Rookies Brock Nelson and Matt Donovan earn roster spots with Islanders

Islanders player Brock Nelson skates past the bench

Islanders player Brock Nelson skates past the bench for hi-fives after scoring a second period goal against the Ottawa Senators. (Sept. 29, 2013) (Credit: AP)

When Garth Snow and Jack Capuano sat down during the summer to plan out their training camp, the vision was clear: The Islanders' brain trust wanted their deep pool of prospects to fight it out for the few extra roster spots available.

With rosters set for the beginning of the 2013-14 season Monday, that hope has been realized. Forward Brock Nelson and defenseman Matt Donovan, two rookies who were standouts in Bridgeport last season, have earned spots; defenseman Griffin Reinhart, the 2012 No. 4 overall pick, has earned at least a look, and possibly more.

"Brock and Matt Donovan basically picked up where they left off last season. That's why they're still here," Snow said. "They came in and both had great training camps and have well-earned spots on the roster."

There were a variety of veteran players on waivers Sunday, the sort that might once have attracted Snow's interest for a thin squad. At the end of last season's hurried January training camp, Snow plucked four players off waivers; three of them -- defensemen Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey and forward Keith Aucoin -- played roles in last season's playoff run. Strait and Hickey earned multiyear contracts.

Joe Finley was the fourth of those claimed off waivers last season. Finley cleared waivers for the Islanders on Monday and was sent to Bridgeport, a victim of the newfound blue-line depth. Nelson beat out fellow former first-round pick Ryan Strome, center Johan Sundstrom and wing Anders Lee for a spot.

Also sent to Bridgeport was another former first-rounder, defenseman Calvin de Haan, as well as goaltender Anders Nilsson, who lost out on the opening-night roster's backup goaltender job to Kevin Poulin.

Reinhart is an intriguing case. At 19, he still has one year of junior eligibility left and the Isles have nine regular-season games to see what the defenseman has to offer before deciding to send him back to Edmonton of the Western League or burn the first year of his entry-level deal.

This year's first-round pick, Ryan Pulock, impressed Snow and the coaching staff enough so that there was a decent discussion about whether to keep him up for the nine-game look. Pulock was returned to Brandon of the WHL Monday.

"Griffin was one of the best players on the ice for us every game he played," Snow said. "He's here for now. Where that leads down the road, I can't say. We definitely like what we have."

Notes & quotes: Defenseman Travis Hamonic, who left Sunday's preseason game in Ottawa early after a big hit, was evaluated Monday night for a possible concussion. He was not placed on injured reserve, so the Islanders are hoping he is ready for Friday's season opener against the Devils. Right wing Cal Clutterbuck (leg laceration) will begin the season on IR. He's still a month away from returning.

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