After five long months, the New York Islanders are returning to the ice as the team opens its training camp today in preparation for the year ahead.
As they do, there are still questions about the Islanders that are yet to be answered before dropping the puck on Oct. 14 to open the season.
Will Bo Horvat and Mat Barzal Find Their Chemistry Again?
Adding Horvat prior to last year’s trade deadline seemed to usher in a new era for the Islanders as he and Barzal instantly found chemistry together. Barzal’s lower-body injury cut his regular season short and left Horvat’s production to wain down the stretch.
Both players have said they’ve overcome obstacles this summer and are ready to contribute to the team this season, but will they be able to pick up where they left off?
With this year marking the start of their new contracts, they’ll need to, or the Islanders will have overpaid on a major investment.
Is there still reason to believe in Oliver Wahlstrom?
The opening of training camp marks the first time Oliver Wahlstrom skates with his Islanders teammates since going down with a lower-body injury last December.
The young forward struggled with inconsistency, and it’s not going to be easier after not playing in an NHL game in over 10 months.
Who replaces Zach Parise?
Some might say Zach Parise is irreplaceable, but the Islanders will need to find someone to fill his place in the lineup after it was announced the 18-year veteran isn’t returning to the team to start the season.
Heading into camp, there are two players who will definitely be gunning for that spot, and others who could be considered dark horses.
Wahsltrom is my heavy favorite to win the job but it will be his to lose.
If the Islanders decide early on that Wahlstrom isn’t the man for the job, their other option is Julien Gauthier, who signed a two-year contract to join the Islanders this offseason.
Meanwhile, neither Simon Holmström nor William Dufour should be completely ruled out either. Both impressed this past week during rookie development camp and made it clear they intend to make a push for the big club.
Will it be Aho or Bolduc on the left side?
When Romanov eventually does return, it will lead to a choice having to be made between Bolduc or Sebastian Aho sticking in the lineup.
Aho proved he could contribute for the Islanders while getting the majority of playing time on the left side of their third defense pair in 2022-23.
However, it feels as if his job isn’t completely secure entering this season, as the young Bolduc also made major strides in his development last year and earned a new two-year, one-way contract as a restricted free agent during the offseason.
With Aho set to hit the open market at the end of the year, the Islanders may already have his replacement in-house.
What will be done to fix the power play?
Despite being the NHL’s third-worst team on the man advantage a year ago, the Islanders didn’t make a single move this offseason that’s expected to help them improve this season, whether it be on the ice or behind the bench.
Seeing what tactical changes head coach Lane Lambert employs will prove whether or not the team’s power play will be worth watching this year, or if it’ll be a good time for a bathroom break every time an opposing player is sent to the penalty box.