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New York Islanders Training Camp: The Defensemen

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A quick look at the blueline, from the roster locks to those who are just visiting.

Ready to dazzle one more time?
Ready to dazzle one more time?
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

New York Islanders training camp begins with a reported 36 forwards, 20 defensemen and six goalies. Here is a look at the candidates on the blueline. There will be disappointments. There will likely be waivers, barring a rash of injuries. Radek Martinek isn't walking through that door.

The Locks

Travis Hamonic is the unquestioned leader of the defense, and he's likely to have a regular partner in Calvin de Haan, who quietly put together a promising season after his recall in 2013-14, earning a three-year contract.

Lubomir Visnovsky is back and ready, with an injury recurrence the only thing threatening his place. In the past he's formed a successful partnership with Thomas Hickey, which rounds out the top four heading into camp.

The Veterans on a Bubble

Beyond that top four is where it gets fun, if watching friends fight one another for jobs is your idea of fun.

Matt Carkner enters the last year of his Islanders contract with an incumbent role as a 6/7 and ruckus-prevention expert when needed. Brian Strait, famously extended after a mere six games as an Islander, had a tortured and injury-slowed follow-up to his more promising lockout season.

Either vet could be pushed out if enough younger talents impress.

The Candidates

After some rocky early episodes and a demotion, Matt Donovan started to round into form at the end of 2013-14. He's promising; he also has stiff competition. If he's cut, he hits the waiver wire for the first time. That's an organizational risk.

Kevin Czuczman got a trial run late last season after signing as a college free agent. He should become at least a third-pair NHLer, but it doesn't have to happen now, and he's waiver exempt.

Former Sabre, Panther and Leaf T.J. Brennan tore up the AHL last season. His cannon of a shot could be a boon to the power play, though his defensive side must also hold up to get that opportunity. Barring an awful camp, the Isles will probably want to try him on the NHL roster.

Griffin Reinhart is the big name who could change everything. He has no pro experience. He has last spring's WHL and Memorial Cup chapmionships with him as captain. His size and hockey intelligence should make him a defensive anchor, and that orientation could begin with an opening night roster spot.

Dark Horses with Bright Futures

The above 10 represent the pool of possibilities for the NHL roster. But there are others who should enter camp at least letting themselves believe they have a shot at the roster.

Ville Pokka is probably the most experienced, having excelled in the pros in Finland. If he reports to Bridgeport rather than return to Europe, he's a strong candidate for a callup and even a regular job by the end of the season.

If Visnovsky weren't healthy, Brennan not signed, and Donovan not settling in, Ryan Pulock would be a possibility for initial power play duty thanks to his glass-shattering shot. Instead, he'll groom his pro game under Brent Thompson in Bridgeport, where he got a brief taste of pro life last season.

Likewise, Aaron Ness would have a shot with his 29 NHL games (20 last year) of experience. Instead he is injury insurance. They know what they have in him, and that's a steady hand.

Scott Mayfield still has a way to go, but he got a taste of the NHL in five games late last season. He'll be back, but he'll need to get in line.

The Other ELCs

Of the rest of the signed prospects, Adam Pelech is seen as a smart controller of the game, Andrey Pedan is a mean S.O.B., Jesse Graham offers a little of everything, and Loic Leduc is ... very tall at 6'7".

All but Pedan -- who battled injuries in Bridgeport last season -- are on freshly signed entry level contracts, so they'll begin parallel pro journeys together like Ness, de Haan and Donovan once did.