When the Islanders made the decision to trade Czerkawski and not resign Kip Miller over the summer, it was clear that a free agent would have to be signed or a prospect would have to step in and win a job to replace these spots on the right wing. With the teams payroll close to forty million dollars and the free agent market a hit or miss proposition with many players asking for above-market value, it was a direction the team decided not to go in. Many successful teams can build from within and with the prospects in the Islanders system, it was about time to see if someone can win a position because they have had some time in the minor leagues.
So it’s been two weeks and two preseason games and to date, no one has won a spot, is it still early ?
Absolutely. Going in the teams camp we knew decisions were going to be made based on scrimmages and practices against other prospects in the organization in Lake Placid and not things the public may see with teams playing a longer exhibition schedule. And they are playing exhibition games against teams that are more acclimated to the new rules because they have played several more games.
What do we know ?
Anyone who has followed the team thru Lake Placid and the preseason games have read about each prospect having some productive scrimmages, but the proof is in the lineups and at this point Justin Mapletoft and Martin Chabada have made the best impression to date with the staff and have played in the exhibition games with the Islanders. Oleg Kvasha, for the first time under Peter Laviolette was moved to the right wing to play alongside Yashin in Boston. Chabada has gotten opportunities to play alongside Yashin as well.
No cuts have been announced at this time. Trent Hunter, Mattias Weinhandl, Jurak Kolnik, Raffi Torres and Rick DiPietro did return to Long Island even thought they played for Bridgeport on Saturday against Providence after the Islanders and Boston finished their game in the same building.
Ray Schultz/Tomi Pettinen are in contention for the seventh defenders spot if the Isles carry seven defenders.
We also know the staff is not handing out jobs to prospects, whatever is won will have to be earned.
So what parameters are the Islanders using in their staff meetings ?
No doubt the staff is looking for a right wing who can score, but that is really one facet and you can bet many of the things on my list below are part of the parameters the Islanders are talking about when discussing who is best suited to fill the opening based on what they have seen.
A basic list includes the following for starters:
1. Ability to skate at this level.
2. Ability to play defense at this level.
3. Ability to adapt to the speed of the NHL game.
4. Ability to be physical enough to play at this level.
5. Ability to play with maturity and composure under on-ice adversity.
6. Ability to step in and contribute whenever asked.
6. Ability to incorporate given skills and talents into the above list.
As of this writing I have not seen a Chabada or a Weinhandl play. I will not give personal opinions on who is most ready at this time, were still learning about all of these players.
I will repeat what has been said to a degree and incorporate it with how they have been used.
With such a limited amount of info and game play, this can only be an overview and in a few days things may have changed again.
As of this point he is not giving Peter Laviolette a reason to send him down, which is exactly how a player makes an NHL team.
Justin is a standout and has a maturity about his game and what he is trying to do.
For now, he has been playing the fourth line center’s position in the preseason games.
The fact the team has not moved him to the right wing position which is where the most competition is, and the seemingly set fourth line the Islanders have would seem to indicate he is getting a longer look in a position where they are set at present.
Dave Scatchard’s strong camp and early preseason may make him the replacement for Michael Peca and create an opening for Mapletoft in the checking role. With Jason Wiemer and several players who could fill the spot, and the return of Michael Peca at some point a spot will have to be made for Mapletoft to make the team.
Martin has kind of flown under the radar as an eighth round pick and a veteran. What brings him into the competition is he can play both wings and has scored some goals with Yashin. He also plays a very rugged style at a high energy the Islanders are looking for and is a veteran. In Boston, he was listed on the third line and was credited with a goal Boston put into it’s own net.
With Asham, Wiemer and several forwards who play the gritty style, Chabada needs to put up goals and points to standout enough to make the team. He was able to do this in Europe last season, it’s going to take some time to see if he can do it consistently at this level. There does not seem to be a spot for him on left wing.
Did make a good impression in the teams camp with his skills and as advertised, he makes his own chances. Based on how he has been used, it seems he has not been as consistent as the Islanders would have liked but at this age and with a lot of things to adjust to, it will take some time.
Seems like the player the Islanders wanted to give the inside track to when they let made the changes they did based on last season, but this is a player who was never called up until injuries required it in the playoffs. The one thing that always held him back was his skating but was moving like an NHL player last spring.
Peter Laviolette has asked for more consistency from Hunter and clearly the pressure is on because of last years expectations, it’s very early and this does not happen overnight. He may have to build to the level he was in the second half of last season in Bridgeport and confidence is a very big factor. He could win the job outright or it may take longer or a full season.
By everything written, Raffi has been involved worked very hard and has been productive. He scored a preseason hat-trick with the Sound Tigers. There seems to be enough depth on the left wing for the staff to be patient. For now, he will play another preseason game with the Islanders so the chance is there to make an impression. As the Islanders highest drafted forward prospect, if he shows signs he is ready, he should not be held back much longer.
Juraj has kind of flown under the radar thru the preseason without much written about his game. Given the opening for a scorer on right wing, and his skills, this would seem like the right player at the right time. To date he does not seem in the mix for that role. He was called up and should see one of the two home preseason games. He has also continued to alternated between the left and right wings.
Has been injured since the end of camp, finally returned and played in Bridgeport’s game with Providence. Was with the Islanders and will play against New Jersey, but unlikely to unseat Osgood or Snow this season.
In the end we will have our answers in the next few days, the waiver list the Islanders submit may also give us an idea of who wins the jobs available.
Marcus Paulsson was returned to his junior team.
Brandon Smith has an injury that will sideline him up to a month.