The Islanders set their initial, veteran-laden 23-man roster on Tuesday and there’s a good chance more experience will be added to the group before any of the organization’s younger prospects.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello said left wing Andrew Ladd, 32, who missed his 13th straight practice with an undisclosed injury and was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Sept. 16, is expected to resume skating with the team on Wednesday and is eligible to be activated as soon as he’s healthy.
The Islanders open their season on Thursday night at Carolina.
Rookie defenseman Devon Toews, 24, and forward Jan Kovar, 28, a Czech-born center who played the past five seasons in the KHL, were re-assigned to Bridgeport (AHL) on Tuesday, meaning the Islanders will open the season without a first-year player on the roster.
The average age of their players is 27.4 years old and there are six players on the roster 25 or younger, including No. 1 center Mathew Barzal, last season’s Calder Trophy winner as the rookie of the year, and his linemate, Anthony Beauvillier, both 21.
But new coach Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals last season, said he likes the team’s composition.
“Yeah, I do, from the standpoint of getting people in the right roles,” Trotz said. “We’ve got a good starting point. Things keep changing.”
Forward Tom Kuhnhackl, 26, the former Penguin signed to a one-year, one-way, $700,000 deal, remained on the roster after clearing waivers. He is likely to be an extra forward along with Ross Johnston, 24, as Tanner Fritz, 27, is expected to open the season on the fourth line with center Valtteri Filppula, 34, and Leo Komarov, 31.
Fritz also cleared waivers so either he or Kuhnhackl can be re-assigned to Bridgeport to accommodate Ladd within 30 days or 10 games without having to clear again.
“We’ve got Ladd coming back,’ Lamoriello said. “We’ve also got a couple of players in the minors we feel are knocking on the door.”
The defense corps does have some youth with Ryan Pulock, 23, in his second season, potentially forming a top pair with Adam Pelech, 23.
Lamoriello said both Toews and Kovar were re-assigned in order to get them regular playing time.
“Right now, we’ve got four centers pretty well set,” Lamoriello said of Barzal, Brock Nelson, 26, Casey Cizikas, 27, and Filppula. “Toews is a young player and has the ability but it’s not going to hurt him at all. It’s going to help him. I had a great conversation with him yesterday. There are things he can work on and play a lot of minutes. A young player, especially a defenseman, should play a lot of minutes when they can.”