Islanders training camp officially opened today - minus the four dudes still playing at the World Cup of Hockey - and that means that we get our first looks at the (possible) whos and (potential) wheres of the upcoming season.
The training camp roster is full of regulars, hopefuls, kids, old guys and everyone in between. Still listed on the doc are John Tavares, Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and Nikolay Kulemin, who are all going to be in Toronto for a while as the World Cup moves into its semifinals. Also, FYI: 2016 first rounder Kiefer Bellows is currently at Boston College.
All of those players were broken into groups today and set into lines that were immediately chiseled into stone tablets, thereby rendering them completely unmalleable for all time, forever and ever, amen.
In a pair of blog posts (that themselves I hope are a sign of things to come), Arthur Staple of Newsday broke down the different combos and some of the behind-the-scenes thinking that went into them. In the first group, 2015 first round pick Mathew Barzal took the first line center role - between Andrew Ladd and P.A. Parenteau - that would normally be taken by Tavares. Not bad for a 19-year-old.
He was asked last week about just such a scenario, where he’s slotted as if he’s Tavares during the captain’s camp absence.
“Oh yeah, that’d be awesome,” Barzal said. “I like to kinda be in the spotlight a little bit. It’d be great for me, great for my confidence and it’d only be beneficial to me.”
Other notes from Group One were Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas playing on separate lines, Calvin de Haan and Ryan Pulock being paired on defense and NCAA defenseman Devon Toews making an impression.
The 22-year-old left-shooting defenseman had a solid prospect camp a week prior to the big camp starting, and while he still has yet to make his pro debut after signing last spring out of Quinnipiac, he’s already shown the staff he’s got good instincts and a decent shot.
Here he is in action
The biggest takeaway from this group is seeing Strome at center. Garth Snow and Jack Capuano said they wanted to see him there after last season’s misadventures, so Friday is the day to get that going.
Strome admitted Thursday he’ll have to get reacquainted with his natural center spot, having played primarily wing in his first three pro seasons. But perhaps being reunited with Lee, with whom Strome was very productive (along with Nelson on the Kid Line) in 2014-15, will kickstart the process.
The question of why Strome is playing there now - well after the worst season of his professional career, in which he was demoted to the AHL, scratched and generally ineffective for long stretches, was over - is one that raises a lot more questions on its own.
Also in Group B were new guy Jason Chimera, paired with Brock Nelson and Joshua Ho-Sang, and a Nick Leddy-Scott Mayfield D-pair.
Here’s some video:
Other notes from Staple:
- Mikhail Grabovski failed his physical and was not cleared to skate. We posted about this yesterday and the forward’s health remains an important issue.
- Parenteau, his second tour with the Islanders, likes what he sees in the team’s new practice facility at Northwell Health Ice Center.
Lines will change, players will come and go, but we can be sure that Ho-Sang is the guy who notched the first win of training camp by tweeting a gag so good, it deserves a second posting: