With regular season fast approaching, Barry Trotz will find himself having to make some tough decisions when it comes to the final roster for opening night. Whether it be countless playmaking forwards, or tough, hard-working blue liners, the Islanders are in a difficult spot.
When the Islanders look at their roster, Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello can identify their core. Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle headline the top-line, while the fourth-line will be back and better than ever and spending an offseason rehabbing. It is the outliers where questions begin to arise.
Forwards such as the infamous Joshua Ho-Sang and workhorse Michael Dal Colle could also find themselves in the line-up for home opener. Dominant newcomer Mason Jobst has been sent down, but he surely is NHL ready and will be in the NHL soon.
Dal Colle has heavily improved his slap-shot over the offseason and looks like a faster, more improved player. However, as improved as these players are, it is important to note that the Islanders have many forwards that could find themselves in a spot.
One of those players is Derick Brassard, the new addition that will surely take the third-line center role. He has found himself blending and working quite well with every single player he’s been lined up with. The depth for the forwards this year for the Islanders is deeper than ever, making the next series of cuts that much more interesting.
As with the forwards, the Islanders find themselves in the same predicament when it comes to their defensemen as well. Last year’s top, shutdown defensive pair of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, who kept Sidney Crosby to one point in the playoffs, have carried that momentum with them into this preseason as well, and fans can be sure to see them carrying their teamwork into the regular season as well.
Even Luca Sbisa, who often found himself scratched last season, has showed that he improved his game during the offseason too. Noah Dobson should also find himself earning a spot for opening night. Dobson, who got a little bit of time on the power-play against the Red Wings on Monday, easily proved that he could play at the National Hockey League level.
This causes an issue: Thomas Hickey. Hickey was injured quite often during the previous season playing sporadic games throughout the year. Due to his insufficient season last year, Hickey found himself struggling to learn the ways of his new coach.
Twenty-five-year-old Devon Toews took his spot, emerging as a top-defenseman for the Islanders. Thomas Hickey is too good of a player to find himself as an eighth defenseman, and this problem could determine the future of the blue-line: are the Islanders going to keep Thomas Hickey, or trade him?
The Islanders have found themselves on the winning side of this preseason. With a roster full of rookies, both offensive and defensive, the team is working well together. Trimming a roster down is going to be tough for the coaches. Here are my predictions for what Trotz will decide:
Scratches: Kuhnhackl, Dobson, Hickey