These last few days weren’t easy days for the Islanders who had come to training camp hoping to make the team.
“No matter how mentally tough you are, it’s hard to put it on the back burner,” Ross Johnston said. “It’s something you think about.”
The Islanders had to submit their opening 23-man roster by 5 p.m. Tuesday in advance of Friday night’s opener against Washington at the Coliseum. Johnston, Michael Dal Colle and Tom Kuhnhackl all needed to clear waivers in order to be sent down to Bridgeport. Those forwards weren’t among the players who were waived Monday. They indeed made the team.
So did Noah Dobson. The prized rookie defenseman, who was the 12th overall pick last year, left practice early. But coach Barry Trotz said it was due to some minor tightness. Dobson is eligible to play up to nine NHL games and still be sent back to juniors. He isn’t eligible for the AHL.
“I think it’s just the upside where it’s not where he is right now, but maybe six months from now,” Trotz said after practice and before the announcement of a roster that included seven defensemen, 14 forwards and two goalies.
Dal Colle made it out of the preseason for the first time. The 23-year-old Ontario native was the left wing on the second line in practice.
“I think Michael Dal Colle went from suspect back to prospect to a pretty solid player,” Trotz said.
The fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft played in 28 games for the Islanders last season and finished with just three goals and four assists. But he posted 34 points in 34 games with Bridgeport, including 18 goals. He thinks he can produce at this level.
“Back in junior, I’ve always been an offensive player,” Dal Colle said. “… Obviously, there’s only so many top six guys, so you’ve got to work on all aspects of your game. I think I did that last year — solid defensively with providing some offensive upside.”
Trotz called Kuhnhackl “one of those Swiss Army knives.”
“At the end of the day, this is a team sport — wherever the coach needs me,” Kuhnhackl said.
Johnston brings an element of toughness. Trotz called the 6-5, 235-pound left wing “a big force” and said, “There’s very few of them.” He’s in the second year of a four-year, $4 million deal.
“(Going against) heavier teams and being able to play and have a physical presence at the very same time, I think it still has a value,” Johnston said. “I’m looking forward to playing that part.”
Notes & quotes: Trotz said he’s “pretty confident” center Casey Cizikas (lower body) will be available for the opener.