East Meadow, NY– The New York Islanders re-signed defenseman Samuel Bolduc to a two-year contract over the summer. More than two months into the season, they are still waiting for the return on their investment.
Now, with injuries depleting the Islanders’ blue line, the team’s decision-makers say it’s time for Bolduc to prove his worth.
“There’s no question this is his opportunity to show what he’s capable of doing,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “You can’t teach size, strength and sense. We just have to get him to be just a little more competitive, not that he’s not in certain areas. Now, it’s in his hands.”
Bolduc has had opportunities before. He made his NHL debut last season, playing in 19 games, plus two in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While there were flashes of Bolduc’s raw, natural ability, they were overshadowed by many more instances where he looked lost, overwhelmed and confused. In his own zone, he was more of a liability than an asset.
Even still, the Islanders had faith in the young defenseman. The contract they signed him to this summer is of the one-way variety, signaling their belief he’d compete for a starting role in training camp. Instead, Sebastian Aho easily won the competition. Since then, Bolduc has been relegated to a depth role.
Although he hasn’t played consistently, the role has allowed Bolduc to further develop in practice.
“For me, it’s just kind of getting confidence and trusting myself more,” Bolduc told NYI Hockey Now. “They’re telling me with every practice here that I’m getting more comfortable. Even if I haven’t played a lot, I still think I’ve improved.”
Practice is one thing, but the Islanders are looking for that progress to translate into games.
Many of Bolduc’s issues from last season, such as turning pucks over and bad reads on breakouts, are still well apparent, forcing Islanders head coach Lane Lambert to keep him on a short leash.
“There’s just a consistency that we need to see game in and a game out, regardless of whether he’s been sitting out or not,” Lambert said. “Once you get your opportunity, you have to be ready to go.”
With injuries knocking both Aho and Adam Pelech out of the lineup in recent days, Bolduc is getting another opportunity but it’s coming with another healthy dose of competition in the arrivals of Grant Hutton and Mike Reilly.
“We talked right from day one of training camp about internal competition,” Lambert said. “It should drive everyone to be better.”
So far, rather than stepping up to the competition, Bolduc has given way. If he does so again, there may not be another later on.
You know what they say about quality products; they don’t break easily.