The big opening lineup decisions facing the New York Islanders became clearer Monday morning as general manager Lou Lamoriello announced that forwards Joshua Ho-Sang and Tanner Fritz are being placed on waivers along with defenseman Thomas Hickey.
Each is a debatable decision but none is a big shock, based on how things were shaping up at camp. They also likely mean top prospect Noah Dobson will make the roster, along with Ho-Sang’s 2014 first-round classmate Michael Dal Colle.
Thomas Hickey: A Veteran
Overview: Hickey came to the Islanders as a waiver claim and has made a career out of that rebirth. A high pick who never saw NHL action with the Los Angeles Kings during their heyday, he was dependable and versatile for the Islanders — and still may be so, unless he’s claimed.
“None of [the decisions] are easy,” Lamoriello said in the clip above. But with Hickey’s history it’s “certainly a little more difficult. But that doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere,” if he’s not claimed.
The Decision: Hickey’s luck turned for the worse after a concussion on a freak crash into the boards last season. His injury paved the way for Devon Toes to become a regular in the lineup. This fall it became even tougher to get him a spot with the emergence of Dobson.
Hickey is 10th all time among #Isles D with 449 games played. As loyal a guy as there is. Tough spot for him with this year and two more at $2.5m AAV.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) September 30, 2019
Josh Ho-Sang: End of the Road, or Just Another Detour?
Overview: The Ho-Sang Story is well tread and well-known: Tantalizing talent, but needed work on the defensive and structure-adhering side of his game. To his credit, he’s done that, continuing to evolve his game and preach the gospel of defense that Barry Trotz long ago carved in stone.
The Decision: But is it too little, too late? And are the Islanders being myopic in not making room for his talent? This is the first year where Ho-Sang and Dal Colle each required waivers to be sent to Bridgeport. With the team’s allegiance to popular (and handsomely paid) Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl (who cleared waivers last fall) and the little-used Ross Johnston, it was fairly clear that one of the two would be sent down, barring new injuries. As usual, the Islanders went with the perceived safe, steady choice.
It may not be over yet for Ho-Sang and the Islanders, but another team looking for talent could easily fit his contract in and give him NHL minutes.
Josh Ho-Sang, though, is the real prize. Finding guys who weren't given the large minutes their small minutes deserved, for irrelevant reasons, that's what the waiver wire is for. pic.twitter.com/7DjiyyjT2a— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) September 30, 2019
Asked Lou whether he was confident in #Isles scoring potential, particularly among top six Fs: "I’m one who doesn’t worry about scoring. All I worry about is goal differential. If we score two goals every night and give up one, I’m not worried about scoring."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) September 30, 2019
Tanner Fritz: Dependable Late Bloomer
Overview: Fritz is not a household name in the NHL and he’s likely not another team’s answer to any major problem. As with Hickey, Fritz had a freak injury that interrupted his 2018-19, ending it prematurely just as an opening arrived with an injury to the now-departed Valtteri Filppula. He impressed Trotz though, and will likely continue to be a useful callup if injuries dictate.
The Decision: With all the other names already mentioned, plus the summer signing of Derick Brassard, it was always going to take a scourge of injuries to get Fritz on the opening roster.
Also: Simon Holmstrom Decision to Come
Summer first-round pick Simon Holmstrom also remains in camp. He’s not going to make the NHL roster either, but the decision on whether he goes to Bridgeport or back to HV71 is still to come. Perhaps it depends on whether the Islanders lose a forward or two on waivers.