With half of training camp gone, the roster decisions are supposed to be getting clearer for Jack Capuano and the Islanders' coaching staff. But there may be a spot on defense that is even more up for grabs now than it was when camp began last Friday.
Griffin Reinhart was thought to be the rookie with the best chance to earn a spot on defense, but the 2012 first-round pick may have been overtaken so far by the team's 2013 first-rounder, Ryan Pulock.
The hard-shooting, solidly built Pulock, who doesn't turn 20 until Oct. 6 (but is still eligible to play in the AHL this season with that birth date), has been steadily improving over the past week.
That culminated in a pretty sharp night at Barclays Center on Friday, where Pulock blasted home the Isles' first goal in their future home arena and showed the sort of poise and offensive ability Capuano wants from a defense that produced only 23 goals last season.
"What I liked tonight is that he got involved in the offense," Capuano said. "There are a lot of guys that, when they get the puck on their stick, they want to make the safe play and a lot of times that's the right thing to do, but tonight he shot a lot of pucks and that's what we are looking for on our power play."
T.J. Brennan, Brian Strait and Matt Donovan are also in the mix for third-pair slots, along with rookie Kevin Czuczman. Reinhart, Pulock and Czuczman do not need waivers to be sent to Bridgeport and the earlier-mentioned trio do need waivers, so the rookies need to make big impressions to stick.
Reinhart has certainly been steady in camp, but perhaps not yet playing at full NHL speed. Pulock, at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds built more like a five-year NHL vet than a teenager, has not looked out of place with the speed of the preseason pro game.
"I always knew I needed to get bigger and stronger to be able to play at this level," said Pulock, who had 23 goals and 40 assists for Brandon of the Western League last year. "You train in the summer with an eye on wanting to be here and earn a spot, and so far I think it's going pretty well."
Notes & quotes: Defensemen Calvin de Haan and Matt Carkner sat out practice with upper-body injuries and both are day-to-day. Forward Harry Zolnierczyk also sat out practice and is day-to-day as well . . . John Tavares traveled to Oshawa, Ontario, to have his number retired by his junior club Sunday night. The Islanders have Sunday off.