New York Islanders
What are the New York Islanders Options for the Third Line Next Season?
When it comes to the New York Islanders third line next season, we know one thing and that is that Jean-Gabriel Pageau will be centering it. Outside of that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will play alongside the center.
A number of players found themselves playing on the third line last season, including Derick Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl and Leo Komarov. Brassard and Kuhnhackl are now both unrestricted free agents and Leo Komarov is one player that was rumored to be on the trading block to free up cap space for the Islanders.
That means that the Islanders would have to fill at least one winger position for the upcoming season. The flat cap has put New York in a precarious spot, so for the time being, it would likely be an internal candidate to take that spot.
So would that mean it would be Kieffer Bellows or Oliver Wahlstrom’s to lose?
At the very least, this would the best chance either of them have at finding a more permanent spot in the Islanders lineup. Both Wahlstrom and Bellows saw time in the NHL last season and Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson saw significant improvement over the course of the AHL season.
“Each one did slightly different things,” Thompson told NYI Hockey Now during a phone interview in September. “Each guy took steps in the right direction. I look back at our last couple of games especially.”
Wahlstrom had eight points (five goals, three assists) in the final 12 games of the AHL season and Bellows scored 22 goals over 55 AHL games. Bellows also scored his first two career NHL goals during an eight-game stint with the Islanders.
One thing that does remain a mystery in this scenario is whether Bellows’ violation of the performance-enhancing substances program over the summer would have any impact on him making the Islanders roster out of training camp. Wahlstrom was left off the team’s bubble roster during the playoffs, to the surprise of many.
Also, the Islanders tend to lean towards veteran experience and general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz might be a bit hesitant to throw one or both players into a role like that right away.
If that was to be the case, then Michael Dal Colle would certainly be in the running to take a third line spot. He has had to do it before and appeared in 53 games last season for the Islanders and was in Toronto as an extra during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
For as high as Dal Colle was drafted, he is often viewed in a less than stellar light by the fan base, but he provides a solid option for the bottom. He is a player with a bit more experience at the NHL level than Wahlstrom or Bellows as well. Dal Colle was drafted fifth overall in 2014, which comes with the expectations of someone who is a goal scorer, but the 24-year-old has developed into a guy who fits the bottom six much more comfortably in the NHL.
Ross Johnston also would be in the discussion for a role on the third line having played a bottom-six role and showing that he can do a bit more than just hit people. Johnston’s game comes with a surprising amount of speed and has the ability to the puck in the back of the net at times.
He finished the regular season with three goals in 32 NHL games. Johnston has 74 career NHL regular-season games under his belt, which is nearly as many as Dal Colle has, and he appeared in five playoff games this season.
Former Sound Tigers Matt Martin and Ross Johnston will definitely remember this @NYIslanders postseason 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/7Vz65rWthu
— Bridgeport Sound Tigers (@thesoundtigers) October 11, 2020
Andrew Ladd could still very well be a part of the Islanders organization next season, but it’s unlikely that he’d be in the running for a roster spot. Ladd remains the team’s best candidate for LTIR.
Then of course there is the chance that the Islanders re-sign Brassard, who remains a free agent, and have Pageau center a line with Brassard and Komarov. Lamoriello has said that he wants everyone back for next season and it’s easy to see Brassard returning next season at a reasonable rate once the Islanders cap situation gets sorted out.
The cap will obviously play a big role in how that third line is filled out, but the Islanders do have options to fill out that line. It just may take some time before we start to see how that line will shake out.