Some lengthy notes on the roster for Wednesday night and where the Islanders go next with their group:
Here are the 20 that will dress for tonight’s game in Newark against the Devils:
Nikolay Kulemin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Andrew Ladd - Mathew Barzal - PA Parenteau
Michael Dal Colle - Alan Quine - Josh Ho-Sang
Ross Johnston - Anthony Beauvillier - Steve Bernier
Thomas Hickey - Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
It seems that the Kulemin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck line is a thing that the Islanders are going to give a serious look. Kulemin and Matt Martin have a few things in common, notably that they could both clear space for their quicker, more offense-minded linemates on this line. Kulemin is better in his own end than Martin was.
Some thought that Cizikas and Clutterbuck might work better with a smaller, craftier wing, someone such as Shane Prince (still out nursing a lower-body injury) or Quine or even Beauvillier (more on him below), but Jack Capuano and the staff want to keep the dynamics of that “fourth” line similar to when Martin was here, it appears.
This likely is the last long look for the core four young forwards -- Beauvillier, Barzal, Ho-Sang, Dal Colle -- before some roster moves are made.
Capuano surprised by saying that Beauvillier is “in the mix” for a spot on the club. He certainly has impressed everyone this camp, as he did last year, with his tenacity on the puck and willingness to engage opponents despite his size. He played wing Tuesday night against the Rangers, he can play center, kill penalties, you name it. Unless you’re a top-three pick, this is what’s required to push a veteran out of a roster spot.
Beauvillier must stay with the Isles or go back to Shawinigan of the Quebec League since he’s only 19. It still is a likely long shot for him to make the club, but that’s better than no shot.
As for Barzal, he certainly has shown his terrific vision and creativity. He’s a dynamic player on offense. But, for a teenager trying to crack the lineup of a good team, there is a higher standard. He’d be bumping either Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson out of a center spot and bumping one of those two or another veteran out of the lineup altogether.
That’s not easy for any team to accommodate. If you look at the teams who are likely to keep a junior-eligible prospect or two, it’s not teams that have established themselves the way the Isles have the past few seasons. Mitch Marner will make the Leafs. Jakob Chychrun and Dylan Strome may make the Coyotes. Pavel Zacha may make the Devils. Not many pundits are picking those three teams for the playoffs.
About the only team that’s been a regular in the postseason of late that’s considering a 19-year-old is the Flyers, who have Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov pushing for spots. But Philly isn’t exactly an elite team right now.
So there’s more that goes into it than just the wow factor, which Barzal certainly has. He’s playing Wednesday night with Ladd and Parenteau, who will be John Tavares’ linemates to start the season.
If Barzal stays, he’d likely play third-line center at even strength and on the power play. Is that enough of a lure to bump Strome to the wing and Josh Bailey, who kills penalties and plays a very solid two-way game, to the bench? That would mean Barzal has to be strong without the puck and Capuano’s comments, plus Barzal’s own comments after Monday’s game, show that he’s still a work in progress in that area.
This is a long, long way toward saying it ain’t a simple call. Barzal and Beauvillier both could end up back in junior.
Even though both are almost certainly headed to Bridgeport in the coming days, Ho-Sang and Dal Colle are both improved and looking more like prospects. It will take Dal Colle time to use his big body well at the pro level, but he’s getting there.
And if this were four or five seasons ago, Ho-Sang would make the club. He’s got terrific vision and skill, like Barzal, and he’s willing to get his hands dirty. Opponents have been roughing him up all preseason, and Ho-Sang just pops back up, keeps his mouth shut and goes to work.
Capuano said Tuesday night “there’s a real logjam” and it seems like the top six defenseman are fairly well set. Opening night you’ll likely see Nick Leddy with Hamonic, Hickey-Boychuk and de Haan-Pulock, with Dennis Seidenberg as the seventh.
Scott Mayfield has a one-way deal now, but it’s unclear how much the coaches have loved his game this camp. Compared with Pelech and Pulock, Mayfield’s skating is just not up to the same level. He brings the physical edge, which is always welcome, but the speed and transition is not at a top-six pace.
There’s certainly a chance Mayfield would be scooped up off waivers, but there will be such a glut of talent on waivers the next four days, so he could clear. He’d likely be back, as will Pelech, who has been steady and fluid as always this preseason.
In goal, if the Islanders start the season with 13 forwards and seven defensemen, they can keep three goaltenders again. It would be a surprise to see them try to keep three all year long. One move to make would be to try and get J-F Berube through waivers now, when he could get lost in the waiver shuffle.
But if they keep three to start the season and it’s Jaro Halak as the No. 1 and Greiss as the No. 2, it’s possible Berube could get antsy. Halak was the one who had the most to say about the three-goaltender situation last year, but that came from Halak’s general displeasure at being hurt and unable to seize the top spot again.
Berube has the most to lose by basically being a practice goaltender for a whole season if it’s three again, so he could push for a solution sooner rather than later. If the whole idea is that the Islanders like Berube so much they’re trying to keep him, why bother if the way you keep him makes him want to leave?
Stephen Gionta’s lower-body injury, suffered when he blocked a shot Tuesday night, sounds like it may be longer term than just day to day. The 33-year-old seemed like a perfect candidate to sign a two-way deal, go down to Bridgeport and play until the Isles needed a veteran forward to call up. That may be in doubt now and, if he’s willing, Bernier could fill that role.