The Morning Skate: First Thoughts on the Prospects

Kevin Schultz

We got our first real, hard look at a lot of the Islanders young prospects on Thursday night in Newark. It’s only one game, so some good players may have had a bad night and vis-à-vis, but it was a good night to see how some of the guys performed in a full-on game environment. Here are a few quick notes I scribbled down at the Prudential Center. I’m not a scout, so my #HOTTAKES are by no means gospel — feel free to agree, disagree and serve up your own takes in comments…

(And before we start, the Islanders have just announced that Cal Clutterbuck is out 4-6 weeks with a leg laceration)

  • Kevin Poulin: We’ll start with the goaltender, getting his first 60-minute start since late April. The third goal was soft, the second may have been a deflection and the first was so-so. All three came from shots high in the zone, so I’m not sure if that’s a problem area for him or not, but it’s something to watch. Maybe it’s a vision thing or simply bad luck and traffic. After the third goal, he did seem to settle down a bit and had a few nice penalty kills. I can’t say the performance was good or bad. It had its moments from both columns.
  • Yes, the line of Lee-Nelson-Strome looked good, including their tic-tac-toe goal to open the scoring. Strome had a few stick-handling flashes and Nelson got a ton of penalty killing time. It was readily apparent that the two are both solid players and that they are also very different players, something that should be discussed more when debating who should make the big club. Strome is built a little more from an offensively talented and flashy kind of style while Nelson is clearly more of an an all-around player. Lee, while we’ve neglected to put him in the conversation for a roster spot, is right there with the other two nipping at their heels. This will be a fun line to watch throughout the pre-season.
  • Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart: For my money, the best Isles defenders on the ice last night. Pulock made some excellent neutral zone passes up to the forwards and seems to have great vision. Didn’t really get a chance to unleash the slapper. Reinhart seemed solid defensively, didn’t jump into the play quite as much, blocked a few shots. The coaching staff had him on PP1 and PK1, so that may be some insight into what they think of him. 
  • As a group, the first pass out of the zone from the defenders was an issue all night. Maybe it has to do with young defenders playing against, in most cases, New Jersey’s NHL vets. But there were some bad passes in the defensive zone and some really, really bad passes in the defensive zone. Andrey Pedan had a couple and Reinhart has an especially egregious one in the third that gave a Devil a clean breakaway, but it wasn’t only the two of them. It was a problem for all six defenders.
  • Although he gets props for the fight, Mike Dalhuisen faltered a bit. Didn’t seem positionally sound and was bailed out big time by Ryan Pulock, who stopped a potential 2-on-0 when Dalhuisen was caught in the neutral zone. But again, it’s only one game.
  • Andrey Pedan also stood out on defense. He made some nice plays, including bailing out Radek Martinek, by diving to knock a puck away from a Devil on a potential breakaway opportunity. Aside from that slip up, Martinek looked pretty good, too. But for my money, I’d take a prospect on the team over him. Just not enough room at the inn is all.

The Post and Newsday both wrote about Ryan Strome after last night. The Post goes deeper into something I mentioned above, where it’s not necessarily about whether Strome or Nelson is the better player but rather what the team’s needs are and who fits them. And also if the offensively gifted Strome can be responsible in his own zone:

“When you have a skill player that can dominate at the level that he dominated at juniors, when you get to this level, it’s different,” Capuano told The Post before Thursday night’s 5-3 preseason win over the Devils at The Rock in Newark. “To me, for Ryan, we know his hockey skill. We know his vision, his creativity — we know the intangibles to his offensive game.

“The ability to play a 200-foot game, the ability to stop and start and not drift, that’s what we’re working on with him. Playing a 200-foot game is very crucial at this level.”

And here’s Strome in Newsday:

“They’ve pretty much told me that if I play my way on, the best players are going to play,” Strome said before he played in last night’s preseason game against the Devils. “Maybe there is an opening there a bit, but you never know what the coaches are looking for.”

Also of note in that same article is Capuano calling the backup goaltender slot “still a battle.”

ALSO: Not a lot of positives for the Devils last night… All three rounds of Gallant-Barch are here… Diamond-Gionta and Dalhuisen-Carter… No video of the Eric Boulton breakaway available, it may forever be a legend…