Simon Holmstrom mentioned defense first, meaning the former first-round pick has a keen understanding of how he can earn a roster spot with the Islanders after three seasons with their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
“I’m here to take a spot. So is everybody else here,” Holmstrom said after logging 19:02 with one shot while skating with Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise in the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden in their preseason opener.
Holmstrom was on ice for a shorthanded goal — the Islanders have yet to practice special teams — but did show some flashes offensively. He led Barzal on a two-on-one early in the second period and had his turnaround shot from the slot stopped at 14:51 of the third period.
“It got better for sure,” Holmstrom said of skating with the two former All-Stars. “We’ve only practiced two or three times together so, hopefully, it’s getting better and we get more chances together.”
The 6-2, 205-pound Swede, the 23rd overall pick in 2019, had 12 goals and 31 assists in 68 AHL games last season, and Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson has spoken about Holmstrom’s development as a two-way player.
Holmstrom added three goals and an assist in six playoff games for Bridgeport.
“I thought he made some plays,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. “He looked comfortable.”
Holmstrom looked solid through the opening practices of training camp but will need to stand out to secure a spot. Eleven forwards seemingly have roles already secured, so Holmstrom likely would have to beat out Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows or Ross Johnston for a place on the Islanders’ initial 23-man roster.
Wahlstrom was on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s right wing along with Anders Lee against the Rangers, a trio that could start the season together. Yet Homstrom’s chance to skate with Barzal and Parise is a decent indication Lambert has liked what he’s seen.
“Just all defensive stuff,” Holmstrom said of the opportunity to be on that line. “I want to watch and learn and take it all in. It’s incredible to skate with these guys.”
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Robin Salo scored the Islanders’ lone goal on a shot from the left point past Dylan Garand at 16:10 of the second period . . . Semyon Varlamov allowed four goals on 20 shots in 31:15 before Jakub Skarek stopped all 15 shots he faced. Jimmy Vesey’s opening goal banked in off Varlamov’s mask, but the goalie said he was OK after that shot. “I actually felt really good,” Varlamov said. “I mean, this is a first preseason game. We’re going to move on and there’s going to be another one.” Ilya Sorokin is expected to see his first preseason action against the Devils on Tuesday night at Prudential Center . . . Forwards Otto Koivula and Collin Adams and defensemen Samuel Bolduc and Isaiah George did not skate on Monday . . . The team said forward Richard Panik, 31, who played four games for the Islanders last season but is not attending training camp, will be reassigned.