Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart are part of the Islanders' future, but not the team's present. The team's last two first-round draft picks were returned to their junior clubs Thursday, getting just a small taste of this year's club after the four-month lockout curtailed any serious sort of training camp.
With just a week and one scrimmage to evaluate players, general manager Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano had little choice but to send Strome, 19, and Reinhart, 18, back to juniors to continue their development.
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"Everything is compressed, and it makes for a tough camp," said Strome, who, like Reinhart, played for Bridgeport against the Islanders in Wednesday night's scrimmage.
Strome had been working as the extra forward on the third and fourth lines during the few days of camp, not the role Snow and Capuano envision for the No. 5 overall pick of the 2011 draft.
"I just want to work hard every day," Strome said after Thursday's practice, just a few minutes before he was informed that he was headed back to Niagara of the Ontario League, where he still leads the team in scoring (22 goals, 40 assists) despite missing 12 games because of the World Junior tournament and the brief time in Islanders camp. "As soon as you stop developing, someone's going to pass you on the depth chart. The goal for me is to really challenge myself as a player no matter where you're playing."
Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, had a longer shot to stick around, given his youth and the difficulties a young defenseman faces in the NHL. But he played very steadily Wednesday night, and steadiness is what the Islanders hope he will bring next fall, when his first true pro camp starts.
"I won't be happy to be sent back," Reinhart said, also before he heard the news, "but I have to take this week as a positive. I'm going to go back to Edmonton [of the Western League] and use my time there as a way to keep improving and be better for next year. The goal is play at the highest level, and that never changes."
With the two teenagers departing and the arrival of veteran center Keith Aucoin off waivers from the Maple Leafs Thursday, the Islanders' roster is set at 23 in advance of Friday's 3 p.m. deadline. Josh Bailey (knee) and Jesse Joensuu (groin) will start the year on injured reserve and Lubomir Visnovsky still has not reported, so he does not count against the roster limit.
Notes & quotes: Aucoin, 34, is a veteran of 102 NHL games and 707 AHL games. He is 10th all-time in AHL history with 814 points . . . Thursday's moves mean that defenseman Thomas Hickey, picked up off waivers from the Kings on Tuesday, likely will be in the opening night lineup Saturday against the Devils. Hickey, 23, was the fourth pick in the 2007 draft by the Kings but never got out of the AHL in five pro seasons. "It was just a situation where I don't think it was going to get any better," he said. "That team has a blueprint for what they want, and it's obviously been successful for them. I don't think I was a part of that."