Islanders Training Camp Battles: The Wings

Whether AHL or NHL, Matt Martin is ready to smash things.

Not "Wings" like the distasteful hockey team or the foul band, but "wings" as in right or left.

The Islanders have plenty of them with completely uncertain futures and ceilings: We know Kyle Okposo is a spirited part of the core, but we don't know how high his game will fly. We know Matt Moulson is a very solid two-way player, but we don't know how far back his shooting percentage will drop (if at all) after that 30-goal breakout. We know Blake Comeau shows flashes of sniperhood, of a willingness to go to the net and shoot, but we don't know if the lessons of last year's second half will carry over to this year's first.

...And onward it goes. Continuing our series, here's a look at the wings with a fighting chance for breaking camp with a full-time job at the NHL level.

The Men With Nice Cars

First, the incumbents...

Kyle Okposo -- Can't touch this.

Matt Moulson -- Certainly can't touch this for one more year. I am confident he will be as valuable at both ends as he was last year; whether luck drops him below 30 goals (more likely) or above 30 (less likely, but possible) probably will be a bigger factor than it should be when determining his next salary.

Blake Comeau -- 11 goals in his final 18 games. Was that closer to the real Comeau, or just another late-season tease?

Josh Bailey* -- Always with the asterisk, because he grew up a center, he was drafted as a center, and his future is likely at center. But so far in the NHL, he's been better on the wing. And the Isles, at the moment, are deep at the pivot.

Trent Hunter -- Forever suffering inflated fan expectations after his 25-goal rookie year, Hunter was and remains a steady two-way, third-line guy with a deceptive shot. Three more seasons on his deal, too.

Doug Weight -- Never listed as a wing, but that's essentially what he's become: A 5-on-5 winger who can take faceoffs and man a point on the powerplay. The captain will likely serve a variety of roles as needed and as health permits.

 

The Men Shopping for Nice Cars, but not 12-Month Gym Contracts

These guys will absolutely see NHL time this year, quite possibly from opening night.

PA Parentau -- He's got a one-way deal and a European out clause, so you have to believe he'll be given every shot to make the team and become a Moulson-lite.

Trevor Gillies -- He showed last year that he can fill the need for fire and crazy when the Islanders' spine needs a little firming up. But he's still an enforcer, on a two-way deal. The addition of ol' AHL teammate Zenon Konopka also fills some of that need, so Gillies will always be a press box and waiver candidate.

Matt Martin -- Highly anticipated by fans, who love his energetic pinball style. He wants to bring some of what Gillies and Konopka bring, except with more skill and less need to fight. It may still be too early for him, though. Camp will tell.

Jon Sim -- On a two-way deal, which is more appropriate to his contribution as an AHL scorer and an NHL agitator and net crasher. May be worth keeping around for Rangers nights just to mitigate the soul-sucking debasement to hockey named Sean Avery. Otherwise, his scoring in Bridgeport would be valuable.

 

The Boys Who Stir Our Dreams, But Should Stay away from Car Lots for Now

Jesse Joensuu -- Following in the line of Isles Nordic wingers who capture our hopes, this season is probably make-or-break for the big Finn Named Jesse. Is he a scorer with a big body, or a big body who can sometimes score? He had wrist surgery at the end of last year; if healthy, maybe now's the time he seizes an NHL job?

David Ullstrom -- Signed over the summer, word is he's liked by the Isles. Has experience "playing with men," so maybe he makes an unlikely jump right away.

Rhett Rakhshani -- Since he took the college route, he's already used to bigger bodies. Got a post-NCAA audition with Bridgeport last year and could very plausibly earn his way into NHL appearances sometime this year.

Nino Niederreiter -- Oh, people like him, and we've written plenty about him. Lots of rumors float in either way about the Isles plans for him. Time, and camp, will tell.

Kirill Kabanov -- Still smaller frame and still a lot to learn. He's surely destined to return to Moncton, but it's worth remembering he was once anticipated in the top 5 of his class with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. (Ironically, a year later that Top 5 included Nino and excluded Kirill.)

Andy Hilbert -- More of a center, traditionally, though his faceoff rate when he was last with the Isles was awful. He played a lot of wing, and on a two-way deal he might see time with the Isles this year.

Kirill Petrov -- Wild card, and by this posting it may already be determined that he's staying in the KHL for another year. But I wrote this on Friday, so...

*  *  *

Many candidates, few openings. That's what camp's all about, baby!

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