The New York Islanders entered training camp with a myriad of questions on the table and answered each throughout their 2-4 preseason. Here’s what we know about the Islanders as they turn the page to the regular season.
Horvat and Barzal Back And Better Than Before:
The two immediately clicked upon being put on a line together but struggled to do so in the playoffs when Barzal returned from a lower-body injury that forced him to miss the final 24 games of the regular season.
In training camp this year, not only did Horvat and Barzal show they still work well together but that their partnership is perhaps stronger than before after both overcame obstacles this offseason.
Whether during practice drills, scrimmages or games, Horvat and Barzal were consistently the two best players on the ice as they finished the preseason with a combined six points in four games.
Now, the only thing left to solve is who will be the third member of their line. After the preseason they just put together, it looks as if Horvat and Barzal will have success no matter who it is.
Wahlstrom Leaves More To Be Desired:
One player many were hoping to see succeed this preseason was Oliver Wahlstrom, as he returned to action for the first time in nine months after suffering a lower-body injury last December that cut his year short at only 35 games played.
Wahlstrom was given ample chances during training camp to earn a starting role in the Islanders’ lineup once again but showed he still has a ways to go before he’s fully ready.
“We’ve talked about it all training camp; he’s coming off a long layoff,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said following the team’s 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in their preseason finale. “He’s getting up to game speed and getting situations that he can play in. To me, it looks like he’s still trying to find his way a little bit from a speed standpoint.”
Carpe Diem For Gauthier:
One of the few additions to the Islanders’ dressing room this year, Julien Gauthier played up and down the lineup for the Islanders in the preseason.
In five games, he featured on both special team units and generated a goal and an assist while making several intelligent hockey plays along the way.
With his blend of size and speed, Gauthier made himself undeniably deserving of a spot in the Islanders’ lineup on opening night.
Bolduc Blows Chance At Starting Role:
The Islanders were hoping that, like Gauthier, young defenseman Samuel Bolduc could seize an opportunity and win the battle for the sixth and final spot on the blue line.
Instead, Bolduc essentially handed the role to the incumbent Sebastian Aho just as easily as he handed the puck over to opposing teams.
Turnovers in his own zone have been a major issue for Bolduc early on in his NHL career and will be something he has to clean up if he hopes to get playing time when games count.
“He can make really good passes,” Lambert said following the Islanders’ 5-2 loss on Oct. 5, during which a turnover by Bolduc directly led to a goal for the Philadelphia Flyers. “For him, it’s just getting back for the puck quickly. Having vision, looking over his shoulder and making sure he knows where that pass is going to go. That’s just something that he needs to continue to work on.”
Power Play Problems Persist:
After being the league’s third-worst team on the man advantage in 2022-23, the biggest concern for the Islanders coming into training camp was their power play.
It’s clear that scoring at extra-strength is still an issue for the Islanders entering the new year, as they scored on just one of their 14 power play opportunities–a 7.14% success rate–in the preseason.
It may only be six exhibition games, but this was a problem for the Islanders across 82 games last season and is something they need to figure out before they play anymore.