I haven't given last night's "A Team" half-squad Islanders
scrimmage preseason "game" against the three-fourths Flames squad a thorough viewing, but I've watched enough of it to start the conversation and issue half-informed observations based on nothing more than a few camp scrimmages and one rusty preseason night in Saskatoon.
Short version: Marti is back* (with usual asterisks). Wiz is nice. RSH played smart. DP still does too much. Nino is not my top Isles forward candidate to win an NHL job, and Calvin de Haan will one day be as silky smooth as advertised. Long version (and links) after the jump.
First, some links on the Flyers game, in which Philly dressed almost their full team and stormed to a 3-0 lead before letting off the gas and (reportedly) letting the Islanders control the third. Their perspective: Broad Street Hockey recap | CSN | phillyburbs. And the Isles official recap is here. Pretty much every report I saw or heard (Flyers announcers) praised Dwayne Roloson's work despite three goals against.
In Saskatoon, Rick DiPietro was described as what I would call pedestrian -- an overplay costing him the third goal -- while Mikko Koskinen looked good in the third. Isles official site recap | Herald: Isles look past injuries | Herald recap: All about the Flames | Standard wire recap
Now, about those players. As conceded above, I gave this game a rushed viewing, skipping over large chunks and focusing only on lines I was keen to watch. So let me hear your rebuttals, corrections, and general complaints about car insurance:
Rob Schremp Hockey -- Maybe the most impressive Isles forward last night? Schremp used his sublime hands to make smart hockey plays -- stuff like keeping the puck in the zone, getting it in deep. All those little things that keep average shifts from becoming bad ones, those little things that super-skilled players don't always do because they are accustomed to stickhandling their way out of sticky situations. I dare say the evolution of Rob Schremp: Hockey Player continues, and thanks to the Oilers we are getting his walking upright with opposable thumbs years.
P.A. Parenteau -- I really wish he didn't have Jeff Tambellini's old number. He was not a factor in the stretches I saw him with John Tavares and Blake Comeau (although I didn't see every shift). While he can be a big help on the powerplay, it's hard to see him being a key part of their top scoring line at this point. I feel like JT needs more help than that. Still, camp is young.
Radek Martinek -- Remember the whole "most underrated D-man ... when healthy" rap? Well, it's back. The man was smooth, calm, graceful and smart under pressure. Yet again. For the life of me I don't know how he does it with a body that is held together by surgeries, but Martinek was the Martinek I remember (when healthy*) last night. He even did some powerplay time, which is also the Martinek I remember way back when. If -- and it's always IF -- he can keep another joint from blowing up and another bone from breaking this year, the Islanders will have an overall better blueline than they had last season, even without Mark Streit. (I know...IF.)
James WIsniewski -- He and Andrew MacDonald looked a little ... a little like they need more time together. But each was individually good. Wiz brings many things to the table, as already advertised. A-Mac looked like he is picking up right where he left off last season, which is a terrific sign.
Nino Niederreiter -- He's just so young. During an early powerplay, a Flames player threw the subtlest of mid-ice hip check picks on Nino, causing him to fall and create an offside call. It was one of those things that is technically an interference penalty, but which an NHL pro does covertly and gets away with, and which an NHL pro in Nino's shoes would see coming.
Nino still looks like he's figuring out how this whole thing works at this level, but his raw assets are apparent. When ready, his body is hard to knock down (when not, well, he's an easy mark). He goes to the net by instinct. I've no idea whether a player of his age and greenliness can put it together in such a short time to be a help to the Islanders -- and to be fair, we've seen some scrimmages and a split-squad game. But, well, not to flog my own opinion repeatedly, I don't see much point in rushing 18-year-olds to the NHL, especially when you consider how difficult this suddenly Streit- and Okposo-less season now appears. Also, especially when...
You have Rhett Rakhshani -- Rhett continues to look like a guy who has four additional years of hockey under his belt, a living example of someone who played four years of college rather than someone who is just stepping out of his first year or two in junior. He handles the puck with poise, he gets through spaces and situations when a hungry opponent thinks the size mismatch will determine the play. I liked him again last night, and I could see him helping the Islanders in a pinch now, although I'd be quite happy to see him be an asset in Bridgeport. All of these kids probably need more time at levels where they can score rather than nights in the NHL where they come up empty but "gave a good effort."
You also have David Ullstrom -- In the parlance of our times, he has already "played with men" in Sweden. It shows. More so than Rhett, he appears to still need some adjustments to the NHL game, but he also displays the raw presence and hockey sense where I bet he would pick it up quickly. He played some wing in Sweden too, so I could see him filling a role on the Isles now if necessary. Regardless, with both Rhett and Ullstrom, if they don't make the club they should be very helpful to Bridgeport.
Rhett [ack, I meant to say ULLSTROM] could be Bridgeport's Frans Nielsen.
Matt Martin, Zenon Konopka, Trevor Gillies -- I don't ever want to see this as a checking line sent against the opponents' best line, however this line looks like it could cause some delightful ruckus. Gillies is of course the weakest 5-on-5 link on the line, but together with Martin's mobility and Konopka's hockey sense (and faceoff acumen) they just might hold their own against bottom-six lines while also providing that eternally ambiguous yet valued hockey trait known as "scaring the crap out of the other team." Even on nights when the injury-depleted Islanders just don't have it this season, there will be
blood entertainment. Might as well call this the "Fan Favorite Line" whenever it is together.
James Wisniewski -- We saw his shot from the point, we saw his mobility and his physicality in blips here and there. I don't know how many tiers of defensemen there are within the NHL spectrum -- from Pronger-style do-it-all to the rudimentary #7 guy who "does okay against bottom lines." But you can tell Wisniewski is closer to the upper tiers than to the bottom ones. A welcome addition.
Calvin de Haan -- He scored, smartly jumping in down low on the PP to convert the rebound of an RSH shot. He has poise with the puck, which he's always shown. He's bigger than last year. If you rated the spectrum of our hopes for him from 1 to 100, I'm now certain he'll be in the upper 50 percent. I just don't know if his powerplay hands are enough to compensate for a still-developing body and overall game at this level, particularly when keeping him would mean leaping 8 NHL defensemen and Travis Hamonic.
Your thoughts? If you DVR'd the game, feel free to come back into this thread later on after you've watched it.
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Not only but also: Chris Botta reports that Kirill Petrov has been traded to a less-veteran-dependent KHL team. The usual suspects haven't posted this news yet, so I assume it came from Petrov's agent, who Botta quotes as saying this is a good move for Petrov. At least the boy will get to play (we hope). He goes from a powerhouse in Ak Bars to a middle-of-the-rest team in Yugra.