Devon Toews may have to wait a little longer to make his NHL debut.
The 24-year-old defenseman, limited to 30 games last season for Bridgeport (AHL) because of a shoulder injury, appears to be on the roster bubble for the Islanders, who must submit their initial 23-man regular-season list on Tuesday, 48 hours before their opener at Carolina on Thursday night.
The Islanders must decide whether Toews, whose stickhandling and offensive instincts stood out in training camp, will be better served seeing regular ice time with Bridgeport or remaining on the NHL roster as a possible extra defenseman.
“I can’t really answer that because I haven’t been here that long,” new coach Barry Trotz said after Monday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “But I can tell you from experience that as long as a player is playing, it’s never a bad thing. I think when a player is not playing, he wavers on confidence. It’s better to overcook a player than undercook him.”
The Islanders still have 28 players on their preseason roster. Veteran left wing Andrew Ladd likely is headed to injured reserve after missing his 12th straight practice. Veteran forward Stephen Gionta and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg remain on professional tryout offers but are just insurance.
Former Penguins wing Tom Kuhnhackl, who signed a one-year, one-way, $700,000 deal, was placed on waivers and can be re-assigned to Bridgeport if he clears on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to make some roster decisions,” Trotz said. “It is the right decision for today. It might not be the right decision two weeks from now because things change all the time.”
That would leave 14 forwards, meaning the Islanders could carry seven defensemen.
Scott Mayfield, 25, Toews’ main preseason partner, could be the extra defenseman. Trotz seemingly is set on his top three pairs: Adam Pelech with Ryan Pulock, Thomas Hickey with Nick Leddy and Luca Sbisa with Johnny Boychuk.
Toews, a fourth-round pick in 2014, joined the Islanders’ organization in 2016 after three seasons at Quinnipiac and had five goals and 40 assists in 76 games for Bridgeport in his first pro season. He had eight goals and 14 assists in 30 games last season and has not played in a game that counts in the standings since Dec. 26, 2017.
He had three assists while playing in four of the Islanders’ eight preseason games.
“I think I can always learn from the game and, watching over video, you see things you missed, but for the most part, I feel pretty good,” Toews said before being asked about making his NHL debut.
“When it happens, it happens,’’ he said. “I’m not really too worried about it. Every game is fun to me.”
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