1. How do the players respond to new leadership and John Tavares’ departure?
The change from the leadership tandem of general manager Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight to Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz is a seismic one, and not just because the players must be clean-shaven. Lamoriello and Trotz have spent the summer working to change the whole culture of the organization – from the way it operates on ice to off the ice – and now the hands-on teaching part begins.
Of course, the first hurdle is the loss of franchise face John Tavares. But the captain’s departure has put a chip on the remaining players’ collective shoulders. The preseason predications are not favorable to the Islanders and the players feel the challenge of proving the “experts” wrong.
2. Is Mathew Barzal ready for a bigger role?
Tavares’ departure leaves the Islanders’ looking for both a No. 1 center and a new face of the franchise and Barzal is the obvious candidate for both coming off a stellar rookie season that culminated with him winning the Calder Trophy.
Everything about Barzal’s demeanor suggests he’ll relish the opportunity to take on a larger role. Of course, he’ll now be facing the opponent’s top defensive pair and top lines on a more frequent basis.
3. Will there be a No. 1 goalie?
Veterans Robin Lehner, imported from Buffalo, and Thomas Greiss enter camp as the main competitors. Lehner has had more experience handling the No. 1 chores but both are coming off subpar seasons.
It would be best for the Islanders, needing to make drastic defensive improvements after allowing an NHL-worst 293 goals last season, if a No. 1 goalie emerges.
4. Which prospects make the roster?
Plenty will get their chance to impress the new brass in camp and the Islanders will be better in the long run if they can infuse more youth into the lineup.
Kieffer Bellows, Josh Ho-Sang, Scott Eansor, Michael Dal Colle and Otto Koivula are among the forward prospects to watch in camp while Sebastian Aho, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon, Yannick Rathgeb along with first-rounder Noah Dobson and second-rounder Bode Wilde are among the defense candidates.
5. Will Josh Ho-Sang emerge?
No player in the Islanders’ organization attracts more interest than Ho-Sang, entering the final season of his entry-level deal after being selected 28th overall in 2014. Ho-Sang expressed displeasure late last season over how the Islanders have handled his development and the fact that he spent most of last season with Bridgeport (AHL).
But Ho-Sang displayed a better attitude through rookie camp and Trotz has already tried establishing a rapport with him. His offensive skills are certainly NHL-ready.