Now that Josh Bailey is finally officially in the mix, the fun that is training camp begins. With a ton of forwards in camp, Garth Snow and Jack Capuano will have some tough decisions to make by the time the team breaks camp in October.
It's safe to say there are 10 forwards that are locks to be in the Opening Day lineup. Unless hell freezes over or Garth pulls off a major deal, John Tavares, Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau, Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, Brian Rolston, Bailey, and Marty Reasoner will all be skating against Florida on October 8th. That leaves a hand full of forwards fighting it out for most likely 3 spots (1 scratch) on the Islanders come Opening Day. Below I'll weigh the pros and cons of each candidate and the percentage of likelihood he'll make the team.
Micheal Haley (Chances of being around on Opening Day: 60%)- Mr. Haley became a folk hero last season after taking on Brent 'The Facebreaker" Johnson in the now famous Penguin Massacre. And while no Penguins were harmed during the writing of this FanPost, fans will be hoping Haley will be around to take out one or two during the regular season. Haley has drawn first blood (ask Sean Avery) and has shown in limited NHL games that he can also wrinkle the twine. Again, being 4th line material helps his cause.
Trevor Gillies (Chances of being around on Opening Day: 55%)- It's amusing to watch Trevor on the bench every game, with that look like someone refuses to leggo his eggo. But besides comic relief and a 5 minute major for fighting, Gillies doesn't bring much else to the table. He is loyal and will stick up for a teammate, sometimes in the most idiotic way imaginable. The team needs protection, but a maturer Martin and more well-rounded Haley probably could be enough. Trevor gets 55% because he's the guy who will least be affected by the dreaded Healthy Scratch, making it easier to keep him around.
Nino Niederreiter (Chances of being around on Opening Day: 45%)- Here is where it starts to get tricky. Fans would love to have El Nino playing wing on Opening Day. I'm sure Garth Snow would love to have Nino in the Opening Day lineup as well. Cappy I'm still not sure of, but there are 2 and a half questions concerning Nino making the team. One is if Nino is ready for the NHL. I think he is. Two is: are the Islanders willing to play Nino on the 4th line, and a half: if they're not and Nino makes the team, who gets bumped down to the 4th line. Nino's upside and contract make him appealing, although the head coach doesn't seem, and I stress seem, as gaga over Nino as everyone else invovled.
Ryan Strome (Chances of being around on Opening Day: 20%)- Why? That's how I feel. The kid has skills and one more year in juniors is advised so we don't Josh Bailey the kid. But the way the puck seems to magically follow his stick has fans drooling of the future, and some want the future to be now. I believe in patience, but we know how Garth loves his toys, so there's still a chance he could be wearing blue and orange on October 8th.
Casey Cizikas (Chances of being around on Opening Day: 10%)- I don't think the kid is ready. It'd be nice to see him have a full pro season before we throw him into the fire. But bringing him along slowly with 4th line minutes would, unlike some other prospects, be beneficial to Cizikas. He'll most likely be a grinder in his NHL career and that's what he would be asked to do in 11-12. If this was 2009 his chances would shoot up to 50%, but with a lot of depth at forward, Casey probably won't be at the bat until next season.
Jay Pandolfo, David Ullstrom, Rhett Rakhshani, Justin DiBenedetto, and any other forward in camp (Chances of being around on Opening Day: 5%)- Two seasons ago there was Moulson and Rob Schremp. Last year it was Parenteau and Grabner. Garth Snow likes finding diamonds in the rough and giving them a shot on the team. Of the 4 guys above he's batting .750. But like I said with Cizikas, in 2009 there was room for guys like that, but when you're this deep into a rebuild with a team who has 5 returning 20 goal scorers plus former first rounders Okposo and Bailey, there really isn't much room for someone to steal a spot. But part of the reason you have training camp is to see what you have and field the best team from it, so there's always a chance for these guys, albeit a very tiny one.
Obviously this was just one man's opinion and I know there'll be a lot of debate over the percentages I've given each player. If I left anyone out they are most likely part of the 5% crew. I'm looking forward to October 8th to see how this all played out.