COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Islanders’ exciting young players stood out in training camp. But with the regular season set to begin Friday night here against the Blue Jackets, Doug Weight is opting for more experience in a couple of spots.
The biggest surprise is that Josh Ho-Sang will be a healthy scratch on Friday. The 21-year-old wing showed flashes of brilliance in his 21-game NHL stint at the end of last season and had a strong camp. But Weight will go with reliable winger Jason Chimera, 38, who will skate on the right side with Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson against the Blue Jackets.
Mathew Barzal, Beauvillier and Ho-Sang were among the star forwards of camp and Weight had lots of positive feedback for all three. Barzal will start between Andrew Ladd and Josh Bailey and get first-unit power-play time. Beauvillier’s tireless work ethic has helped him keep a spot he grabbed as a 19-year-old a season ago.
But Weight, at least for Friday, is giving the nod to Chimera over Ho-Sang.
“You certainly know what you’re getting with Chimmer,” Weight said recently.
Chimera, who scored 20 goals in his first Islanders season in 2016-17, primarily skated during camp with players ticketed for the AHL, but Weight cautioned not to read that Chimera was the odd man out.
“He’s always in great shape, he’s got the speed and he’s physical,” Weight said.
On defense, rookie Ryan Pulock and his big slap shot competed with second-year Islanders Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield for a chance to crack the top six. Pulock had his best game of the preseason on Sunday in Philadelphia, but Weight is going with Mayfield, the 6-5 defenseman who took a big step forward in his pro game last season with two goals and seven assists in 25 games.
It may not be a great look for three guys age 23 and under to be in street clothes on opening night — Pelech will be scratched on Friday along with Ho-Sang and Pulock — but Weight and his team are looking to come out of the gate blazing.
Coming off missing the playoffs despite going 24-12-4 with Weight as interim coach, the uncertainty of the team’s future home and the question of whether John Tavares wants to be a part of the club after this season, the Islanders need to get started from the drop of the puck on Friday.
“We’ve got a saying in here, ‘Hit ’em first,’ ” Weight said. “We want to be the aggressor, we don’t want to sit back. We’ve got to be on our toes, and it starts [Friday].”
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