How was your New Year’s celebration? Wild? Quiet? Cold as hell? All of the above?
Well, for a few Islanders players, the first day of 2018 was a memorable one. Maybe not for Steve Bernier, who was returned to Bridgeport of the AHL after spending a few games with the big club over the Christmas break. He’s been there and back before.
But it’s definitely a huge deal for forward Tanner Fritz, who was called up by the Islanders and should make his NHL debut in one of the team’s four enormous games this week. The 26-year-old, 5’-11” native of Alberta has 10 goals and 25 assists in 29 games this season for the Sound Tigers (good for fifth in the AHL), and had 19 goals and 23 assists in 63 games last year. The undrafted Fritz spent four full years at AN Ohio State University prior to turning pro.
And Anthony Beauvillier sure as hell won’t forget New Year’s Day 2018 because it was the day he was loaned to Bridgeport to be an AHL forward for the first time in his career. The 2016 first round pick has an underwhelming four goals and three assists in 31 games for the Islanders this season, and has been an occasional healthy scratch. He finished with nine goals and 15 assists in a sometimes promising 66-game rookie season, coming straight from the QMJHL to the NHL. But with a 47.0 5v5 CF% so far in his sophomore campaign, he has visibly struggled in a bottom-six role.
Beauvillier’s far from the only Islanders depth forward to be a possession or scoring mess this season and he isn’t even the one with the worst numbers (Alan Quine is a long way from that double OT winner against the Panthers in the playoffs). He is, however, the only one who is exempt from waivers by not yet achieving the requisite amount of NHL games played. Bridgeport’s next game is Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre.
Playing big minutes for Bridgeport isn’t a bad idea for Beauvillier (and garik among others has said they’ve probably been deserved for some time) but it’s a little disappointing to see Fritz called up instead of Josh Ho-Sang. In 12 games this season as a Sound Tiger, Ho-Sang has four goals and seven assists.
Islanders games are an exhausting experience, and the team will need to change things up in a serious way if they’re going to swing back into the black, possession-wise. Is Ho-Sang the answer? He’s dynamic for sure, but responsibility with the puck remains a concern. Is Tanner Fritz the answer? Maybe, but probably not.
I mean I'm gonna be honest, there's no reason not to try out Fritz in place of some of our bottom sixers. Might as well - unlikely to be worse! But well, there's another guy who should be up first.— garik16 (@garik16) January 1, 2018
So with his team either scoring in bunches or bleeding goals against, and with games against the Bruins, Flyers, Penguins and Devils coming up before a week-long bye, Garth Snow took the path of least resistance and made the easiest moves he could. Before their quick trip to Winnipeg and Colorado, the Islanders recalled defenseman Sebastian Aho from Bridgeport to join the squad filling in for the injured Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk. If the Islanders are still in a playoff spot a week from now, Snow will have bought himself some time to consider other moves.
If they’re not, he’ll need to do something more dramatic sooner rather than later.