The battle for the NY Islanders final defensive spot

New York Islanders Training Camp
New York Islanders Training Camp / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The core of the NY Islanders' defensive unit looks to be part of the organization's plans for the foreseeable future. With Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield locked up long-term, Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov look to be part of the Isles' big plans and will likely soon see a long-term extension of their own. That leaves just one roster spot on the blue lineup for competition between Sebastian Aho, Robin Salo, and Samuel Bolduc.

Salo was given the first opportunity last season, failing to make the most of it. Lined up alongside Mayfield for the first four games, Salo found the back of the net twice but lacking in the defensive aspect of his game, forcing Lane Lambert to make a change.

In came Aho, who took the position and never looked back. He appreared in 71 games scoring five times while adding 18 helpers for 23 points throughout the season. Though he hasn't been with the organization long, Aho is 27 years old, and it remains to be seen if he can be an impact player at the NHL level for more than one season. He's certainly capable of being a top-seven defenseman, but there may be room for the Isles to improve at the position.

Seemingly becoming an offensive powerhouse in the AHL overnight, Bolduc was passed up on multiple times when the injury bug hit the Islanders. After Parker Wotherspoon wasn't giving the team the spark they needed, Bolduc finally got his opportunity. Bolduc played 17 regular season games and got the first crack at the playoffs as the sixth defenseman. He didn't seem ready for the moment, and his play struggled, pulled from the lineup after two games.

So who will see their name on the lineup sheet come opening night? Unless he shows something the staff hasn't seen yet while in training camp, it's probably safe to rule Salo out, leaving the job to Aho or Bolduc. Aho was steady for the team last season but seems to have reached his peak. Bolduc, who stands 6'4" and 220 lbs, has the frame the other two are lacking. If he can translate the offensive point of his game to the NHL level, he can become a massive asset for the Isles on a minimum contract. It seems the front office is hoping for Bolduc to take the position and run with it, but Aho and Salo won't yield all too easily.

Training camp will be massive for all three, as at least one will be sent to Bridgeport or placed on waivers. If all three fail to be efficient on the defensive unit's third pair, Lou Lamoriello will likely look for help outside the organization before the team play's catch-up in the standings.