One of the points of emphasis for the NY Islanders during the off-season was to improve team speed. Pierre Engvall was brought in to replace the speed lost by Anthony Beuavillier after he was shipped to Vancouver in the Bo Horvat trade, but the Isles still needed to find a way to become quicker. A lack of wheels saw them struggling to keep up with the pace of play has become faster every year.
On July 5, the Isles signed Julien Gauthier to a two-year deal worth $787,500 a season. It may not have been the ideal signing, but he certainly addresses the speed issue when on the ice. But as the Isles lost just one player in Zach Parise this summer, how often would Gauthier find himself in the roster and where?
With Kyle Palmieri yet to participate in training camp, there's an open spot on the wing, which Gauthier appears to be the leading candidate to fill.
An anticipated line of Palmieri and Engvall flanking Brock Nelson was expected to start the season, but Gauthier could find himself filling in for Palmieri while he's out. It would add speed alongside Nelson, the Islanders' leading scorer last year, that he's never experienced in his career.
It's been seen that Engvall's speed has added another dimension to the top-6, but Gauthier provides even more in the speed department. Appearing in just 57 games last season, Gauthier registered the fourth most bursts of 22+ MPH, trailing Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Brayden Point - names synonymous with being some of the best skaters the league has to offer. One thing Gauthier has that the others don't is that he stands 6'4".
In two pre-season games so far, Gauthier has provided a goal and an assist, seeing time on the second power play unit during last night's 4-2 victory over the NY Rangers. He played alongside Anders Lee and JG Pageau last night, but at practice today, he skated alongside Engvall and Nelson, possibly previewing the Isles lineup tomorrow as they head to Newark to take on the NJ Devils.
With 13 days remaining before the start of the season, Lane Lambert still has some time to fiddle with his lines, but he'll likely want to start narrowing them down sooner rather than later. As Gauthier has performed well during camp thus far, it'll be challenging to keep him off the ice on opening night.