Looking to make the leap: Michael Dal Colle

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After winning a Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals last season, New York Islanders’ prospect Michael Dal Colle is hoping to make the leap to the National Hockey League this season rather than return to the OHL.

Dal Colle, the Islanders’ first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2014, scored 42 goals and 93 points in 56 games with the Generals last season. He added 31 points in 21 playoff games as Oshawa captured its fifth Memorial Cup in franchise history.

“Anytime you win a championship, it’s a great feeling,” Islanders’ coach Jack Capuano said per NHL.com. “Obviously everybody’s in it for the same reason, to win, and we want to win a Stanley Cup. But he’s got a little taste of what it takes to win a championship, and that’s what you want. You want guys that like to win and are real disappointed when things don’t go your way.”

Because of his age, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward will have to return to Oshawa, if he is unable to crack the Islanders’ lineup this season.

The 19-year-old is focused on spending the 2015-16 season with the Islanders.

“In my mind, I think I have a chance,” Dal Colle said. “I’m going to do my best to make that chance a real possibility. That’s definitely going to be my goal going into (this) season.”

Depending on how his training camp goes, GM Garth Snow admitted Dal Colle could earn a nine-game audition at the start of the season.

“He’s a huge part of this team, obviously,” Snow told NHL.com. “The luxury we have now is we’ve been so fortunate in the drafts that we’ve had is we have a tremendous amount of depth at all positions.

“We’ll never discount any young player from making our club out of training camp. Really, Michael’s performance will dictate that. That’s why you have training camp: It gives every team an opportunity to see how players perform at the highest level.”

Given the depth the Islanders currently have in their forward mix, Dal Colle will in tough to make New York’s opening night roster, but he understands the situation.

“It’s part of the process,” Dal Colle said. “Tons of great players have gone through it, a guy like Ryan Strome had to play four years in juniors as well. But obviously that’s not my mindset. I want to play this year and I’m going to do everything I can to hopefully get my chance.”

It’s New York Islanders day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

The Islanders finished the 2014-15 season with a 47-28-7 record good for third in the Metropolitan Division; however, their first round playoff woes continued as the Washington Capitals edged New York in seven games. Four of the seven games were decided by one goal.

The Islanders have not been to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1993.

“We were disappointed that we lost a Game 7 against Washington,” GM Garth Snow told NHL.com. “We have a great group of players in that room that are motivated to win a Stanley Cup, and I’m sure there are 29 other teams that are saying the same thing. We know we’re in for a battle. It’s a grind of a season for 82 games and just to make the playoffs is quite an accomplishment. Once you get in, anything can happen. We feel we have a team that can compete on a nightly basis.

“Two of the last three years, we’ve been in the playoffs. We lost a Game 6 two years back to Pittsburgh and lost a Game 7 to Washington last year. You hope that those experiences help a player grow, and that’s what we’re counting on.”

Captain John Tavares led the way offensively scoring a career-high 38 goals and 86 points in 82 games. The 24-year-old was a finalist for the Hart Trophy for the second time in his career.

Rookie Anders Lee had a solid first full season in New York scoring 25 goals and 41 points in 76 games. The 25-year-old finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting.

Nick Leddy, who was acquired by the Islanders last October, paced all New York defensemen with 10 goals and 37 points in 78 games.

In goal, Jaroslav Halak went 38-17-4 while posting a 2.43 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage in 59 games during his first season with the Islanders.

Off-season recap

After 43 years of playing at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders begin playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this season.

On the ice, Snow didn’t make many changes to his roster, but he did ink goaltender Thomas Greiss to backup Halak.

The Islanders also dealt prospect defenseman Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers for a pair of draft picks in June.

Looking to make the leap: Griffin Reinhart

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Last September Islanders prospect Griffin Reinhart got a taste of the NHL game suiting up in pre-season action.

However, what followed was an unwelcome return to the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Western Hockey League.

Reinhart, 20, had 21 points in 45 WHL games this past season while adding 13 points in 21 playoff games captaining the Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup victory in London, Ontario.

“It’s an awesome accomplishment. It’s something that’s going to be memorable for the rest of my life,” Reinhart said of the Memorial Cup victory.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano believes the Memorial Cup experience sets Reinhart up for years to come.

“Any time you can put a player in that situation, he played a lot of minutes… he was a horse for those guys and he earned a great deal of experience most importantly winning a championship and how hard it is and how tough it is,” Capuano told reporters at Islanders rookie camp.

But in the defenseman’s mind, it wasn’t the best route to furthering his game.

“I think playing in the NHL probably could’ve helped benefit me personally, I think,” he said. “But I did everything I could’ve. I stayed in shape in the gym on the days off. I was getting better. Working on becoming a better leader, being more vocal and doing those small things.”

If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Griffin’s father, Paul played 648 NHL games with Atlanta, Calgary and Vancouver. His older brother, Max Reinhart is a forward in the Calgary Flames organization and his younger brother, Sam Reinhart, was the second overall selection of the Buffalo Sabres at the June NHL Draft.

In total, Reinhart dressed in four pre-season games for the Islanders last September, making his presence felt immediately scoring in a 5-3 loss to the Flames.

“It just proved to myself that I can play there,” said Reinhart. “Everything is going to be a step up from the Western Hockey League. I think it’s a lot more structured. Guys are in the right positions and that also makes it an easier game.

“I’m not saying it’s easy to play there, but it makes it easier in terms of guys having your back and knowing where to go and picking up some passes.”

Reinhart, the fourth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, also learned about preparation at the NHL level last summer.

“I think being up with those guys, you see how they treat their bodies away from the rink,” he said. “Whether it’s after practice going into the cold tub, stretching and just doing everything they can to maintain themselves and get them in the best possible shape and prevent them from injury and keep getting stronger.

“I think that’s one of the biggest differences from the junior level.”

The Islanders have big hopes for the 6-foot-4, 202-pound native of Vancouver.

“He’s going to get an opportunity come September,” said Capuano.

Ideally a 20-year-old defenseman would play in the AHL to help make the transition to the pro game, but with Garth Snow under pressure to win now, if Reinhart can show he belongs, he likely will make the club out of training camp.

Related: In Praise of John Tavares

Under Pressure: Garth Snow

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Nearly 12 months ago we here at ProHockeyTalk asked, What’s Garth Snow thinking?

Almost a calendar year later, the same question can be asked.

With new ownership in the process of taking over and the Islanders set to move into a new home for 2015-16, one has to wonder what Mr. Snow is thinking.

The man, who appointed Snow general manager eight years ago, Charles Wang, is on his way out and the team has qualified for the playoffs just once in the past seven years.

With big changes at the top ahead, Snow is under pressure to turn his team into a playoff contender sooner rather than later.

New York finished the 2013-14 season 14 points back of eighth place Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Islanders were last in the Metropolitan Division with a 34-37-11 record.

The Red Wings finished with 93 points to clinch that final playoff spot last season, the only time the Islanders have finished with more than 80 points in an 82-game season was Snow’s first year at the helm in 2006-07 where the Islanders lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Buffalo Sabres in five games.

Under Snow’s watch, the Islanders have had three coaches and one can argue, given Snow’s pressure to win now, Jack Capuano could also be written about in this space.

The good news for Snow is he’ll have his captain, and top center, John Tavares back and healthy after suffering a knee injury at the 2014 Olympics limited him to just 59 games in 2013-14.

Snow went out and got Tavares some help adding depth to the forward group by signing Mikhail Grabovski to a four-year $20 million deal and Nikolai Kulemin to a four-year $16.8 million deal. The hope is Grabovski and Kulemin can rekindle their chemistry formed while playing together for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In goal, Snow went out and picked up the rights to Jaroslav Halak from Washington and inked him to a new four-year $18 million deal. Halak, who has a career 144-85-29 record with a .918 save percentage, should slot in nicely for the departed Evgeni Nabakov.

Halak should slot in nicely that is if he gets help from his defense.

The Islanders were 28th last season in goals-against ahead of only Florida and Edmonton. Snow didn’t do much to help his goaltender. He did go out and acquire the rights to Dan Boyle from San Jose, but was unable to come to terms with the pending unrestricted free agent, who signed with the New York Rangers.

The Islanders are also without Andrew MacDonald, who Snow sent to Philadelphia in March for minor leaguer Matt Mangene and a pair of draft picks.

Left are Lubomir Visnovsky, Travis Hamonic, Matt Carkner, Thomas Hickey and Brian Strait in addition to Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan.

The Islanders did add a former Maple Leafs property on the back end as well in T.J. Brennan, the reigning AHL defenseman of the year. But given that Brennan was a minus-10 while scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace with the Toronto Marlies last season, I’m not sure how much help Brennan can be.

Then there’s budding prospect Griffin Reinhart, who at 20-years-old, could crack the Islanders opening day lineup. But to rest your defensive hopes on a rookie is recipe for disaster.

Snow’s inability to shore up defensive concerns could be what sinks him in New York’s final season on Long Island.

Related: In praise of John Tavares

It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.