The last few games have been murder on the Isles. Lee got stitches in Detroit. Hickey took a puck to the visor against Pittsburgh. Clutterbuck left the ice after a punch from Letang. Eberle also left the third period and didn’t return Monday night. Then don’t forget Ladd has been quietly absent for months now. It’s been so long since his condition was reported that many fans have forgotten about him. Lee and Hickey both returned to the games they were injured in, but Eberle’s and Clutterbuck’s conditions haven’t been updated since Monday night. So, who will fill the new holes?
Let’s start with Eberle’s vacancy, the top six forward spot: Ho-Sang, Dal Colle, St. Denis, or Bellows. These four should have made the team in September, but instead, have had solid seasons in the AHL.
Ho-Sang was called up before Monday’s game to be a healthy scratch. After complaining to the media about his treatment in the Islanders’ organization, he proved that he was worth the attitude. Once he was moved to the top six, he raised his points total to 22 in 26 games. Clearly, he’s putting in the work, and he’s ready to play. That eagerness is so necessary on this Islanders team which is dangerously close to sliding from wild card to last place. Yet Barry Trotz feels “zero pressure” to play Ho-Sang just because he was a high draft pick and has two goals in the AHL. He seems to be ignoring Ho-Sang’s position as an assist-man and Ho-Sang’s improvement once given the chance. Imagine how he’ll do when he’s given a chance to assist Bailey, Lee, or Nelson?
Dal Colle has already played two games with the Isles. He has a -2 rating and no goals or assists, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve more time up. In Bridgeport, he’s one of the Soundtigers’ leaders with 9 goals and 9 assists. If he were given real time to develop chemistry with the Isles, he could be a real asset. St. Denis and Bellows, on the other hand, haven’t had any NHL time yet. Both have 6 goals in the AHL and 7 and 5 assists, respectively. I’ve heard the excuse that their lack of NHL experience is keeping them in Bridgeport, but how are they to gain experience if they’re never given a chance?
Now for Clutterbuck’s bottom six vacancy: Johnston.
That’s it. No alternative. There’s just Ross Johnston. A lot of fans consider him a bully, an enforcer, just a hit man. He’s so much more though. In the last two games, he’s proved his stick-handling is so much better than Clutterbuck’s. In 9 games, he has 3 points compared to Clutterbuck’s 5 points in 26 games. Against Detroit, he picked up Cizikas’ rebound behind the net and set up Cizikas’ goal. He fights in the corners. He protects the blue line. He comes in when needed and hustles back just as quickly. He has no problem transitioning from the dirty areas to a scoring opportunity. Johnston is such an amazing, underrated player in the Islanders’ organization, and this vacancy is the perfect time for him to prove himself.
It’s time for all the prospects to prove themselves. Besides these two spots, why not put in a prospect instead of Komarov, Kuhnhackl, Pelech, or Leddy? Older players who aren’t producing as much as they used to.
Remember, the last time the Islanders consisted of predominantly young players and prospects, they fought for the wild card spot and made the 2016 playoffs.
Featured Image: Bridgeport Soundtigers