The NHL’s 2013 lockout-shortened season begins in less than two weeks. Not all players have arrived to their team’s facilities yet, but more players are continuing to file in. NHL teams are expected to open camp this weekend.
Matt Moulson, Matt Carkner, Marty Reasoner, Eric Boulton, and Rick DiPietro have all been skating at IceWorks the past few days, and a few other familiar faces have turned up this morning. Today, Fran Nielsen, Matt Martin, Andrew MacDonald, Kyle Okposo, and Evgeni Nabokov are also on the ice, along with former Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek.
Expected to arrive to camp shortly are two of the Islanders’ top prospects: Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart. Obviously, the Islanders organization is anxious to see their past two first-round selections on the ice. With the season only 11 days away, though, the Islanders have a few decisions to make regarding these youngsters. Roster spots are open, but is it Ryan Stome and/or Griffin Reinhart’s time?
It’s an interesting question because of the Islanders’ current situation. For years, the New York Islanders have not had a true #2-centre on their roster. During the past few seasons, Islanders’ fans have watched Frans Nielsen assume 2nd-line duties, and although he filled the role admirably, it’s just not his game. Frans, who had a career-best 17 goals and 47 points last season, but his defensive-style of play makes him a better fit as the Islanders’ featured #3-centre. That’s not a knock on Frans. His game is just better suited in a third-line role.
With Ryan Strome coming to camp, the Islanders will get an up-close look at the guy they drafted to play right behind John Tavares. Strome is having an incredible season in the OHL with 62 points (22-40-62) in 32 games played, which averages to just under 2-points per game pace.
Strome was drafted as an offensively-gifted centre, and it appears that he has achieved all that he could in the OHL. To put it in perspective, Strome has 5 points less than the OHL’s points-leader with 10 less games played. Although he’s too young for the AHL, it might be time for Strome to fill that empty #2-centre slot on the Island
Ryan Strome is expected to play a huge role in the Islanders’ future, and the thought of having a 1-2 punch of John Tavares and Ryan Strome is as exciting as it could be for us. It could be just as good as having two first-lines on the Island.
As for Griffin, the Islanders also have another problematic situation. The team’s defensive-depth is shallow, and that’s probably an understatement. Even with Lubomir Visnovsky, the Islanders have 5-NHL defensemen at best, and not a lot of competition to earn that 6th, and possibly 7th, spot out of camp,
Most see Griffin Reinhart as being 2-3 years away from the NHL, while others believe the Islanders may think Reinhart can be NHL-ready as early as next season. Well, that may be the case, and the Islanders will still be thrilled to see their 4th-overall pick progress at camp, but there is one new rule that must be noted. The 2013 shortened season will allow under-age juniors to appear in only 5 games before burning a year on their contract, as opposed to the normal 9 games.
The Islanders can give Griffin, at most, 5 games of NHL experience before sending him back to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. Perhaps they do this to see how Griffin’s size and ability matches up in the NHL, just to let him get a taste of what he needs to do in order to prepare for the 2013-14 season.
Reinhart is expected to be a top-defenseman on the Islanders for years to come, so it couldn’t hurt to give him a little bit of what to expect before he jumps to the NHL, especially if the Islanders feel he could be on the team as soon as next season.
Regardless, the Islanders have to make a few decisions, and they have to make them quick. The 2013 season is upon us, and with several holes in the roster, the Islanders need to find a way to fill them.
Thanks for reading! Do you think there’s a spot for Strome and Reinhart on the Island?
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants