A big theme as the Islanders prepared themselves for this 56-game sprint this season was the promising kids in the organization finally getting a chance to show what they’re made of. Because of the rule that all teams must abide by — having a the taxi squad of six extra players in case of COVID-19 cases — it seemed more realistic the Isles and coaching staff would experiment.
Six games in, the Islanders have yet to really let the kids loose. Only Kieffer Bellows, 22, has gotten a substantial amount of playing time. Bellows has appeared in five games and was slotted on the second line on Tuesday night with Anthony Beauvillier on IR.
The other forwards — Oliver Wahlstrom (20), Otto Koivula (22), Dymtro Timashov (25), and even to a further degree Austin Czarnik (27) — have been patiently waiting their turn to get into a game.
This has a lot of people frustrated. And it only has magnified throughout this particular week more because of the Islanders’ lack of offense, the ineffective play of several forwards, and how Tuesday’s loss to the Capitals unfolded.
Head coach Barry Trotz preached changes after the devastating defeat and called out his group in the process. So that really only leaves one option: playing the kids. It would be refreshing in a number of ways.
For one, allowing the kids a shot would shake things up and provide the spark this team is seeking.
Having Bellows and Wahlstrom in the same lineup or any combination of the names mentioned can provide energy. The Isles have lacked a lot of it the past two games.
Secondly, fans would get what they’ve been asking for. Isles fans only got a small taste of Wahlstrom early last year and saw the skill and shot he brings. This season was supposed to be his real introduction to the NHL.
But beyond Wahlstrom and Koivula in a sense — he too got some games in last year — the others making up the taxi squad only have been read about. There haven’t been awarded the opportunity yet to show whether they can make an impact.
Then there’s the dynamic that the kids provide options for Trotz. Because of what happened with Leo Komarov two nights ago, Trotz has choices to replace him. That too goes for Ross Johnston, who’s been stamped on to the Islanders’ third line since the season began.
The fact that those two play the wing — and most of the taxi squad is made up of wingers (Koivula plays both center and wing) — makes the decision a little easier of sorts.
Even this early in the season, the Islanders have reached a point where playing the kids might do more good than bad. Sure, to get into the lineup they need to show they can be trusted both with and without the puck. But right now they need something refreshing.
Playing the kids is it.
While the Isles are having troubles on the ice, the organization overall continues to make big leaps for the future. And it’s their soon-to-be-new home at UBS Arena which continues to bring that added level of excitement.
Yesterday it was reported that the club will have sold out of seats in the lower bowl of the building by the end of this month.
From The Hockey Writers James Nichols chat with Michael Consentino, the club’s Senior VP of Ticketing, Premium and Business Intelligence:
We have a term here that we like to use, and that’s ‘family. The family of our season ticket members, of our fanbase, are stepping up in a way that we knew was possible, but seeing it come to fruition was special.”