Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:Training camp is still two months away, but with the Islanders aggressive offseason, it is already shaping up to be one of the most competitive camps in quite some time.
“I don’t think you can look at any two guys and in particular point guys out,” Islander Head Coach Jack Capuano said following the first day of Islanders Mini Camp. “When training camp rolls around for the first time if we’re healthy, with the competition that we have, the guys that come in with the habits that we want, the work ethic that we want, the discipline that we want are the guys that are gonna be in the lineup. It’s our time now and we have to win hockey games.”
The offseason signings have — on paper — made the Islanders a better team. The additions of two top-six forwards in Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski make the Islanders more of a scoring threat, but also raises questions of which forwards will be with the team on opening night.
“I don’t think you point out a couple guys in particular or look at what their contract status is. If I was a forward right now looking at our roster I would be ready to go in September,” Capuano said.
Barring any trades before camp in September the Islanders will have 16 forwards under contract. Capuano seemed positive about not just the competition that brings, but also about the depth the Islanders have.
With the Islanders missing out on signing Thomas Vanek the question still remains regarding who will play with John Tavares on the wing. The abundance of forwards, according to Capuano, allows the team to “experiment” with who will fill that role.
“Obviously every year everybody asks the question who’s going to play with Johnny. I think now we have some options,” he said. “We have some guys that can play center that can also play the wing. That are very determined players that play with the grit that we want, so we have options now. When september comes around — preseason — we’re going to experiment and some different things.
“We have depth now in our organization. We have other guys we signed July 1 that can be an integral part of this team as well, so I’m excited about it.”
Defensively the Islanders also have some big questions and the competition will be just as intense. Especially for some of the younger players trying to make the roster like Griffin Reinhart, but don’t expect any players in mini camp to get a jump on the competition.
“The fate of our lineup will be determined in training camp, Capuano Said adamantly. That’s all I can tell you. The guys that come in and want to earn an opportunity that we feel can help us win in game one are gonna be the guys that play. End of story.”