There were a couple standouts in Thursday night’s Isles rookie scrimmage, a sold-out event at Northwell Health Ice Center. They’re not exactly surprises either.
Josh Ho-Sang thrived in the four-on-four format against the prospects and camp invitees. So did Anthony Beauvillier. Of the 50 players on the ice Thursday night, those two had by far the most NHL time last season, so they certainly should be able to dominate such an event.
But that doesn’t mean, especially in Beauvillier’s case, that this has been a week for him to slack off. The 20-year-old had nine goals and 15 assists in 66 games as a teenaged rookie last season, when the options were either stay with the big club or go back to junior hockey.
This coming season, Beauvillier is eligible for the AHL, so he understands the battle to win a job in a crowded field of forwards starts anew in September.
“There’s no point in going on the ice if you don’t want to get better,” Beauvillier said. “I have to work on my game. It’s a good week to show everyone where I’m at. It’s a big summer for me, not going to take a week off or be mad that I’m here. I like being around these guys and the coaches.”
Beauvillier, Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal are the three forwards at this week’s camp most likely to have a shot at an opening-night roster spot. The Islanders brought in Jordan Eberle and moved out Ryan Strome, so in theory there are spots available for possibly all three.
But free agency kicks off Saturday at noon, just after prospect camp wraps up with another scrimmage that isn’t open to the public. Beauvillier, Barzal and Ho-Sang may find another forward at camp if the Islanders’ interest in three-time Stanley Cup champion Justin Williams is genuine.
Williams, 35, has reportedly whittled down his list of suitors to just three and the Islanders are in there, along with the Flyers and Lightning. Tampa has a load of salary-cap space but still needs to sign restricted free agents Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat while looking to add possibly two defensemen once the bell rings on Saturday.
Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Friday he doesn’t see adding anyone big. So that could leave the Islanders, who have roughly $9 million in cap space and 15 forward candidates with NHL experience already signed, as a possible destination for Williams.
But that doesn’t take away from Beauvillier’s hard work his first season or his work to remain with the Isles next season.
“My dream came true, playing my first game, my first time in Montreal,” Beauvillier said of playing in his hometown on Feb. 23, when he scored a goal and was named the game’s first star. “It didn’t end up like we wanted but at the end, it was still a great experience.”