chance to have a leading role on a growing, and at least in my opinion a promising team. But before that, how much will they impress during training camp matters.

Whoever can make the big impression in the eyes of Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello will likely work themselves up the rotation where they’ll be next in line to get onto the team if an injury occurs.

Does Kieffer Bellows take a big step forward?

It seems that Kieffer Bellows doesn’t have a space on this roster. Islanders fans have been waiting years for Kieffer Bellows to turn into something after picking him 19th overall at the 2016 draft. The deck might be stacked against him with the Parise signing, but we’ll all still be watching to see if Bellows can take a big step this year?

It seems his offensive game is there. In 22 NHL games, he has five goals and six points (in some seriously reduced minutes). It’s the defensive game that isn’t quite there for Bellows, so can he take a big step forward this year and show Trotz he’s ready?

Again, the team doesn’t have a spot for him in the opening lineup, but can he show Trotz that he’s ready when an opening inevitably opens up?

How does Aatu Räty look at camp?

Räty’s stock fell hard at the 2021 NHL draft. He fell from a top 10 pick to the middle of the second round. It was one hell of a fall. But he responded well in his first outing as a New York Islanders prospect with 14 points in six games at the World Junior Championship summer showcase.

He looked like his old self again in Plymouth. Now, at training camp, Lou, Trotz, and the Isles player development staff will get to see him directly. What will they think of the young man? I’m dying to know if they think he’s the type of guy that should have gone in the top ten or not.

(Note: Even if Räty has an incredible camp he’s going back to Finland to play out that last year of his contract with Karpat.)

What do the D pairs look like?

We spent the entire offseason wondering who will be the team’s sixth defenseman. With the Chara signing, now we know what the answer is. But what will the d-pairs look like come the regular season?

We’re pretty safe in knowing who will be on the top pair, but what about pairs two and three? Will there be the “Two Towers” pair of Mayfield and Chara? Or will Chara be paired with Dobson to mentor the youngster?

I’m sure Trotz tries a few options on for size over the course of camp and during pre-season play. But what he sticks with in the end is what I’m interested in.

Personally, I hope the opening night pairs will be:

Pelech-Pulock
Chara-Dobson
Greene-Mayfield

Let’s see if I get my way or not.

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