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New York Islanders

Training Camp: 3 Group Structure, 3 Biggest Questions



New York Islanders, Lane Lambert
New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert (Photo-via New York Islanders Instagram)

It’s that time again, folks. New York Islanders training camp began on Wednesday, with Thursday being the first on-ice portion at Northwell Ice Center in East Meadow, NY.

At the organization’s 14th annual golf outing, we caught up with New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, who explained how training camp would run this year.

“The way that camp will go is…we have physicals and they’ll have a day off. And then we’ll get into three teams, three separate groups, and we’ll go for three days there,” Lamoriello said.  “Basically take the [next] day off and we have two games.”

“Everybody in the camp will get a minimum of one game and one scrimmage or two scrimmages. So they’ll have three full days of practice intermingling with the veterans. And then we’ll have you know, as we know, back to back games, so we’ll have two squads. And no one will play two games in a row.”

Lamoriello continued:

“And when they’re not playing, they will be in a game scrimmage that day. So they’ll have an opportunity to expose themselves as far as you know where they are at this point.”

We will find out what the training camp roster will be when we enter the practice rink on Thursday morning.

Here is the New York Islanders preseason schedule, which kicks off Monday, Sept. 26 at Madison Square Garden:

GM 1: Sept. 26 at NYR, 7 PM

GM 2: Sept. 27 at NJD, 7 PM

GM 3: Oct. 2 vs. PHI, 7 PM

GM 4: Oct. 4 at PHI, 7 PM

GM 5: Oct. 6 vs NJD, 7 PM 

GM 6: Oct. 8 vs. NYR, 7 PM

How much of a chance does Aatu Räty and William Dufour Have of Making the Roster?

This is the biggest question it seems that New York Islanders fans want to know heading into training camp. What’s the likelhood that two emerging prospects, in Aatu Räty and William Dufour make the NHL roster?

The answer: slim

There were reports the other day that New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said that the two prospect are not ready for the NHL just yet, but being there for the chat, I got the impression that the door is not necessairly closed given Lamoriello’s start to the answer.

“I couldn’t tell you at this point. They’ll tell us how close they are during training camp,” Lamoriello shared. “But if I had a crystal ball, I’d say they’re not ready, you know, at this point.”

“And I’m a believer in that I’d rather have them come up too late when it comes to young players, too.”

Now, there are two ways to interpret this quote. The prospects are not ready or Lamoriello wants them to have a chip on their shoulder, by telling them they aren’t ready.

Regardless, the belief and understanding is that there is no spot fo these two players on the NHL roster, BUT could they certainly out-perform a veteran at training camp?

They sure could, but that still does not mean they will earn a spot.

Aatu Räty has limited experience at the AHL level, with just eight total games, six coming in the postseason where he showed off his shot and hockey IQ. William Dufour, despite a historic season in the QMJHL, winning the Memorial Cup and being crowned MVP and then winning gold over Räty and Team Finland at the 2022 IIHF World Championships, he has a lot to learn before he is NHL ready.

Both could serve as first call-ups when injuries arise, but I could see Simon Holmstrom getting the first chance, depending on the postion that goes down.

Let’s see how they perform at training camp as it should be evident quickly if they belong.

Is Everyone 100-Percent Healthy?

When we spoke to Lane Lambert the day before the start of rookie camp, he shared that he believed everyone was healthy entering the 2022-23 season.

Key Takeaways From Chat with Head Coach Lane Lambert

The biggest question marks were the health statuses of Cal Clutterbuck (shoulder surgery) and Scott Mayfield (lower-body), two players that saw their season’s come to end in March.

In 2021-22, the New York Islanders saw a few other players go down with injuries. First it was Semyon Varlamov and Matt Martin not being ready for camp and the start of the regular season. Then it was Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, followed by Ryan Pulock, who was out way longer than expected. And then you had Clutterbuck and Mayfield.

The Islanders had 208 man games lost due to injuries and COVID-19, per Man Games Lost NHL.

That’s a lot of players, big-time players, to go down and staying healthy has to be a top priorty for a bounce back in 2022-23.

Who Wins the 6th, 7th Defensemen Spots?

Prior to the start of training camp, we discussed three players in Sebastian Aho, Robin Salo and Dennis Cholowski who would be fighting for the sixth defenseman spot alongside Scott Mayfield.

But as development camp went on, Grant Hutton‘s leadership and consistency makes him another player to keep an eye on.

Hutton may be 27-years-old but if we are comparing him to the three players above, Hutton has the advantage in terms of defensive play. The other players are more offensive based, also play the left side, as Hutton, a righty, would be on his off wing if he won the job.

The AHL veteran Hutton has been adament that he does not want to go back to Bridgeport after getting a taste of NHL action last season due to COVID-19.

23-year-old Robin Salo has a bright future and given the fact that he is waiver exempt, it makes the most sense to send him down and let him play top minutes for Bridgeport, unless he blows the coaching staff away at camp. We know what 26-year-old Sebastian Aho is capable of at the NHL level, more of an extra forward when on the ice.

24-year-old former first-round pick Dennis Cholowski is on a two-way deal, like Grant Hutton, another player that has NHL experience which is valuable, despite his lack of success.

Lou Lamoriello pointed out that there are two openings on defense, the sixth and seventh positions, so at least two of these players will be remaining with the big club following camp.

If I had to guess, I would say Aho and Hutton remain up. But as Lamoriello shared, training camp will dictate the results.