Looking over the New York Islanders roster ahead of the 2023-24 season, there doesn't appear to be much we don't already know. The lineup, even with the uncertainty of Zach Parise's situation, appears mostly set. Oliver Wahlstrom is back healthy with an upbeat outlook, Pierre Engvall and Bo Horvat are prepping for their first full seasons on Long Island, and depth forwards, Hudson Fasching and Julien Gauthier figure to play a versatile role.
When you turn your attention to the prospects and those players who could contribute at some point this season, the names William Dufour, Matthew Maggio, and Ruslan Iskhakov jump out for most fans. But there's another forward who possesses more experience and speed with the ability to step in and play a significant role.
On the first two days of camp, Arnaud Durandeau has been skating alongside Horvat and Mathew Barzal. When asked about the 24-year-old being on a line with the Islanders' two highest-paid forwards, HC Lane Lambert was quick to give his reason. "I like his speed, said Lambert. "When he gets an opportunity, he has the ability to score, and he's proven that the last couple of days."
A sixth-round pick of the Islanders (No. 165 overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Durandeau made his NHL debut last season, appearing in four games for the Isles after Barzal's injury. In 68 games with Bridgeport last season, he scored 24 goals and 31 assists, both career highs.
The praise from Lambert on Friday isn't new. While Durandeau was kept off the scoresheet in his brief time in the NHL, he was noticeable in each game he played. “I thought he was good,’’ Lambert said after Durandeau's NHL debut vs. Pittsburgh. “I liked his speed. He has a tendency for the puck to follow him around. It gets on his stick. Not by accident. He seems to be in the right spots."
While last season he was thrilled to get a taste of the NHL, this year he's setting his expectations higher, believing he is now a NHL caliber player and good enough to earn a serious look as a contributor to the Islanders roster this season.
"Everyone's trying to get that NHL job, so I think there's a lot of good young guys, a lot of older guys, PTOs and stuff where everyone's pushing each other," said Durandeau to The Hockey News.
"And I'm trying to steal a job, and my goal is to make the NHL this year, so I'm very excited."