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EXCLUSIVE: Bridgeport GM Chris Lamoriello Explains Call-Up Process, Team Evaluation

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New York Islanders, Bridgeport Islanders. William Dufour
Bridgeport Islanders (Photo courtesy of Bridgeport Islanders Instagram)

After advancing past the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2022, for the first time since 2003, the Bridgeport Islanders have come out flying in 2022-23. The Bridgeport Islanders have a record of 12-3-4-0 through 19 games, good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division.

In an exclusive interview with NYI Hockey Now, Bridgeport Islanders general manager Chris Lamoriello spoke with our Joshua Linsenberg to discuss what went into the recent New York Islanders call-ups, the process, his evaluation of his AHL team so far this season, and more.

Transaction Madness

Within these 19 games, there has been a lot of movement. Recently with injuries to three New York Islanders, three players have been recalled from Bridgeport in Simon Holmstrom back on Nov. 21 before Hudson Fasching and Cole Bardeau were recalled on Thursday.

“I think there’s a lot that goes into every decision, and I think that’s something we’ve made sure that we stay very current with,” Lamoriello said. “We take our time each day to make sure that we know exactly where we are as best as we can. I think this situation developed very quickly, and I think that the two recalls were made with the primary focus on how they would be integrated into the lineup with what the lineup was missing.”

“So I think it’s there’s a lot of depth to any decision, and I think that the fit was important, and I think that both Hudson [Fasching] and Cole [Bardreau] provide the fit that’s needed at the time.”

Bardreau has five goals and four assists in 19 games with Bridgeport this season, playing a fourth-line role for head coach Brent Thompson while Fasching has seven goals and four assists in 18 games this season in a top-six role.

Why Räty Missed Wednesday’s Game

Before Wednesday night, Aatu Räty had played every game this season for the Bridgeport Islanders. When the Providence Bruins visited Total Mortgage Arena that night, Räty was not on the ice. This had Islanders fans coming up with all different theories.

Well, the theories can be put to rest now as the 20-year-old was out with a non-COVID-related illness.

“It was a health-related reason. He was not a healthy scratch. We do expect him to be quickly back with the team. He was feeling a little bit under the weather. It’s a non-COVID related matter,” Lamoriello said.

In 18 games, the rookie forward has four goals and four assists.

Chris Lamoriello on Simon Holmström

Since the Swedish native was drafted back in 2019 at no. 23, Simon Homström had spent 153 games in the American Hockey League (AHL), racking up 27 goals and 43 assists throughout four seasons.

On November 24th, Holmström took his rookie lap with the New York Islanders at UBS Arena and took on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in a first-line role alongside Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom.

But when did Chris Lamoriello know the 21-year-old was ready for the NHL?

It started last season, according to the Bridgeport Islanders’ general manager.

“I think last year when Bridgeport really started to collect its roster and have some stability, I think all the players were in a position to start to grow, and Simon’s second half of the season was very strong,” Lamoriello said.  “He got very comfortable in the role. Brent Thompson has done a great job with him. He’s been used on the penalty kill, on the power play, and he’s been able to see some different positioning.”

“He settled in on the wing right now, particularly on the left side, and I think he carried that through the playoffs.”

In four NHL games, Holmstrom has an assist, and a few takeaways, as his ability to play along the boards in all zones, has been the standout.

“I think everything over the last six, seven months here, [we] just continued to support him, and fortunate enough for him, the timing came about in the last week or so,” Lamoriello said. “And he was excited, he was prepared, and certainly for me, it’s been nice to see him grow over the last number of years and have this opportunity and do well with it.”

Chris Lamoriello’s Viewpoint on Handling Players

A good training camp sets the tone for a great season, and Chris Lamoriello was impressed by the tone set by new and returning players.

“We thought the training camp was top to bottom great, whether it was our oldest player or youngest player, and that includes some of the players that we returned back to junior,” Lamoriello said. “We felt very good about the way the camp went. And I think to the player’s credit, all of the new players that came in, whether they were young or experienced, really to the coaching staff’s credit at both levels, were able to get these players comfortable quickly, and I think there was excitement.”

New York Islanders AHL rookie William Dufour was benched for a game last month. Lamoriello spoke on when situations like these arise and how he views it from a GM standpoint.

“What you try and do is you make sure that each player, no matter whether they’re a young player or an older player, they’re put in the best position to succeed, and sometimes you need to take some pressure off a player,” Lamoriello said. “When I say pressure, it could be the workload. It may not necessarily be anything other than that, and when you’ve got, I think, the type of depth that we’re fortunate to have right now, the coaching staff can use that to their advantage.”

Chris Lamoriello on Samuel Bolduc’s Boldness After Injury

For 2019 second-round selection Samuel Bolduc, an injury early in 2021-22 derailed his second season in Bridgeport, as he only played in 57 games with just two goals and five assists.

But in 2022-23, Bolduc has bounced back as he has three goals and 15 assists in 19 games for Bridgeport and is a leader and a reliable option on the backend.

Chris Lamoriello had this to say regarding what he has seen from the 21-year-old defenseman’s comeback:

“Yeah, he had a tough start last year, no question, and I think the toughest thing for a player, I mean, he did not participate in any training camp. Finally, got back to Bridgeport and not long after that was out, I think, another four weeks basically,” Lamoriello said. “You know, being on the COVID protocol list, and then it was just a matter of him trying to play catch up all year. So I don’t want to see say that he’s exceeded expectations, but it’s certainly great to see him, even though he had a little bit of a minor hiccup in training camp. He missed a few days.”

“It’s great to see him healthy. It’s great to see him a year older, wiser. His first year, we only played 24 games with that COVID-shortened season after the initial disruption of the season. We’re most satisfied that he’s been in a position to fully participate and really start to build his foundation and take advantage of his talent. I think that’s something that is very easy to recognize, that he’s a very talented player and he’s a good kid. He’s an intelligent player, and we’re just looking forward to to continue the process with him.”

Next up: The Bridgeport Islanders take on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins on Saturday at 6:05 eastern.

 

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