Who is Next Man Up for Isles?
New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz always talks about a “next man up” mentality for his team. Every time an injury occurs, it’s always next man up. Most recently, a season-ending injury to Andrew Ladd has forced to find another “next man” for the few remaining games as well as the playoffs come April. With Michael Dal Colle, Tom Kuhnhackl and Ross Johnston available as well as Josh Ho-Sang in Bridgeport, Trotz has options. But who should he choose?
Ladd has already missed considerable time, only appearing in 26 games this season and the Isles have used Dal Colle, Kuhnhackl and Johnston to supplement. Johnston is most likely out of the race considering he is a fourth line player and there is no way Trotz splits up the Isles fourth line. The Islanders’ brass has shown little faith in Ho-Sang this season, playing him in just 10 games and calling him up and sending him down multiple times. His high risk-high reward style of play doesn’t gel with the old school Lamoriello and defensive Trotz. This leaves Dal Colle and Kuhnhackl to slot in next to Tanner Fritz and Leo Komarov.
Michael Dal Colle has played 24 of his 28 career NHL games this season, scoring his first NHL goal against New Jersey on January 17th. After being called a bust for a while, Dal Colle found a niche spot on that third line with Komarov and Valtteri Filppula before he got hurt. Dal Colle is a hard worker who never takes a shift off but is prone to rookie mistakes and costly turnovers. His turnover against Columbus Tuesday night proved costly as it put the game out of reach. Overall, he has played well but his inexperience will hurt his hopes for a lineup spot come playoff time.
Tom Kuhnhackl is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins and boasts 9 points in 31 games this season in New York. The 27-year-old hasn’t played since March 17th, however, and doesn’t do anything too special to put him ahead of the competition. He plays a physical game but has played almost exclusively on the third line whereas Dal Colle has gotten looks with top six guys like Matt Barzal and Anders Lee. Kuhnhackl will most likely start game 1 of a first round matchup but will have a short leash and may be first to get scratched if things go south.
While many fans hope Dal Colle gets a shot in the playoffs, Trotz will probably go with experience to begin the post-season. However, Dalo Colle will likely either get to play in the AHL playoffs or get a shot at a game 3 or 4 if the Isles are trying to turn the series around. Of course, there’s always the potential for another injury, although the Isles hope that doesn’t happen.