Islanders put Pierre Engvall's versatility to the test in first practice
Pierre Engvall spent his first practice with the Islanders skating on top-line center Bo Horvat’s right wing along with Anders Lee. He took a quick turn on the first power-play unit, then another rotation as a net-front presence on the second unit. He also worked with the penalty-killers.
President/general manager Lou Lamoriello touted the 6-5, 219-pound Swedish forward’s versatility after acquiring him from the Maple Leafs on Tuesday for a third-round pick in 2024.
Coach Lane Lambert seemed determined to test out that versatility on Thursday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow.
“I like him,” Lambert said. “Good size and he skates well. It’s his first day on the ice and he’s getting climatized to the complete environment.
“We know he’s a good penalty-killer. They do things just a little bit differently in Toronto so that’s an adjustment for him, which he’ll overcome. We put him with Horvat right now and we’ll just see where that goes. It’s just practice today so it’s really hard to tell.”
The NHL trade deadline is Friday afternoon and Lamoriello still might look to import some defense depth after acquiring Horvat from the Canucks on Jan. 30 and then Engvall.
Lee said he expects Engvall to bring “plenty of jump, plenty of good grit and some good skill, too” to the top line.
Lambert sounded less inclined to use Engvall on the power play.
“For me, he’s more of a penalty-killer,” he said. “We don’t want to overload him right now coming in.”
Engvall, in his fourth NHL season, had 12 goals and nine assists in 58 games for the Maple Leafs, who are stacked with top-six forwards. He has 42 goals and 41 assists in 226 NHL games since the Maple Leafs selected him in the seventh round in 2014.
He is an impending unrestricted free agent as he completes a one-year, $2.25 million deal.
“Honestly, I didn’t know I was going to get traded,” Engvall said. “But I’m really happy to be here and I think we have a great group of guys and I think we can do something really good here, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Engvall will make his Islanders debut against the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon at UBS Arena, affording him the luxury of two practices with his new team before playing a game.
“I see myself as a two-way player,” he said. “I think my skating is my biggest asset. It really helped me to get the chance with those guys.’’
When asked about the opportunity to receive more top-six minutes with the Islanders than he did with the Maple Leafs, he said, “I’m just going to keep playing my game. But getting traded, you want to do good.”
Notes & quotes: Left wing Arnaud Durandeau, without a point in four NHL games, was reassigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport . . . Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (injured reserve/upper body) continues to skate on his own but did not join Thursday’s practice.