It seemed all but fitting that the New York Islanders lost one of their top defensemen at the end of a 13-game road trip that ended on a sour four-game losing streak. Now without Ryan Pulock for at least the next month the Islanders will have to find a way to survive a tough upcoming portion of their schedule.
New York’s blue line had already been struggling before Wednesday’s news, but now it could become dire without the team’s ice time leader. The Islanders went through a similar situation during the 2019-20 season when Pulock’s counterpart Adam Pelech was sidelined with a season-ending injury on Jan. 2, 2020.
At the time the New York Islanders had been cruising to the playoffs, but their fortunes quickly turned as the team struggled to fill the hole that Pelech left. Now the Islanders will have to try and triage the loss of Pulock, this time with the team off to a surprising 5-6-2 start to the year.
The Islanders could very well bump up their timeline to make a trade, but with four games on the horizon, which includes a back-to-back this weekend, the short-term solution will have to come from within the organization.
This may be the likeliest scenario as of right now. Salo was suspiciously absent from the Bridgeport Islanders lineup on Wednesday when they faced the Hartford Wolf Pack. He is 15 games into his career in North America, but Salo has already made an impact.
— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) November 17, 2021
He currently has eight points (two goals, six assists) which is tied for 10th in scoring among all AHL defensemen this season. Salo has already shown that he can make smart decisions with the puck and read plays well in the AHL. His speed and ability to jump into the play could also be a benefit to the NHL Islanders, who have only had one defenseman find the back of the net this season.
The way Salo had already been playing in the AHL and the strong camp he had in September signaled he might have ended up on Long Island at some point this season, but now he may be the Isles’ best option at the moment. The New York Islanders will practice at UBS Arena on Thursday and it’s likely that Salo will be among the group that is on the ice.
Just in case it had slipped your mind, Thomas Hickey is still a member of the New York Islanders organization. Hickey has played the year down in Bridgeport and after a scary incident early in the year when he caught a skate to the face, he has been in seven of Bridgeport’s first 14 games. Hickey was also in the AHL Islanders lineup on Wednesday against Hartford.
Hickey had been an NHL regular with the New York Islanders at one point in his career, but after an injury during the 2018-19 season, he saw his spot taken by then youngster Devon Toews. He has appeared in just five NHL games since then.
Hickey isn’t a flashy defenseman, but would be a solid short-term solution for the Islanders should they go that route right now.
Another defensive prospect in the Isles organization, Hutton is a right-handed defenseman that could play in Pulock’s spot, but likely would be an option as a third-pair defenseman. Hutton has size and is 10 games into his second full AHL season.
He has been able to find the back of the net twice this season for the Baby Islanders and his two goals are tied with Salo for the most among Bridgeport defensemen.
Reading the tea leaves here, similar to Hickey, Hutton was on the ice Wednesday night in Hartford.