The Islanders’ candidate pool for defensemen heading into training camp is a growing one. Which is understandable since the team allowed an NHL-high 293 goals last season.
Luca Sbisa, 28, who spent last season with the Vegas Golden Knights and has also played with the Flyers, Ducks and Canucks, and Dennis Seidenberg, 37, who played for the Islanders the past two seasons, are both participating in the veterans’ informal skates. The presumption is both will be invited to training camp on a professional tryout offer.
Nine defensemen are participating in the Islanders’ rookie camp. That includes Noah Dobson, selected 12th overall this June and fellow draftee Bode Wilde, picked at No. 41, Sebastian Aho, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon, all who have dressed for Bridgeport (AHL), and Yannick Rathgeb, 22, who has played in the Swiss-A league the past three seasons after playing two seasons of Canadian junior hockey.
Rookie camp will resume on Tuesday with a fourth day of practice after Monday’s off day from the ice. The Islanders’ prospects will play the Flyers’ rookies on Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center at East Meadow.
Training camp opens on Thursday, with the first on-ice sessions on Friday. It will include six defensemen who saw regular time for the Islanders last season: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield.
Devon Toews, 24, limited to 30 games last season with Bridgeport because of a shoulder injury and not part of the rookie camp, is also expected to be a strong candidate to make his NHL debut.
“Everything kind of plays out on its own,” said Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson, who is running the on-ice sessions at rookie camp. “You’re going to have some surprises through the camp. Guys are going to step up. Their play will dictate where they’ll end up. You see some of the strength and improvements on a lot of these young guys. You see the mobility and improvement on some of these young guys in simple drills. Now, will they translate that into the games?”
Both Dobson and Wilde, who many had projected as a first-round pick, are expected to eventually crack the Islanders’ lineup though it will take stellar camp performances to convince the brass not to let them develop this season in junior hockey.
“I think the No. 1 thing for me is I just want to come in here and learn,” Wilde said. “There’s a lot of good resources from the coaching staff and some of the older guys that have been through this a few times. I’m doing my best to learn from all of them and show them what I can do without overthinking and getting too much in my head.
The Swiss-born Rathgeb could also be an intriguing candidate after a strong showing during the summer development camp.
“I don’t think it’s much of a curve for him, the physicality or the rink,” Thompson said. “He seems to have a little biat of a confidence to him.”