NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For the Islanders, the future is now on defense.
The club released its 23-man roster on Monday and, perhaps in a somewhat surprising move the Isles chose to keep young defenseman Griffin Reinhart on the big club while sending sniper-in-waiting Ryan Strome to Bridgeport.
The Isles view Reinhart, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2012 draft, as a potentially rock-solid defender who can patrol their blueline for years. The 6-foot-4, 204-pounder did some good things during the recently completed preseason schedule, and will likely get at least a nine-game look before the Isles have to make a decision on his status for 2013-14.
Why nine games you may be wondering? Well, the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League have an agreement that allows under-age junior players a nine-game window to play in the NHL without burning a year of their entry-level contracts. However, if they play in a 10th game, they lose that first year.
Reinhart might be a nine-game candidate, mostly because he’s only 19 and the Isles are still waiting for word on Travis Hamonic, who suffered an upper body injury during the split-squad sweep in Ottawa on Sunday. However, if Reinhart shows he belongs he could stay regardless if Hamonic doesn’t miss an extended period of time.
The Isles also chose to keep young defenseman Matt Donovan and forward Brock Nelson. Both are considered among the Isles’ best prospects, along with Reinhart and Strome. Donovan, 23, had 93 points in two full seasons with Bridgeport of the AHL, and is generally viewed as the offensive heir apparent to Mark Streit, the Islanders’ former captain who was traded to Philadelphia during the offseason.
Nelson, 21, a first-round pick in the 2010 draft, had 52 points in 66 games for Bridgeport last season. A strong two-way center, Nelson was extremely impressive during the preseason, registering four points in five games. Considering the thigh injury that will keep veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck sidelined for a few more weeks, the Isles likely will keep Nelson around and, if he produces, may keep him long after Clutterbuck returns.
Strome, the much-hyped center who figures to play wing in the NHL, should only benefit from another year down. Strome, 20, dominated the OHL for three years before being sent up to Bridgeport late last season. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft had seven points in 10 games with the Sound Tigers and figures to be the first call up if the Islanders suffer another injury.
The Islanders’ complete 23-man roster looks as follow:
Forwards: Josh Bailey, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Eric Boulton, Casey Cizikas, Michael Grabner, Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, Matt Moulson, Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Peter Regin, John Tavares
Defensemen: Matt Carkner, Matt Donovan, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, Andrew MacDonald, Griffin Reinhart, Brian Strait, Lubomir Visnovsky
Goalies: Evgeni Nabokov, Kevin Poulin
Injured Reserve: Cal Clutterbuck
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