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Could Strong Camp From Kieffer Bellows Change the Islanders Roster Plans?

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Kieffer Bellows

It’s not too often that Mathew Barzal is the veteran on the ice, but that’s how it felt when he found himself in the middle of Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows over the weekend.

For the latter of the two, Saturday’s game was another showcase of the player that he’s trying to and potentially could be. For the other, it was an afternoon to try and turn his training camp around.

Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom are the New York Islanders’ two most promising forwards, though they seem to be trending in different directions to start the year. On Friday, head coach Barry Trotz made the somewhat surprising comment that Wahlstrom wasn’t having his best camp.

On the flip side of that, Bellows has been playing like he wants a starting job right out of training camp. In fact had one of his best outings in recent memory in Bridgeport on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.

Taking advantage of his time on the top line with Barzal and Kyle Palmieri, Bellows scored on a two-on-one rush in the first period and then had a handful of other scoring opportunities. It was hard not to notice the 21-year-old when he was on the ice because of how much of a force he became.

“Obviously his shot is just super lethal,” Barzal said on Monday after practice. “He can get it off wherever and I thought he did a great job just winning battles, and moving the puck. Getting me the puck in spots I like and I thought overall he had a super strong game. He looked really good.”

Considering the uncertainty around Bellows before camp, the Islanders have to be ecstatic about the camp he’s had to date. Bellows has battled and has made a strong case to stay with the Islanders.

That’s not to say Wahlstrom hasn’t, and he did play well on Saturday too.

However, considering the circumstance the Islanders find themselves in with regard to roster space, Wahlstrom could find himself in a bit of a tight spot. The Islanders have a number of players that need to go through waivers to be sent down to AHL Bridgeport.

Bellows is among them. Wahlstrom is not.

And it isn’t hard to figure out that Bellows would garner plenty of attention on the waiver wire. The possibility of Wahlstrom being the odd man out was never off the table, even before training camp started, but the likelihood of it never seemed to be that high.

Trotz noted the inconsistency that he had seen in Wahlstrom’s game. At some points, the Islanders head coach watched as Wahlstrom tried to do too much and other times there were plays he could have made, but didn’t.

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“I don’t have any issues with Wahlly,” Trotz said. “Wahlly is going to get there, but I would say he hasn’t had his best camp so far.”

The door has been left open for Kieffer Bellows to push through. With three preseason games left and less than 10 days until opening night, he has given himself as good a chance as any to make the roster.

“You try to prove yourself every single day, but for me personally I think every single day I’ve gotten better and better,” Bellows said. “I’ve just been pushing myself to get better and better every single day. I’m just trying to prove to them here that I want to stay here and that I deserve to stay here.”

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