The New York Islanders have nearly 60 players in 2017 training camp. That’s like two groups and 10 forward lines alone.
But Day One of camp, the first to be run by noted hockey enthusiast Doug Weight, featured indications of much fun to come.
- Weight wants to see high-upside prospects Mathew Barzal, Joshua Ho-Sang and Devon Toews.
- He knows what Jason Chimera is (now a 20-goal scorer for two consecutive seasons), so he’s not worried about sticking the ice cheetah with some guys who definitely won’t make the roster.
- He can unironically utter old-school-to-the-core quotes like “Johnny’s with Ebs and Ders, Barzy between Bails and Ladder.” (“Ders” is Anders Lee, if you didn’t guess.)
With camp-erasing injuries for returning utility forwards Alan Quine and Shane Prince, the potential for shock in this year’s camp has already been reduced. But you do — and probably already did — get the feeling that Weight is more open to seeing youngsters make their case than his predecessor, Jack Capuano.
If newcomer Jordan Eberle slots in next to John Tavares and Lee where Josh Bailey once trod, and Mathew Barzal skates between Bailey and Andrew Ladd, and the “Best 4th Line in...” of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Nikolay Kulemin stays together, and Brock Nelson skates between Anthony Beauvillier and Joshua Ho-Sang, you kind of have many fans’ projected/ideal lineup already in place (on paper) on the first day of camp.
Add to it Ryan Pulock pairing with Nick Leddy (personally that sounds like chaos, but also fun) and Devon Toews pairing with Leddy’s former partner Johnny Boychuk...well, intrigue. For the first day of camp, anyway.
Those are a sampling of the opening lines and pairings, anyway. Much if not most will change (as Eberle said in Newsday, “things change quickly during camp”). We’ll argue about it here, no doubt.
But Doug Weight is excited (“I’ve already lost my voice,” again in Newsday), and his enthusiasm is always infectious, and hockey is finally warming back up. For now, for starters, we’ll take it.
Now we just figure out how to fit in the next Berube.