Islanders: Who Takes Hickey’s Roster Spot?

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With Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ ‘Downtown’ continuing to blare from the Islanders new high-powered amplification system at Barclays Center, there he was in the hallway leading into the dressing area.

Leaning against the opening to the newly designed, and plenty fantastic, players lounge, a celebratory fist bump for each of his teammates coming off the ice after a well deserved 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames was how Thomas Hickey is going to be spending the next 4-6 weeks.

On his left knee was a brace plenty visible through his tapered dark suit and trying to not make a spectacle in front of the media, Hickey turned and disappeared into the aforementioned lounge with fellow scratches Steve Bernier and J.F Berube without straightening the leg or putting much weight on it.

The incident appeared to happen on the Islanders last penalty kill of the third period Saturday against St.Louis when Hickey awkwardly hit a rut in the ice when going to retrieve a puck in the third period. To make matters worse, Alex Pietrangelo, in deep as the Blues pressured, fell on Hickey, bending the knee in an even more un-natural and grotesque angle.

A source speculated to Islanders Insight that the injury is very ‘Evander Kane like’ and could cost Hickey 4-6 weeks on the shelf. Once the swelling has subsided later in the week, he will be reevaluated. A tough break for a valued member of the Islanders top six and a player who missed one game over the course of the past two seasons, even though he led New York in hits taken last year. Hickey also spent the last two weeks of training camp and first week of the regular season on the shelf with a broken thumb.

The question now becomes, who is called up to replace him? Who takes the roster spot now open due to Hickey’s IR designation? There are a couple of options in Bridgeport, playing with Brent Thompson‘s Sound Tigers, and one might be the favorite and least obvious choice of all-time.

Jack Capuano told the gathered media Monday morning at Barclays Center, “I don’t think anybody is the first guy. It’s no different — when a guy goes down, we call the Bridgeport coaches. It’s who’s playing the best, whose working hard. It’s on merit.”

Ryan Pulock – Shoots R

6 GP, 2-2-4, -2, 12 shots

Insight has some sources on the ground in Bridgeport and many have said they have not been overly impressed with Pulock’s early season game in Bridgeport. Some feel he needs to improve his skating ten-fold, something sources at training camp echoed as well when seeing him up close and personal over the course of a few weeks. As is head coach Jack Capuano‘s penchant for not liking to play same side defenseman on the same pair with one on his off-side, that hurts his early season chances as well.

Scott Mayfield – Shoots R

8 GP, 2-0-2, +7, 10 shots

Mayfield had a productive two game playoff audition last season, showing poise and physicality. I, personally, have had him ahead of Pulock on my depth chart for two off-seasons running now but some feel at the pro level, his transition game is severely lacking. Even though on the surface, his debut at the pro level under strenuous circumstances was above average, was caught out of position in-game seven while the Islanders were severely hindered by their lack of defensive to offensive flow. And what do you know? Another right-handed shot.

Adam Pelech – Shoots L

8 GP,  2-0-2, +10, 14 shots

Wait…what? A left-handed Islanders defensive prospect? Yep, it does exist. Pelech seems to have a leg up in the competition, based on a very good start to his 2015-16 season. Leading the 6-2-0 Sound Tigers with a +10 rating, those same sources who have been looking at Pulock all mention Pelech as an early season revelation. Sound in his own end and possessing good hockey smarts, Pelech has also been very good in transition, something that the coaches at the NHL level are very interested in adding to the lineup.

Jesse Graham and Kevin Czuczman merit mention but at this point in their development, don’t look anything more than AHL level defensemen.

NOTEPAD

  • The Anti-Barclays drum continues to beat loudly from some, but the fact remains, attendance at the Nassau Coliseum wasn’t all that good either. After 3 October weekday home games last season, the organization averaged 11,388. After 5 such games this season in Brooklyn, it is 12,443. That, of course, is tickets sold and not fannies in seats.
  • I get the feeling that if Thomas Greiss continues to play like a backup who wants to be a starter, it will give Jack Capuano even more comfort in playing Jaroslav Halak LESS, thereby keeping him healthy and rested for the playoffs. It’s a great problem to have early on.
  • Frans Nielsen, Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares all echoed the same sentiment to Islanders Insight last night following the win regarding the penalty kill, which is now 21 for its last 21 and ranks 2nd in the NHL at 91.2%. It’s all about personnel, the fact it didn’t change in the summer and cohesion that they have now garnered; everyone knowing their roles. Over the course of the last 3 months in 2014-15 and beginning of this year, they are 87.8% (101/115).

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