New York Islanders: Notes from Sunday’s practice

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders continued their training camp with another scrimmage yesterday. It was a “for real” scrimmage with the official game jersey’s given out to everyone participating. The teams were blue vs. white as always. The blue team’ forwards consisted of Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows, J.G. Pageau, Ross Johnston, Andrew Ladd, Otto Koivula, and Michael Dal Colle. The defenseman for the blue team: Nick Leddy, Scott Mayfield, Thomas Hickey, Bode Wilde, Sebastian Aho, and Grant Hutton. Semyon Varlamov was in between the pipes. Now, the forwards for the white team were: Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, the fourth line, A.J. Greer, Austin Cznarik, Leo Komarov, and Simon Holmstrom. The defensive lineup consisted of Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Andy Greene, Noah Dobson, Parker Wotherspoon, and Samuel Bolduc. Ilya Sorokin was the starting goalie. This scrimmage got very interesting.

Goals

Jordan Eberle opened up the scoring by putting one past Semyon Varlamov on the opening shift. J.G. Pageau would then respond with the equalizer after scoring in his favorite spot, the crease. This was the first goal that Ilya Sorokin allowed all camp. When it rains, it pours, Grant Hutton put another one past Ilya Sorokin on a rush. Next, Kieffer Bellows believed he scored to open up the third period on Ilya Sorokin. This goal would end up counting. Then, Oliver Wahlstrom would pop out of the penalty box and score on Ilya Sorokin. This would effectively win the game for the blue team. The final score was 4-1.

Notes

Samuel Bolduc had an all-around great day, he even dumped Beauvillier to the ice after spinning away from him. The third line of Pageau, Wahlstrom, and Bellows all scored goals today and played excellent defense. Don’t be surprised if that’s the opening night third line. Although Ilya Sorokin let in 4 goals yesterday, he played very well and stopped many other scoring chances. Do not panic, Islander fans, it’s just a scrimmage. Semyon Varlamov played great yesterday and stopped nearly everything that came his way. Varlamov will get the opening night start, but Sorokin could play on Saturday. Noah Dobson and Ryan Pulock have been playing on the same PP unit, most likely the squad for opening night. Also, Casey Cizikas was involved in a three-way collision with Thomas Hickey and Matt Martin, his status is trending upwards.

Extra Notes

Josh Ho-Sang and Mason Jobst were put on waivers yesterday. I believe this will effectively end Ho-Sang’s time with the Islanders. Though Thomas Hickey has had a good camp, he will most likely be traded. Look for the Islanders to try and pick up someone on waivers today. Barry Trotz has stated that Bode Wilde could become the next John Carlson which is great news. Finally, the Islanders only have two more skates left before January 14th.

New York Islanders: Reaction to Mat Barzal’s new contract

New York Islanders, Mat Barzal

The day all New York Islander fans have been waiting for is here. Franchise center Mat Barzal has finally re-signed. It’s been months of questions, and none of these questions have been answered until today.

Barzal signs a 3-year deal worth $7 million dollars per. It’s a bridge deal, which everyone expected, and it ends in 2023 when the Isles are out of cap trouble. Barzal’s contract breakdown reads as such: $3 million dollars in 2021 plus an extra $1 million dollars for signing. $7 million dollars in 2022, and $10 million dollars in 2023. Barzal has missed 4 days of training camp so far. Will, the lack of preparation hurt Mat Barzal’s performance?

Barzal’s Preparation

Mat Barzal is a professional Hockey player. Do you really think he wouldn’t be prepared to play? Barzal has been skating with former Islanders, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk. Along with current Islander, Tom Kuhnhackl. Barzal was also skating around with different NHL players before training camp began.

When people prepared for something the way Barzal has, they care about that something. Mat Barzal stated in an interview today that he loves Long Island and never thought about going anywhere else. He also stated that the negotiations were very fair for both sides, and he knows he has to work on his consistency.

Barzal’s Performance

My coach, Matt Johnson, also said, “big players make big plays in big-time games.” Well, today wasn’t a big-time game, but Barzal made some big plays. In just two shifts, Barzal managed to score two goals and make Noah Dobson look lost. There’s no denying the talent that Barzal possesses, but there definitely was some concern about performance after missing four training camp days. It’s time to put those rumors to rest; Barzal looks perfectly fine. All he has to do is back check better, and the long term deal with the Isles he wants will be on the table in 2023.

New York Islanders: Tom Kuhnhackl signs a PTO

New York Islanders, Tom Kuhnhackl

The New York Islanders have successfully retained another one of their free agents not named Mat Barzal. Yesterday, it was reported that Tom Kuhnhackl was on the training camp roster. But, just like his teammate Mat Barzal, Kuhnhackl did not take the ice. This was either due to the fact that he didn’t sign a contract yet or his shoulder wasn’t ready to go.

It seems as if it was the second reason as the Islanders announced that Kuhnhackl signed a PTO. What is a PTO? It’s basically a professional tryout, it’s what Mike Hoffman signed last week with the St. Louis Blues. In the case of the Isles, Kuhnhackl signed a PTO because they need to sign Barzal first. Then they will use the rest of their money to sign Kuhnhackl. What does Kuhnhackl bring to the Islanders?

Great Forechecking

Tom Kuhnhackl never played better Hockey than when the Isles played the Panthers in the play-in round. His forechecking was outstanding, the third line was the best line in that series for this reason. They gave the opposition absolutely no time to get settled and set up a play. Kuhnhackl created a couple of goals based on his board play in the offensive zone. Kuhnhackl always gives his all in every single game, and this team needs more of that effort. I believe that Kuhnhackl could definitely take that Left-Wing spot on the third line once again.

Leadership

The Islanders don’t need more veterans who can teach the young guns, but that’s what Kuhnhackl is. Kuhnhackl is a winner, he won 2 Stanley Cups in back to back years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact, Kuhnhackl has never missed the playoffs in his NHL career. Kuhnhackl brings a winning mentality and knows how to get it done in the playoffs.

New York Islanders: Matt Martin Signs New Contract

New York Islanders, Matt Martin

Longtime New York Islanders enforcer Matt Martin has just signed a new deal to stay with the team. The deal is worth $1.5 million dollars over 4 years. A long deal, but this will certainly keep Martin in town for the rest of his career. This deal is beautiful if you truly know what the 4th line brings to this team. There are several implications for the team’s plan going into the future with this contract. So, what does Matt Martin’s new contract mean for the Islanders?

Ross Johnston’s Future

Ross Johnston was signed to a four-year deal worth $1 million dollars a year recently. Martin has also been re-signed for four years, so what does this mean for Ross Johnston? I believe this is basically the end for him on the Islanders. I will forever standby the fact that Martin is a better Hockey player than Johnston. When you need someone to apply pressure and maybe score, you put in Martin. When you need an enforcer who can just beat people up, you put in Johnston.

This is the NHL, not the UFC. Playing good Hockey is way more important than beating up the other team and taking penalties.

Other Players’ Contracts

Thomas Kuhnhackl, Andy Greene, Corey Schnieder, and Mat Barzal all still need new contracts. Corey Schneider will probably sign the 1 year, $700k deal that he was reported to sign in October.

Andy Greene will most likely also sign for an amount around that. I would say a deal around 1 year worth $850k.

Mat Barzal will take almost all of the remaining cap space left with about $800k left for Kuhnhackl. Johnny Boychuk must officially retire first for all this to work, I don’t know what’s the holdup though. And Dmytro Timashov’s new deal is still waiting to be announced. Don’t worry Isles fans, they will resign Barzal soon.

New York Islanders: Mat Barzal contract negotiation update

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

New York Islanders training camp started today, and to everyone’s surprise, they still haven’t re-signed franchise center Mat Barzal. Contract negotiations resumed just last week after the all the dates were announced. Regardless of this, Barzal could sign any day now. General manager Lou Lamoriello and fellow Islanders’ teammates believe that Barzal will sign within the coming days.

Mat Barzal is currently on Long Island and is quarantining in hopes of joining his team immediately after signing his contract. Everyone around the Isles are confident in Barzal’s new contract, but the terms of the deal have not been finalized.

When I think about this contract, I look at similar players around the league. Players like Mitch Marner and Pierre-Luc Dubois. These elite players got bridge deals after holding out for many, many months. Mat Barzal is no exception to this trend. Barzal is 100% looking at a 2-3 year deal. This helps both sides. The Islanders get time to resign all their guys like Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, and Ilya Sorokin to long term deals. While Barzal can earn even more for a longer period of time-based on his play for the next few years. A bridge deal is the only deal in play here.

Amount

Excuse me if I sound like a broken record here, but the Islanders don’t have a ton of salary cap. The terms of Matt Martin’s contract has not come out yet. The same thing goes for Andy Greene.

I assume it’s either the league minimum or very close to it. So, this leaves the Islanders with about $7.5 million dollars left to sign their franchise center. This is probably not enough to sign Barzal. But Lou Lamoriello can just send someone down or put Andrew Ladd on LTIR and solve this cap space issue. I believe the deal will come in at around $8.5-$9 million dollars. So, my final prediction for Mat Barzal’s new contract is 3 years worth $8.7 million a year.

New York Islanders: Why the Islanders missed out on top free agents

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders yet again missed out on another top tier free agent for what seems like the 20th year in a row. This time, it’s not because of poor team success or lack of an actual home stadium. No, this time there was a different reason for why the Isles couldn’t sign a top guy.

Mike Hoffman would’ve helped out the Islanders scoring situation tremendously. The same goes for Anthony Duclair and even Andreas Athanasiou. But, there’s no reason to look at the past and say who the Isles should’ve signed. There is one key reason why the Islanders couldn’t sign anyone of importance. It was a waiting game, and the season was announced before a key person was signed.

Mat Barzal

The Islanders couldn’t make a single move until their top guy actually re-signed. And as everyone knows, Mat Barzal still doesn’t have a contract. The Islanders weren’t going to make a move that took up a bunch of cap space until Barzal signed.

I’ve seen a bunch of people call for Lou Lamoriello’s head because he couldn’t sign Duclair for $1 million dollars. The Islanders aren’t loaded with cap space, every dollar counts for this team. The Isles only have around $9.5 million in cap space left, and their franchise guy hasn’t even signed yet.

Also, they still have deals for Matt Martin, Corey Schneider, and Andy Greene that still have to be made official. So, it’s not like the Islanders can just sign anyone they feel like. This isn’t NHL 21 connected franchise mode, there’s no option to play without a salary cap.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Michael Dal Colle

Michael Dal Colle, New york Islanders

The New York Islanders took Michael Dal Colle with the 5th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Dal Colle absolutely ripped up the OHL. He even put up 93 points the year he was drafted. There’s an old expression to explain Dal Colle’s current play, “life comes at you fast.”

It’s safe to say Michael Dal Colle is a complete bust and will never pan out to be the top 5 pick that the Islanders thought he was. But, this doesn’t mean he can’t serve a big purpose on the team. What are the expectations for Michael Dal Colle during the 2020-2021 season?

Become a Top 9 Forward

Michael Dal Colle should have a few goals in mind this year, but this one is the biggest for him. Dal Colle must beat out Leo Komarov or Andrew Ladd for the final forward spot. Every Islander fan knows there are just two forward spots up for grabs this year.

One is the left-wing on the third line, and the other one is the right-wing on the third line. I assume Kieffer Bellows or Oliver Wahlstrom will take the right-wing spot. This leaves the left-wing spot in play for anyone to take it. Dal Colle must take this spot, it will boost his career momentum a ton.

Join the PK Unit

Everyone knows that Dal Colle only still has a spot because of his defensive play. This fact just makes it stranger that Dal Colle isn’t on the penalty kill. I don’t know if it’s the fact that Barry Trotz just doesn’t trust him enough or that there are millions of better players than him. But, this should be one of Dal Colle’s major goals this season. He needs to join the penalty kill unit. If he can prove his worth on this unit, he can surely make another team when his contract ends.

New York Islanders: Projecting the line for Opening Night

New York Islanders

The NHL has agreed to resume play on January 13th, that’s not too far from now. And the New York Islanders lineup still has a ton of questions left to be answered. Questions such as, who will be on the third line? What will the defensive lines look like without Devon Toews? Will Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows make the cut? These are the questions that go through the head of every Islanders fan daily. So, what will the lines look like when the Islanders take the ice next?

First Line

I don’t think this line will change that much. Jordan Eberle had a down year last year and looks out of place sometimes, but there’s no one to take him down a line. The first line is going to be Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, and Jordan Eberle for at least one more year. When all three of these forwards are on their game, it’s hard to slow them down. Yes, I believe Mat Barzal will be signed within the coming weeks. The contract negotiations just resumed between the two sides the other day. As for the defense, it’s going to be Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. No shockers here.

Second Line

During the playoffs, the Islanders had the best second line in Hockey. The combination of Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, and Anthony Beauvillier was dangerous. These 3 have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen in Hockey. There’s no way you can break this line up. It just wouldn’t make sense to do that. Now, for the defense, Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield will man the second line. The only reason not putting Noah Dobson on this line for Leddy is not wanting two guys with the same shooting hand. I still think you can get around this, but no one really knows Dobson’s abilities.

Third Line

There’s only one guy on this line who I know will actually be here. J.G. Pageau will be the third line center, and he’s not a third-line guy. Pageau plays like a top 6 forward, and if the Islanders didn’t have Nelson or Barzal, he would be in the top 6. On the left-wing of Pageau, I have Leo Komarov. Leo Komarov is a grinder, and Barry Trotz loves his grinders. On the right-wing of Pageau, I have Kieffer Bellows. I understand Bellows shoots left-handed, but he’s waited a long time for this opportunity, I don’t think he can let this one slip away. Very easy to see Oliver Wahlstrom take this spot, though. The bottom pairing for the defense is none other than Noah Dobson and Andy Greene. Greene will most likely retire after this year, but not before transferring all his knowledge to Dobson.

Fourth Line

Albert Einstein was called one of the smartest men on Earth when he discovered the equation: E=mc^2. Barry Trotz is called one of the best coaches in Hockey for keeping Martin, Clutterbuck, and Cizikas together. These three play their best Hockey when they’re together. Though they may be older and slower than they once were, they still get the job done. I don’t see Ross Johnston taking anyone’s spot for a long time.

Goalies

I think it’s pretty obvious who will be in net this year. It’s going to be the duo of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, and I think every Islander fan already knew this.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Semyon Varlamov

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders signed goalie Semyon Varlamov to a 4-year deal in free agency last year. Varlamov proved to everyone that his 2013-14 Vezina Trophy finalist season wasn’t a fluke. Varlamov recorded 19 wins, a .914 save percentage, and a 2.62 GAA in 39 games started.

In the playoffs, Varlamov would continue to shine with the Islanders as he single-handily won them a couple of games. Former Islanders’ goalie Thomas Greiss obviously held down a couple of wins too. Greiss relieved a lot of pressure off of Varlamov all season long. But, Thomas Greiss is in Detroit now, and rookie Ilya Sorokin takes the backup slot. There are some big expectations for the Islanders’ star goalie going into the 2020-2021 season.

Top 10 Goalie

The Islanders are not a team that can put up four goals every night and wins just off of firepower alone. They win off of their defensive schemes and good goalie play. If the Islanders want to make another deep playoff run, Semyon Varlamov must take another leap.

Varlamov might be 32 years old, but maybe you can still teach an old dog new tricks. I believe the stats Varlamov needs for him to be considered a top 10 goalie reads as follows. He needs under a 2.55 GAA, with a .917 save percentage. I assume he will play over half the 56 games during this season as well. If he plays 31/56 games with those aforementioned stats, he will be a top 10 goalie.

Mentoring Ilya Sorokin Correctly

How would one even measure if Varlamov’s teachings affect Sorokin’s’ playing abilities? “That’s another dumb point, all you make is dumb points.” Marc-Andre Fleury mentored Matt Murray, and the Penguins won 2 Stanley Cups in 3 years because of that.

Ben Bishop mentored Andrei Vasilevski, and Vasilevski has been a top 3 goalie for the past 5 years. Braden Holtby mentored Ilya Samsonov, and now Samsonov is one of the top young goalies in the league. If Semyon Varlamov can mentor Ilya Sorokin in the same ways that these guys did for their backups, the Islanders will win a Stanley Cup soon. There is no doubt in my mind about this at all. I expect Varlamov to do this successfully.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Samuel Bolduc for the 2021 season

The New York Islanders drafted defenseman Samuel Bolduc in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, the 6’4 defenseman has been tearing up the QMJHL. Bolduc played in 61 games last year and recorded 11 goals and 32 assists for a total of 43 points. His +/- was great too, coming in at a +13, that stat doesn’t really matter, though.

Bolduc, who is now 20 years old, will have a shot to prove his worth in the minors. And I believe that he will surprise many and become the next “guy” for the Islanders. What are the expectations for Samuel Bolduc for the upcoming season?

Role

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bolduc will be on the top pairing in Bridgeport by the end of the year. Brent Thompson might be a terrible coach, but it’s hard to misjudge a guy like Bolduc. Samuel Bolduc is a big defender, and that’s exactly what the Islanders need. But there’s no way Bolduc gets pulled up this year. He’s not beating out Noah Dobson, Nick Leddy, Andy Greene, or Sebastian Aho.

Islander fans will have to wait at least two more years for him to be truly ready. I still think Bolduc plays well in his first year at Bridgeport. The kid has been pretty much dominant at every level so far. I have high hopes for the Islanders’ 2019 second-round draft pick.

Scouting Report

All I’ve done so far is praise Samuel Bolduc, but I’ve stated no evidence to back this praise up. Bolduc has an absolute cannon of a slapshot, and he relies on it a lot. It’s nowhere close to what Ryan Pulock does, but it’s still a heat-seeking missile. Bolduc should use his wrist shot a bit more often, it would confuse defenders for sure. Sometimes Bolduc is really great with his breakout passes, sometimes he’s a mess. That’s something that has to be cleaned up, you can’t play at the next level and make those mistakes. I think Bolduc could use his body a bit more, he’s a big guy, and he needs to throw his weight around. His skating could also be better and his decision making. Most of these unwanted qualities will be fixed before Bolduc hits the NHL ice. Mark my words, Samuel Bolduc will become a top 4 defenseman.