With the first group of two at Islanders camp just taking the ice Friday, here are the line combinations and defense pairs:
Andrew Ladd — Mathew Barzal — PA Parenteau
Michael Dal Colle — Casey Cizikas — Alan Quine
Shane Prince — Anthony Beauvillier — Cal Clutterbuck
Ross Johnston — Stephen Gionta — Ben Holmstrom
Thomas Hickey — Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan — Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews — Kyle Burroughs
Matt Finn — Jesse Graham
So let’s read into this, shall we?
Barzal gets a crack at what everyone assumes will be John Tavares’ spot between Ladd and Parenteau, with the captain off saving the World Cup for Team Canada. It’s an all-or-nothing camp for Barzal, who definitely does not want to go back to the Western League, so why not drop him into the top line?
He was asked last week about just such a scenario, where he’s slotted as if he’s Tavares during the captain’s camp absence.
“Oh yeah, that’d be awesome,” Barzal said. “I like to kinda be in the spotlight a little bit. It’d be great for me, great for my confidence and it’d only be beneficial to me.”
The Matt Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck line was rarely together during the early stages of camp in previous years, but everyone knew they’d be back together once the season drew closer. Martin is gone, of course, so this camp alignment for Cizikas and Clutterbuck could lead to something different. Maybe.
“Me and Clutter have good chemistry obviously,” Cizikas said Thursday. “Whoever we’re with we can still be effective.”
There are plenty of candidates for that spot. Jason Chimera is one. Nikolay Kulemin, still at the World Cup, is another. Prince or Quine would work too, so it’s not surprising the Isles want to see how either one of those younger guys fits with CC and CC.
Among the defense, Hickey-Boychuk was a pair for a bit last season, as was de Haan-Pulock. De Haan-Boychuk was not a strong pair in the postseason, so perhaps there’s a desire to see them split up and see how it works.
As Nick Leddy pointed out the other day: “We’ve all played with one another at some point over the past couple years, so there’s no concerns as far as who your partner is.”
Among the lesser-known set, keep an eye on Toews during the preseason games. The 22-year-old left-shooting defenseman had a solid prospect camp a week prior to the big camp starting, and while he still has yet to make his pro debut after signing last spring out of Quinnipiac, he’s already shown the staff he’s got good instincts and a decent shot.