The New York Islanders are in New Jersey for the third consecutive night of preseason games, and this one at 7 p.m. is likely a pivotal point in roster management.
The Isles (and their AHL affiliate Sound Tigers) will have three days of camp before their final preseason game on Sunday, so many expect decisions to be made.
With that in mind, all of the key bubble prospects are in the lineup tonight: Mathew Barzal (again in the John Tavares role between Andrew Ladd and P.A. Parenteau), Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang (having good camps, particularly Ho-Sang, but destined for Bridgeport to make these decisions more manageable), and Anthony Beauvillier, who like Barzal must either stay with the NHL club or be returned to juniors.
The pre-game update from Arthur Staple in Newsday paints the picture: Eyebrows were raised when Jack Capuano said Beauvillier is “in the mix.” But that’s for good reason: He has impressed with his all-around game and tenacity throughout camp.
And Beauvillier’s is one of those situations where his lower ceiling actually helps him. They don’t mind using him in middle- or bottom-six roles, because his future is as a versatile forward and he already exhibits a lot of the “away from the puck” responsibilities traditional NHL coaches look for.
Barzal, on the other hand, is expected to be even better in the long run, and strictly at center; but that’s the kind of player coaches are reluctant to have learn the NHL ropes on a bottom-six line, and out of position.
In both cases, we have the classic 19-year-old prospect conundrum: Probably too good for juniors, not eligible for the AHL, and not someone you want to Nino all season long in the NHL. The Islanders tend toward the conservative side with these matters, so maybe only a forward injury/Boulton IR gift can help them punt the decision.
In contrast, even if Ho-Sang has showed signs of being ready, his age and waiver exemption gives them the roster flexibility to be sure and groom him more in the AHL. That’s just proper roster management.
On that note, many will be pleased to hear Staple report that Ryan Pulock appears headed for a top-six spot on the blueline with newcomer Dennis Seidenberg as the seventh amid questions about Scott Mayfield’s foot speed. That’s the imagined role here when Seidenberg was signed, but there is always the fear that in the name of hoarding the Isles would send waiver-exempt Pulock down.
If they are willing to risk sending Scott Mayfield through waivers, that’s a good indication they think Mayfield is useful for depth and callups but not so valuable they should block others just to avoid the waiver risk.
Jenny will have more on these prospects’, well, prospects after the game.
Here are tonight’s lines according to Staple:
- Nikolay Kulemin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
- Andrew Ladd - Mathew Barzal - PA Parenteau
- Michael Dal Colle - Alan Quine - Josh Ho-Sang
- Ross Johnston - Anthony Beauvillier - Steve Bernier
And the defensive pairings:
- Thomas Hickey - Johnny Boychuk
- Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
- Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
On the other side, the Devils are juggling some things, including Jon Merril (finger) and Luke Gadzic (foot) both being out an expected four weeks with broken bones. The Record has a few more details on tonight’s lineup, as well as details on the “official non-luxury vehicle” of the Devils.
Because I guess in-arena car things are all the rage.