The New York Islanders had a lot of blueliners in their rookie camp, which concluded today with a scrimmage before the franchise bridges toward regular, full camp with all the veterans (even Lubomir Visnovsky!) reporting tomorrow. That surplus was an inevitable result of drafting so many defensemen the last few seasons, with many of them headed back to juniors.
But overall there was a good mix of candidates for jobs among the 31 bodies in camp this week. Most are ticketed for Bridgeport, but a few might survive to win an Opening Night job with the Islanders.
Who is likely headed where now?
Vying for NHL Jobs
On the blueline, there is almost certainly a job opening in the wake of Mark Streit's departure. In pole position is Matt Donovan, with outside chances also for Calvin de Haan (coming off a season lost to injury) and Aaron Ness (considered behind the other two).
Up front there may be an opening or there may not. Summer signings of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin mean a healthy (as of now) assortment of forwards.
It's up to Brock Nelson (who impressed last season at Bridgeport) Ryan Strome (who shined in his brief AHL ATO) or even longer shot Anders Lee (who debuted at the end of last season) to force the Isles' hand.
In goal, the competition for Evgeni Nabokov's backup is open, with Garth Snow re-iterating the other day that Anders Nilsson (in rookie camp) and Kevin Poulin (who wasn't) will compete for a job. The outside possibility is that a veteran is brought in, but the roster numbers and the buzz do not point that way.
Ticketed for Bridgeport
Jason Clark enters the second season of his ELC and should be in Bridgeport, though he spent time on loan in the ECHL last season.
Fellow forwards Joey Diamond, Mike Halmo, John Persson, Johan Sundstrom, Kirill Kabanov are on NHL deals but are surely headed back to Bridgeport as well.
On defense, Marc Cantin is a returning minor pro, while Scott Mayfield and Andrey Pedan will get their first full pro seasons after debuting on ATOs at the end of last year. As they learn the pro game, Mayfield and Pedan should also be entertaining physical forces for Sound Tigers fans.
Goalie Ken Reiter and Parker Milner, defensemen Dallas Jackson, Mike Dalhuisen and Mike Keenan, and forwards Greg Miller, Riley Wetmore and Mike Keenan each signed tryout contracts to technically be eligible for this Isles NHL camp. However, they aren't on NHL contracts and will be headed to AHL Bridgeport or even
Staunton Stockton of the ECHL.
Back to Juniors
The Islanders' last two first-round picks would love to make the team, but unfortunately it's still either NHL or juniors (AHL not allowed) for Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock. They will impress at camp, and they might even stay a while, but their pro partnership will have to wait at least another year.
In an Instagram, the Isles captured Pulock noting how the players in camp are "a lot bigger, stronger and smarter in every area of the game." He is a big boy himself and he sounded eager for the challenge, but history says he'll be back in the WHL.
Victor Crus Rydberg is making the jump from Europe to the OHL this season, joining the Plymouth Whalers.
Kyle Burroughs had a big second half last season for the WHL Regina Pats, which caught the Isles' eye and earned him a selection in the seventh round. He'll return to Regina.
Jesse Graham, a 2012 sixth-round pick, started to put up points for Niagara once Dougie Hamilton joined the Bruins after the lockout. He'll return there and try to make a case for the Islanders to sign him before his rights lapse next summer.
Loic Leduc will return to the QMJHL for his fourth season with what can fairly be called the hapless Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
Adam Pelech is in his first camp after injuries spoiled previous opportunities, and he'll head back to Erie and vie for a spot on Canada's World Junior Championship squad.
UPDATE: On cue, Burroughs, Crus Rydberg, Graham, Leduc and Pelech have been re-assigned to their juniors squads.
The fun thing about all of this, other than sketching out near-term lineups? A year from now, so much of this will change. Poulin, Nilsson, Donovan, Ness and Lee, for example, are in entering the final years of their deals, so decisions on their future (RFAs, all of them) will come by next summer.
As we've seen by the volume of bodies, more challengers are on the way, which could influence the organization's decision-making.
The first hints of "stock" risers and fallers will come when the early re-assignments are announced, as well as through observing who sticks around NHL camp for how long.
It's September. Rookies are in, veterans report for physicals tomorrow and skate in Brooklyn Thursday. There are jobs to win, surprises to see, injuries (likely, but knock on wood) to work around and, soon, games to be won. Here we go.