There were no real surprises among the Islanders cuts from training camp on Saturday, when they turned a 47-player camp into a 25-player camp — already very close to the 23-man roster they will need by Oct. 3.
The Isles put goaltenders Christopher Gibson and Kristers Gudlevskis, defenseman Seth Helgeson and forward Connor Jones on waivers; sent 12 players, including 2014 fifth overall pick Michael Dal Colle, to Bridgeport and released six players from their tryouts, including AHL veteran Casey Bailey, who will likely sign a deal to get to Bridgeport.
Doug Weight was most impressed with his goaltenders and several young defensemen, including Devon Toews, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon, who were all sent down on Saturday. Sound Tigers camp opens on Monday.
“There’s plenty of guys that have earned the right for us to keep a real close eye on,” Weight said. “I was really happy with a lot of our D that have gone to Bridgeport’s camp. From Parker to Mitchell to Devon — a lot of people impressed me on both ends of the rink. I thought camp was great, the young guys, the testing, the attitude, our games, the execution. Attention to detail, translating that from practice to games. Our goaltending was the best thing of camp, Guddy and Gibby were both tremendous.”
The Isles have eight defensemen still up and will likely start the season at that number, along with Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss in goal. That leaves two among the 15 remaining healthy forwards who will be cut before Oct. 3, with AHL/NHL veterans Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta the likeliest to go.
Tavares feeling fine
John Tavares hasn’t played a preseason game since scoring twice, including the overtime winner, last Sunday in Nassau Coliseum. He was among a handful of Islanders regulars who needed to shake off the rust and tightness of playing after a long summer and sat out the past week’s four games.
It was longer than usual for Tavares, whose season ended with a hamstring injury with five games to go last season and then he needed surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament.
“I just think there’s no reason to push it in the preseason, this is the time to get your body and your mind ready for the season,” he said after a full practice. Tavares didn’t miss a day on the ice this past week. “I feel good and the plan is to play Monday (in Barclays Center against the Devils).”
Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Thomas Hickey have also missed a week’s worth of preseason games but, like Tavares, there’s not much danger of losing a roster spot for any of those three.
Special teams installed
After numerous opportunities to work on the power play and penalty kill in the recent preseason games, where officials have been handing out minors like Halloween candy due to a crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations, the Islanders finally found time after Saturday’s cuts to work on special teams for nearly 90 minutes.
Associate head coach Greg Cronin, who ran the penalty kill the past three seasons, worked with that group at one end of the practice rink while Kelly Buchberger and Scott Gomez ran through whiteboard teaching and drills with the power play.
The two units in practice shook out like this: Tavares-Anders Lee-Jordan Eberle-Mathew Barzal-Nick Leddy on the first unit and Brock Nelson-Josh Ho-Sang-Josh Bailey-Andrew Ladd-Ryan Pulock on the second unit, with Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan also getting a turn in Pulock’s spot.