BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Of course, Barry Trotz was keeping an open mind. What decent coach wouldn’t?
But as the Islanders won their preseason finale, 4-2, over the rival Rangers on Saturday night at Webster Bank Arena, Trotz already had very strong opinions on the makeup of the opening-night roster.
“I think I’m just trying to reinforce what I think I know,” Trotz said. “Then, organizationally, we’ll make our decision at the appropriate time.”
The Islanders, who finished 5-2-0 in the preseason, open the regular season against the Capitals on Friday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. The deadline for submitting the initial 23-man roster is Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“We’ll talk after the game,” Trotz said when asked how quickly those final decisions would be made, adding that was more of a question for president and general manager Lou Lamoriello than it was for him.
Saturday night’s lineup was fairly representative of what Friday night’s will likely look like. The Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle top line was intact, as was the energy line of Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck.
The three defense pairs — Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk — were the ones the Islanders finished last season with before Boychuk was injured in Game 4 of their first-round sweep of the Penguins.
Leo Komarov slid over to center on the third line with Derick Brassard unavailable because of illness and was in between Ross Johnston and Michael Dal Colle. Brock Nelson centered the second line with Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey.
The roster decisions Lamoriello and Trotz must make seem pretty cut-and-dried.
Which wings remain on the roster between Dal Colle, Tom Kuhnhackl, Josh Ho-Sang, Oliver Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick in 2018, Simon Holmstrom, this year’s 23rd overall pick, and Otto Koivula?
Kuhnhackl is an organizational favorite and seems a lock. Dal Colle, whose power-play goal with 17.4 seconds left in the second period tied the game at 1-1 as he finished Leddy’s rush, was used in the preseason as if he’s remaining. Wahlstrom scored a goal in Bridgeport’s 4-2 win over Hartford earlier in the day at Webster Bank Arena in an AHL preseason game. Ho-Sang and Holmstrom were not on the game roster and Koivula was a healthy scratch.
Dal Colle, Johnston and Ho-Sang would all need to clear waivers to be re-assigned to Bridgeport.
On defense, does Noah Dobson, the 12th overall pick in 2018, stay with the Islanders or be returned to his junior team, since he’s not AHL-eligible?
“He’s got ability,” Trotz said. “From a juniors standpoint, he’s done a lot in juniors, I don’t know if it’s the best thing for him or not.”
Also, if Dobson stays, do the Islanders carry eight defensemen and 13 forwards or seven defensemen and 14 forwards? If it’s the latter, what does that mean for veteran Thomas Hickey, who seems to be the odd defenseman out again?
“He’s a real good player and loyal that way,” Trotz said. “He’s played pretty well. He’s one of those tough decisions right now.”
Notes & Quotes: Barzal scored the winner at 17:40 of the third period and Pelech added an empty-netter with 23.0 seconds left…Goalie Semyon Varlamov started and stopped all 14 shots he faced. Thomas Greiss then made five saves despite giving up Vlad Namestnikov’s goal at 12:54 of the second period on the first shot he faced. Varlamov allowed four goals on 64 shots over four preseason appearances. Greiss gave up eight goals on 62 shots in his four preseason appearances … Bailey’s rebound power-play goal gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 4:44 of the third period as they went 2-for-6 on the man advantage…The Islanders killed off all eight Rangers’ power plays…Eberle had two assists and finished the preseason with four goals and three assists in five games.