So with a few preseason games in the books, the New York Islanders have a few more days to tinker with the system and experiment with players at different spots. The learning of the powerplay and penalty killing is crucial this time of year for everyone. But for me, I’m more concerned about which young player remains on the big club. As of this writing, there are five remaining: Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart, Johan Sundstrom and Matt Donovan. Let’s take a look at what there chances at making the big club.
Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome: These two players are part of the Islanders future and everyone knows it, so there’s no need to dissect each of their talents. However because of the amount of players already on this roster, look for these two to begin their seasons at Bridgeport. I believe that if there is a top nine forward out of the line up due to injuries (Cal Clutterbuck) it’s very possible you could see either one get called up. Nelson and Strome would be better served playing in as many minutes down in Bridgeport and not playing a full time bottom six minutes.
Matt Donovan: Like my colleague, Gary (Isles Talk), I agree that Donovan should be on this roster on opening night. He’s been paired with Andrew MacDonald during the preseason and I’m sure Donovan has been soaking it all in, but his skills are ready for the big club. From my short time watching him against the Baby Penguins, he flew by the defenders (including Brian Strait) and he looked/skated like a center and fans around me were asking who he was. He’s paid his dues in the minors, he’s ready.
Johan Sundstrom: Folks there’s nothing flashy with his game, but he does replace David Ullstrom. He had 32 points in 59 games and plays a good two way game, which can be a benefit if you need to be called up and play a fourth line role. He can play center or wing so he’s your versatile forward for a fourth line. Let him soak up this experience, get in a few more preseason games and then send him down if he’s not yet ready for fourth line duty on the Islanders.
Griffin Reinhart: He’s the wild card folks. Reinhart has impressed coaches to keep him around and maybe get them thinking about keeping him. That’s all you can ask from Griffin. As Islanders fans know, you can never have enough defenseman so if he can play at a high level over the next few preseason games, I would not have an issue keeping him for the first nine games. In my opinion, there are two scenarios for Reinhart: After his nine game trial, you can send him back to juniors and have him come back for a playoff run for either the Sound Tigers or Islanders.
The second scenario is something the Devils have done with Adam Larsson, also a former first round pick, which was make him that 7th defenseman for a year or more and learn the NHL game with no pressure, then move up the minutes when called upon. The Devils were deep in defensive talent that they could afford to do that. It’s only now after a few years that Larsson is now being called upon to step up his play. You can do this with Reinhart. The Isles have their top 4 in place so you can minimize his mistakes by limiting his time. This is NOT a Nino Niederreiter scenario. Reinhart is a defenseman and all he has to do is defend. The better he performs, the more minutes he’ll see. In a few weeks we shall see.
What I really like about these five players is just one word: Depth, lots of depth. If there’s an injury, most fans know who’s coming up. This won’t be like 2008 where you had a playoff talented team and no depth and because of injuries the Islanders missed the playoffs. Not anymore. The Islanders are ready to go and the young players will develop their game like they should. It’s just a matter of time when their names get called and they’ll perform.