Garth Snow helped lead a tour of the Islanders' unfinished locker room Wednesday night at Barclays Center. With unpainted walls and wires hanging everywhere, Snow talked about what a big change it will be for the team when it plays at its new home beginning with three preseason games in September.
There won't be many changes to the roster Snow has assembled once the Islanders take the ice in Brooklyn. Through a quiet first week of free agency, the Islanders added only backup goaltender Thomas Greiss and made a priority of retaining their own restricted free agents rather than shaking things up.
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"Barring injury, I think we'll be better," Snow said. "We built a team through the draft that can compete with any team on any given night. We think we'll be better. We have a lot of young players who will be bigger and stronger . . . We like the group that we have."
Snow is still in the market for a veteran defenseman, but the team appears set otherwise. Anders Lee, who signed a four-year, $15-million deal last week, was on hand in Brooklyn for the tour and the Blue/White scrimmage that is part of this week's prospect camp. Brock Nelson is the team's only unsigned RFA and he will be an Islander next season for sure.
Of the prospects who took the ice Wednesday at Barclays Center, only defenseman Ryan Pulock appears to have a chance of cracking the opening night lineup. Griffin Reinhart, another defense prospect, was dealt during the draft to the Oilers for first- and second-round picks, which Snow turned into forwards Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, two first-rounders to restock a depleted pool of forward prospects.
Rather than send out young pieces for big-name players, as Metro Division rivals Columbus (Brandon Saad) and Washington (T.J. Oshie) did the past week, Snow sees the team he has stocked with homegrown young talent as equal to any in the division or the league.
"With the players we've drafted, our scouting staff has done a tremendous job," Snow said. "You look back to the Nick Leddy deal. If we didn't draft well, we wouldn't have that piece (Ville Pokka) to trade for a Nick Leddy. This past draft, we got a first- and second -- round pick for a quality defenseman [Reinhart] who was a good pick for us. You don't get assets like that in return if you don't do a good job drafting."
"I'm very proud of our staff since I've been here. It's the foundation of how all great teams are built."
Barclays will be hockey ready for the Islanders next month, in plenty of time for the upcoming season and with plenty of player amenities. Snow believes the team he'll put in those luxury digs will be high-end as well.
"Two of the last three years we've been in the playoffs and that's something to build off of," he said.
"We just have to keep going in the right direction."