Will Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson Make The Isles Cut?
There will be plenty of tough decisions to be made for New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano when training camp starts in September, especially when it comes to deciding which young forward will have a chance to be on the opening night roster.
Strome scored 94 points last season with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL, his fourth and final year with the team. His 34 goals were a career best in only 53 games played to go along with 60 assists. His best season came in 2011, where he scored 106 points in 65 games (Photo credit: mandelux12/Flickr).
He also has provided some stellar play at the international level, consistently being an offensive weapon for Team Canada in the World Junior tournaments for two years. Strome had nine points (3 Gs, 6 As) in six games in 2012, followed by six points in six games (4 Gs, 2 As) in this year's tournament.
The 6-foot right handed center-man wound up finishing the year with the Sound Tigers, dressing for ten games and scoring two goals, five assists and seven points.
It was reported by many that Strome was far and away the best player at this summer's rookie camp; albeit he should be, as he is the Islanders top rated prospect in their farm system. The Islanders coaching staff has already admitted that they have considered using him on the top line with John Tavares, although that competition will be fierce with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Josh Bailey likely vying for the spot as well.
If Isles management feels that Strome requires more time to adjust to the pro-game, they may decide that Brock Nelson is ready to head straight to the NHL out of camp.
Nelson joined the Sound Tigers after two seasons with the University of North Dakota. He dressed in four games to end the 2012 season without registering a point, but that would drastically change.
Last year, Nelson scored 25 goals, 27 assists and 52 points in 66 games played with the Sound Tigers, quickly becoming the team's go-to guy behind recently traded prospect, Nino Niederreiter (nyisles14/Flickr).
Like Strome, Nelson also has some international experience, dressing for the United States in 2011. However, he only tallied one assist in five games played.
Since being drafted by the Isles, Nelson has gone from a high school senior to a built up hockey player, clocking in at 6'4" and 205 pounds (Strome is only 6'0" and 183 pounds). His size and grit earned him his NHL debut with the Isles during their first round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both players appear to be ready for an NHL roster spot. But there might not be room for both.
GM Garth Snow subtracted Marty Reasoner, Keith Aucoin and Brad Boyes from the mix but added Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck and Peter Regin. The latter is a veteran of five NHL seasons but has spent the majority of each year as a healthy scratch/call-in when a spot opened due to injury.
One would have to assume that Nelson or Strome could win a spot over Regin during training camp. One may also assume that Nelson could have a slight edge since he already was picked to play an NHL game last year, where Strome was not.
Though plenty of time has come and gone since the Isles' 2013 playoff battle with the Penguins, and both are probably entering the stage with an equal opportunity to make the cut.
This might come as a pressure filled problem for Capuano and his staff, but it is an excellent one to have.
Strome and Nelson should be exciting forwards to watch in an Islanders uniform for years to come, and both very well could be regulars in an Islanders jersey by the end of the year as well.
Even if only one of them makes the cut right out of camp.