Islanders recall top defense prospect Robin Salo from AHL Bridgeport
The reports are in and Robin Salo is up.
The Islanders elected to call up their highly touted defense prospect from AHL Bridgeport Thursday in advance of Saturday night’s opening of UBS Arena against the Flames. The move comes after top-pair defenseman Ryan Pulock (lower body) was placed on injured reserve. Pulock is expected to miss four to six weeks.
"From all reports from Bridgeport, and what we saw in the preseason, he is a guy who is deserving of, at least, an opportunity," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said after Thursday’s practice, the Islanders first at their new $1.1 billion home and one that placed Salo in a pairing with Zdeno Chara.
The Islanders chose to go with Salo over 32-year-old Thomas Hickey, who's played 454 games with the Islanders since 2013 and is currently playing in Bridgeport. Trotz said that the decision was made based on what they think Salo’s role will be and his ability to move the puck.
"[Hickey] moves the puck, but he’s probably more on the defenders side than the puck-mover side," Trotz said. "I just thought [Salo] had a good camp and the people in Bridgeport felt that he was the guy. Lou [Lamoriello] is in constant contact with the coaching staff there. He’s the guy, based on what he’s done there so far."
Salo, a 23-year old Finn, was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft and is playing his first season in North America after two seasons with Orebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League and parts of the previous six seasons in Finland’s Liiga.
Salo, who was impressive in training camp, has two goals and six assists in 14 games for Bridgeport.
"He moves really well," Mathew Barzal said. "He has good hands. I think he has a great IQ for the game. It’s going to be nice to see him up with us. Hopefully, he gets in the lineup and I’m sure he’ll play great."
Pulock, who missed Tuesday night’s game after blocking a second-period shot with his lower right leg Monday against the Lightning, watched Thursday’s practice on crutches from the bench. While it’s a big loss at an inopportune time for the Islanders, Trotz said that no one in the league will feel sorry for them.
"This is not a pity league," Trotz said. "I think we’re well aware of that . . . I talked to a couple of the captains today and [said] quite frankly that, no matter what happens, we have to just stay focused on the task at hand. They’re other teams around the league. If you watched Washington-LA [Wednesday] night, Washington’s missing a couple of key guys. They have half the [AHL] Hershey Bears playing there, and they found a way to win."
Trotz continued: "No matter what, other guys get an opportunity and a chance to step up. We just have to make sure we get the job done."