The Islanders are one step closer to the start of their 2021-22 season with training camp underway. Training camp presents the opportunity to see what the team will look like after several offseason changes. It also presents the opportunity to watch some of the intriguing young prospects on the team. Here are some of the main storylines surrounding the Islanders throughout their training camp.
Shuffling the Right Wings
After Jordan Eberle was drafted by the Seattle Kraken, Kyle Palmieri seemed like the obvious choice to replace him once he re-signed. But head coach Barry Trotz made a comment that seems to have indicated it may not be that obvious. He said that he would be looking at both Palmieri and Oliver Wahlstrom for that role. Wahlstrom being considered comes as a bit of a surprise given how Trotz often favors the veteran players. But his consideration is well deserved after the great breakout season he had.
This does, however, leave a lot of questions about the second and third-line right-wingers. Does Palmieri and Wahlstrom being Trotz’s top two options mean Josh Bailey is getting sent to the third line? Or does the runner-up of this first-line competition take that third-line role? It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the Islanders’ right wings will be organized as training camp progresses.
The Return of Anders Lee
Speaking of the first line, it’s getting a major piece back in captain Anders Lee. Lee was in the midst of a great season before tearing his ACL, with 19 points in 27 games. The Islanders clearly missed him throughout the regular season as the team’s level of play just wasn’t the same after the injury. But now that he’s back, training camp will show how up to speed he is after a fairly significant injury. Another interesting storyline with Lee is how he develops chemistry with the new first-line right-winger. He hasn’t had much of a chance to play with Palmieri or Wahlstrom before now. It’s highly likely that his chemistry with both of those players in camp and preseason will help decide who gets the job in the regular season.
Will Erik Gustafsson Make the Team?
Before the Islanders signed Zdeno Chara, they signed Erik Gustafsson to a PTO. Gustafsson is a player whose game more so resembles the now-former Islander Nick Leddy. He’s a talented offensive defenseman, who once scored 60 points with the Chicago Blackhawks in a full season. However, his reliability on defense is a bit of a question mark. He’s often turnover-prone and, with that, makes some poor choices with the puck. But if anyone could turn that around, it’s the Islanders’ defensive-minded coaching staff. The Islanders system demands strong defense and limited mistakes, which could help Gustafsson clean up his questionable defensive play. How he responds to and works with the Islanders system will determine if he can cut into Thomas Hickey and Sebastian Aho’s role as the seventh defenseman.
The Islanders didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but they may have landed a first-round talent. Finnish center Aätu Raty was initially projected to be an early first-rounder for this draft, possibly the top prospect. However, a major drop in performance and general confidence led to him falling out of the first round entirely. The Islanders decided to use the 52nd overall pick on Raty and take a chance on his tremendous upside.
So far, the gamble has seemed to be working in the Islanders’ favor. Right after he was drafted, he went and scored 14 points across six games in the World Junior Summer Showcase. In addition, Trotz has complimented Raty’s maturity in camp thus far, which is high praise for an 18-year-old player. It’ll be exciting to see how he performs throughout camp and possibly in some preseason games as well.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images
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