We’ve been so caught up in the New York Islanders winning two series in this most unusual Stanley Cup playoff season, we’ve not much discussed how they’ll handle assignments between the bubble playoffs and the still undefined start of the 2020-21 season.
To that end, Simon Holmstrom has a new (temporary) home: The Islanders announced his loan to Vita Hästen of the HockeyAllsvenska, the second-tier of Sweden’s pro hockey. Their schedule begins Sept. 11, so Holmstrom could be getting some much-needed game action soon.
The Islanders’ first-round pick last summer (man, that seems ages ago) played in the AHL as an 18-year-old, putting up 15 points in 46 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s rare for a player to be in the AHL at that age, and Holmstrom doesn’t carry a lot of size yet, so we can cautiously look at his debut season in North America as a good first step.
Now a return to Sweden will give him a chance to get more reps while enjoying a little more space.
It also raises the question: Will there be other European opportunities for Islanders prospects? Reportedly, this summer supply was high with North American-based minor pros calling European teams to see if there are openings. By and large, European leagues are resuming play well before North American leagues will. With the uncertainty, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more minor pro veterans retire.
The NHL has previously said it wants to start the 2020-21 season in December or January and squeeze in a full 82-game season. Meanwhile, the AHL has said its season will begin no earlier than Dec. 4.
#Isles can recall Holmstrom from Vita Hasten HC, so likely he'll be back when 2020-21 NHL camp opens.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) August 28, 2020
But everything is TBD in the age of COVID-19. While the bubble has gone exceedingly well, opening up to teams traveling again, mid-winter, may open any number of variables.
For players who don’t find a spot — or their teams don’t find an assignment — before then, it will be lot of down time, particularly for the players whose 2019-20 minor league seasons were cut short and who did not get much (if any) time in the NHL Return camp. Might any other Islanders with prior European ties like Sebastian Aho (a pending RFA) finds a place to toil?
Not the hottest topic at the moment, obviously but something to look out for as European seasons begin.