Three times will not be the charm for the New York Islanders if Radek Martinek makes the roster.
The once rock-steady, veteran defenseman for the Islanders is hoping that a good camp for him will mean a third stint with the team he’s spent most of his career with.
Defense is where the Islanders have the most true competition, with at least two spots completely open. But if Martinek can win one of them, that will be a telling sign for the development of players like Calvin de Haan, Griffin Reinhart and Matt Donovan.
Fans have been waiting for years for de Haan to crack the lineup of the big club. After all, he’s actually been an Islander for as long as John Tavares has (drafted 2009). But he’s been slow to develop and is coming off a season-ending injury (dislocated shoulder).
Billed as a puck-moving, offensive D-man, de Haan just hasn’t been able to overcome his challenges of size (6-1, 187 pounds), strength and health. Watching him in the preseason opener in Calgary on Tuesday, his overall skating ability and energy were a little above average. But there was little poise on display and no real offensive magic. He also struggled defensively, including a turnover behind the Islanders net after being hit that led directly to a goal.
Reinhart, however, had a strong debut. His goal at the end of the second period came on an impressive wrist shot to the short side of the net. And he did show poise and composure.
The most impressive performance may have come from Matt Donovan, who has been in the Islanders’ system since being drafted 96th overall in 2008. In his first full season as a pro, Donovan (6-1, 209) had 10 goals and 45 points.
Wearing No. 46 for the Isles, Donovan had a good-looking assist in the third period, skating down the left side, behind and around the net before sending a nice pass through the crease for the tap-in goal.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano apparently is paying close attention to Donovan, as he was reported in Bleacher Report saying “We’re going to see what he can do in the preseason games.
“He’s one of the guys who is going to get up in the play, who’s going to add to the power play.”
If Donovan and Reinhart can provide that offensive punch, that will take some pressure off the expected first line of Matt Moulson-Tavares-Pierre Marc Bouchard. It also will mean less time on the PP points for forwards Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen.
But if that doesn’t happen … if the Islanders can’t get the blue-line offense they need from those players, they could turn back to the recent past and present the opportunity for the offensively-challenged Martinek (25 goals in 473 career games).
Expect Islander fans to root for the likes of Donovan and Reinhart. It’s still possible that De Haan’s first performance Tuesday was an aberration and he’ll dramatically improve as camp continues.