The New York Islanders are back in COVID-19 hell, and in order for the Islanders and other NHL teams to combat the virus, taxi squads are back. The Islanders have three members on their taxi squad in defenseman Grant Hutton, and forwards Simon Holmstrom and Cole Bardreau.
Hutton Granted Another Chance
During the Islanders COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the season, Grant Hutton got an opportunity to play in five games at the NHL level.
He made his NHL debut the same night that UBS Arena made its.
— Ryan Coope (@Ryan_Coope) November 20, 2021
The majority of the 26-year old’s minutes came alongside defenseman Sebastian Aho. The two played 50:25 minutes together, and the results were quite good. The pair allowed just one goal against and 4.4 chances against per game. For two players that have limited NHL experience, it was impressive to see the two gel the way they did.
Despite not collecting a point in either of the five contests, Hutton recorded seven shots on goal, six blocked shots, and three hits. He was on the ice for just one goal against.
One area of Hutton’s game that he needs to work on is taking the smarter show or holding onto the puck rather than forcing it on goal. While he averaged 1.4 shots per game over the five-game span, six shots were blocked, with one sailing over the opposition’s net.
In 17 games in Bridgeport this season, Hutton has five goals and four assists with a plus/- of -5.
— Bridgeport Islanders (@AHLIslanders) December 23, 2021
The Islanders are currently missing just one member of the backend, in Ryan Pulock, who is back skating with no timetable for his return. With Sebastian Aho and Robin Salo getting minutes with the Islanders in his absence, playing time for the 26-year old Hutton will not be easy to come by.
Salo was a healthy scratch for Hutton at one point, but that was believed to be more of a wake-up call for Salo, despite how well Hutton has looked.
Simon Says Produce
Holmstrom, the 23rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, is getting his first crack in the NHL with this taxi squad edition. The 20-year is a great puck handler, who is hard to predict in the offensive zone.
He’s in his third season in North America and his game has grown drastically over time. He had 15 points (8G, 7A) in 46 games with Bridgeport back in 2019-20 and he’s already at that this season in just 28 games, with four goals and 11 assists.
Here was his first AHL goal, back in November of 2019.
ON THIS DAY: One year ago today, Simon Holmstrom scored his first North American goal…and it was a beauty 😍 pic.twitter.com/YGjMyRU9eS
— Bridgeport Islanders (@AHLIslanders) November 2, 2020
And even though his game is offensive-heavy, he does have a two-way game that is underrated.
During training camp, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz spoke about Holmstrom’s maturity, even at such a young age.
“I think he’s comfortable. He’s getting his strength,” Trotz said. “He’s been injury-free for a while now. I think that helps him his confidence, and you’re seeing the maturity in his game”.
Upon Holmstrom being sent down after a strong camp, Bridgeport general manager Chris Lamoriello stated, “He’s ready for more responsibility, and we’re willing to give it to him.”
To have Holmstrom up on the taxi squad says a lot about the belief the organization has in the player. With the Islanders down so many forwards as of now, Holmstrom very well could be making his NHL debut on Wednesday.
Cole Looks to Bard-reau Back
One of the highlights of the 2019-20 season was Cole Bardreau not only making his NHL debut, but also his first career NHL goal. It came via a penalty shot against Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 6, 2019
That goal came in Bardreau’s seventh game of his NHL career and went down as the eventual game-winner. The then 26-year old had waited a long time for the opportunity following years of injury, and it was a special moment.
Bardreau’s only NHL stint lasted 10 games, in which he picked up two points.
In those 10 games, Bardreau picked up six PIM and only won 39.58% of his face-offs.
With the Islanders only having nine forwards that are game-ready, this is a great opportunity for Bardreau to get more NHL minutes. In 10 games with Bridgeport this season, Bardreau has four goals and two assists.
At 28-years of age, Bardreau’s time to prove himself at the NHL level is coming to an end. But that does not mean he should not look to make the most of his minutes if he gets into the lineup.