Nelson and Donovan Proving They Belong in Win Against Nashville

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — If Matt Donovan and Brock Nelson have been having any trouble adjusting to the NHL, it sure didn’t show in Friday night’s 6-4 win over the Nashville Predators.

Both players saw upwards of 16 minutes of ice time during the game and they made the most of it. Donovan recored his first goal of the preseason at the 12:44 mark of the second period and Nelson put up two assists, including one on Donovan’s goal.

The goal was set up by Nelson who circled around the net and waited to find the best angle before taking his shot. The shot deflected off Donovan and went in.

“It wasn’t much of a skilled goal,” Donovan said after the game. “I was kind of just going to the net and it kind of nicked off of me. I mean it lifts a little pressure off of you. I mean once you get that first one it feels like it is a little easier out there.”

But it wasn’t simply just that Donovan recorded a goal or that Nelson had two assists that made them stand outs Friday night. No, it was their prowess on the ice and their comfort level that left a lot of people impressed.

Going back to the second period goal by Donovan, it was really an example of Nelson’s ability to create scoring chances.  It was similar to how he set up the goal for Colin McDonald earlier in the period. His patience, and a little bit of luck, helped create both scoring opportunities.

“I try to implement that every now and then,”Nelson said when asked about his patience on the ice. “When the chance came I think I was able to capitalize. I think I got a little luck and hit a stick and it went right to [Colin McDonald's] stick and he was able to tap it in. Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.

Also on display against Nashville was the ease both players have had in fitting in on the Islanders NHL squad. Yes, both Donovan and Nelson have played at least one game in the NHL before this year, but that doesn’t always mean they have an edge over another player who hasn’t. However Donovan and Nelson haven’t missed a beat in a practice or game.
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Roster Picture to Clear Up Tuesday

The Islanders have yet to make any roster cuts following their first four preseason games, but those cuts surely are coming. In fact, we should have a much clearer picture of what the roster could be within the next 48 hours.

In Newsday, Arthur Staple notes that the Islanders will divide back up into two practice groups this week. However, the two groups will be aligned towards which players have a shot at the NHL roster and which players do not. As many as 28 could be a part of the NHL group on Tuesday, depending upon how this shake out:

 After Sunday’s game in Nashville, the Isles will divide up into NHL and AHL camps starting on Tuesday. Indications are only a few prospects will stay with the Islanders group; Reinhart and fellow defensemen Matt Donovan and Calvin de Haan are possibles to stay, along with forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. But it appears Capuano will have a group that only includes 15 forwards, nine or 10 defensemen and two or three goaltenders once Tuesday comes.

Brock Nelson May Find a Role Alongside Vets on Penalty Kill

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

NEWARK, NJ — Thursday night at the Prudential Center the Islanders racked up 69 penalty minutes and allowed the Devils ten powerplays in what was a sloppy and fight-filled game. The team spent nearly 20 minutes of the game, almost a full period, killing off minor penalties. While most of the special teams responsibilities for the forwards fell to the few NHL veterans in the lineup — Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Peter Regin — one name stood out as a young player the coaching staff seemed to really trust on the penalty kill; Brock Nelson.

nelsonOver the course of the night Nelson racked up nearly six minutes of short-handed ice time and was put out on what appeared to be the Islanders’ top penalty killing unit alongside veteran Frans Nielsen. Nielsen is lauded around the NHL for his defensive work and led the Islanders forwards in short-handed ice time per game for each of the past three seasons.

“Not really testing, I watched him play [on the penalty kill] last year quite a bit,” coach Jack Capuano responded when asked after the game if pairing the two players together was a test to see what Nelson could do or a sign of the coaching staff having confidence in his abilities. To read more of this story, click here

Kabanov Benefiting From Intense Off-Season Training

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

SYOSSET, NY — It is no secret that the Islanders have a deep and talented prospect pool. Headlined by the likes of Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Calvin de Haan, and Griffin Reinhart, just to name a few, it’s easy to understand how a player like Kirill Kabanov could get lost in the mix.

kabanovThe 21-year-old Russian winger has had a well documented history of ups and downs throughout his hockey career, the latest being an injury to his wrist suffered early in the 2012-13 AHL season. Kabanov was cut on his left wrist in a game agains the Worcester Sharks and had to undergo surgery, which sidelined him for 44 games. He did get to play in 32 games, but only recorded nine points ( 2 goals, 7 assists) in that time.

“It’s hard mentally after such a hard injury,” Kabanov told Islanders Point Blank after Saturday’s on ice session. “It’s not that physically. It’s more that mentally to be back in a game, to be back and a part of the team.”

After a summer of tough training, Kabanov is back at Isles camp looking to crack the NHL roster.

In preparation for this year, Kabanov spent the summer training with former NHLer Gary Roberts. Roberts is know for running an intense off-season camp that has helped mold players such as Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, James Neal, and Steven Stamkos.
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Griffin Reinhart’s Junior Team Isn’t Expecting Him Back

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

The Islanders have a lot of defenders looking to make the NHL roster — seven signed to NHL deals plus a few AHL prospects knocking on the door — so it’s going to be a very competitive camp for the defenders. And not only do the Islanders have all of those players, there are also a group of guys who played in juniors last year that will be looking for the crack at the big time. Among the latter group is Griffin Reinhart, the team’s first round pick in 2012, taken at fourth overall.

Reinhart has spent the past three seasons (and a sliver of a fourth) playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL. He’s in the same situation that Ryan Strome was last year and Nino Niederreiter the year prior; the Islanders either have to keep him on the roster or send him back to juniors (they can also send him back after 9 NHL games). Reinhart doesn’t have the option of playing in Bridgeport thanks to the CHL-NHL agreement prohibiting young players from skating in the AHL and ECHL until 20 years of age

In Edmonton, the Edmonton Journal reports that the Oil Kings are already planning for life without their best defender: To read more of this story, click here

Should Ryan Strome Start in the AHL or NHL?

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. The weather is getting cooler, summer has passed us by, and people are debating where the top Islanders prospect should start the season…

This year’s prospect du jour is Ryan Strome, who will be joining the Sound Tigers this fall, if not the Islanders. After four years in junior, the 2011 first-round pick is ready for the pro game. He got a taste of the AHL last spring during a 10-game PTO with the Sound Tigers where he looked more than up to the task, totaling seven points in those 10 games on Bridgeport’s top line.

So where should Strome skate in October? Is he ready to debut on Long Island on October 5th, or should the Islanders take it slowly and call him up at mid-season or even as late as next year?

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Read: Corey Pronman’s Top 15 Islander Prospects

Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman has been releasing lists of each team’s top prospects all summer, and yesterday was the Islanders turn through the gauntlet. Pronman ranks the Islanders prospect pool second in the entire NHL.

His criteria for what defines a “prospect” is a player with fewer than 50 career NHL games played or fewer than 25 NHL games played during the prior season and are under 26-years old. He also leaves off players who are signed in the KHL past age 22 (i.e. Kirill Petrov).

Here’s his list of the top 15:

1. Ryan Strome, Center (2011 draft)
2. Ryan Pulock, Defense (2013)
3. Griffin Reinhart, Defense (2012)
4. Brock Nelson, Center (2010)
5. Calvin de Haan, Defense (2009)
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Sound Tigers’ Statement on Playing at the Coliseum

The Sound Tigers have provided a statement to Point Blank on their tenure in Bridgeport, Connecticut following Bruce Ratner’s proclamation earlier today that the team will occupy the Coliseum when the Islanders head to Brooklyn:

“Our agreement with the City of Bridgeport ends on August 31st, 2020. We have seven years remaining on this deal. The Sound Tigers have an agreement to play in Webster Bank Arena until then and plan on doing so until we hear otherwise from our owner. There is no agreement in place between the Islanders organization and the Ratner Group or Barclays Center. The Sound Tigers love being in Bridgeport and absolutely plan on spending at least the next seven AHL seasons here”

Charles Wang owns both the Islanders and Sound Tigers in addition to Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment, which manages the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

The Morning Skate for August 12th

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

By far, the question that I’ve been asked the most since the season ended has been “when will the Islanders name John Tavares captain?”

With minimal free agent moves made this summer and the team looking to build from within, Tavares’ captaincy has been the prime focus for a lot of fans. It certainly seems like a ‘when’ more than an ‘if’. The other candidates would likely be Travis Hamonic or Kyle Okposo. They play with a lot of fire and have both been known to wear their emotions on their sleeves. But with Mark Streit gone the biggest leader, sometimes doing so by emotion and much more often leading by example, has been Tavares. He’s the face of the franchise and the best player on the roster. There really shouldn’t be any other choice.

On Saturday, Arthur Staple noted that it won’t be anyone other than Tavares:

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The Morning Skate: Cammarata Scores Twice

There’s not a whole lot going on in the hockey world at the moment, but one thing that is happening are World Junior camp scrimmages. Along with a whole slew of defenders, the Islanders also have a forward in the mix; 2013 third round pick Taylor Cammarata.

Monday against Finland, Cammarata notched two goals and an assist. This was coming off a game on Sunday where he didn’t feel that he had his legs. NHL.com caught up with him:

“I was a little fatigued [Sunday],” Cammarata said. “… It’s pretty fast. [Sunday] it felt like Sweden had five guys back all the time so you don’t have much time to make a play.”

“It’s taken me a couple days to get used to things,” he said. “I’m still rusty because it’s summer, but today I felt really good on the ice. … Today we had a morning skate and I felt pretty good there. Got a little nap in and I felt pretty good.”

Cammarata did survive the latest round of cuts for USA Hockey although there are still more of those to come. It’s a good sign to see another prospect contributing and of course it needs to be taken in context; it is only one game and it is on the bigger Olympic ice surface, which may be better suited to Cammarata’s speedy game. He’s headed to Minnesota in the fall, so we still have quite a few more years for him to develop and for us to debate the merits of his game.

ALSO: Matt Moulson’s summer kids camp in Connecticut… A pretty good line for Clutterbuck autographs yesterday… And expect to hear a lot about the Yankee Stadium outdoor game, as there is a media availability promoting the event tomorrow…