The New York Islanders announced their second round of training camp cuts Wednesday, trimming the preseason roster to 40. But none of the difficult decisions have been made yet.
Assigned to AHL Bridgeport on Wednesday were Sebastian Aho, Kieffer Bellows, Arnaud Durandeau, Scott Eansor, Ryan Hitchcock, Grant Hutton, Mason Jobst, Otto Koivula, Jeff Kubiak, Kyle MacLean, Nick Schilkey and John Stevens have all been assigned to Bridgeport.
None of them required waivers and none were expected to even have a surprise shot of making the team. Otto Koivula and Mason Jobst made good impressions, but they still stand in line behind the four established centers on the NHL roster.
It’s important to note that four of the 40 remain on the roster as injured players (Bobo Carpenter, Yanick Turcotte, Mitch Vande Sompel, and Bode Wilde) who would otherwise be headed to Bridgeport. That brings your debate down to 36.
And two of the goalies in camp, Christopher Gibson and Jared Coreau, are ultimately destined for Bridgeport. That brings your debate down to 34. Meanwhile, there are other names that are surely ticketed to the AHL but who will require passing through waivers.
But even putting aside those considerations, that still leaves some interesting dilemmas, including:
Noah Dobson: If the Islanders’ standout young blueliner could be assigned to the AHL, the Islanders might do that and wait for injuries to create room, as they did with Devon Toews last season. But Dobson is even more promising and continues to make the case that it would be foolhardy to cast him off to juniors — the only place he can go outside of the NHL or an unlikely detour to Europe.
Still, if he stays then the Islanders have eight NHL defensemen, barring a trade.
Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang: The 2014 first-round draft classmates are tied together once again. Both have matured their game considerably over the past two seasons, are on new short-term contracts signed this summer, and now require waivers to be assigned to the AHL. The Isles may not make room for both wingers.
Tom Kuhnhackl: Related to the Dal Colle/Ho-Sang topic, Kuhnhackl is one who would take up a spot as a 13th/14th forward if the Isles keep him. Barry Trotz really likes him and sings his praises. He’s also a player who cleared waivers last preseason but was never actually deployed in Bridgeport. He ended up playing 36 regular season games and all eight playoff games with the Isles.
Tanner Fritz: Fritz would be really useful in Bridgeport again if he clears waivers, but he also showed last season that he can be a disciplined contributor to Trotz’s team. A blood clot ended his rise last spring just as he was set to fill in for Valtteri Filppula. Barring any other injuries or trades, it would be a surprise if he makes the final roster, but it wouldn’t be unearned.
Oliver Wahlstrom and Simon Holmstrom: These two promising prospects do not require waivers, and will surely end up as cuts. But they have impressed, particularly Wahlstrom, and in a waiver-free and veteran-addiction-free world they would be the ones putting pressure and possibly taking the jobs of the forwards mentioned above.
Andrew Ladd: Coming off surgery after injuries to both knees last year, it would be a surprise if the Isles weren’t extra patient and prudent with the $5.5 million man by starting the season with him on IR.
Thus far, the “tough” decisions the Islanders face this week are the same ones that were expected when camp began. The salary cap is not a factor in pressuring any decisions before opening rosters are due. So the final moves will be down to any new injuries, waiver timing, and unforeseen Lou-pholes.