New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert, following the 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, told the media that a decision had not been made as to who or if the Islanders would be calling up a seventh defenseman as they embark on a three-game road trip out West.
With no status report on Adam Pelech, who missed his third straight game as he deals with an upper-body injury (day-to-day), the Islanders only have six defensemen rostered. Most teams, especially when traveling, will bring an extra defenseman in case someone gets hurt, and the Islanders are likely to do the same.
Next for the Islanders is a Friday night matchup with the Arizona Coyotes, the first of a back-to-back as the club is in Vegas to face the Golden Knights Saturday night. And then, on Monday, they face the Colorado Avalanche.
With Robin Salo already up with the club, filling in for Pelech, who will general manager Lou Lamoriello call up from Bridgeport?
The handiness or side of the call-up doesn’t matter, as Salo can play both sides if need be.
One would think that the top option for New York would have been 27-year-old right-shot defenseman Grant Hutton, who played 16 games for the Islanders a year ago.
But Hutton has not played for Bridgeport since Oct. 29, and Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson said it is a long-term injury.
So who’s next?
The 30-year-old Paul LaDue turned heads during training camp as he became a dark horse for the seventh defenseman spot. He was one of the last defenseman cut, as the Islanders went with Sebastian Aho as the seventh guy.
“He’s physical. He just keeps it simple,” Lane Lambert said during training camp. “He moves the puck, and he’s aggressive.”
LaDue, a former sixth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, has 70 career NHL games under his belt. He played one game with the Islanders a season ago as they battled COVID-19.
In those 70 games, LaDue has five goals and 13 assists.
Following a preseason contest against the New Jersey Devils, in which Ladue notched an assist, he spoke with the media and had this to say about his game:
“I am just very steady defense-first [defenseman], but, you know, in the offensive zone, I can contribute to so just hope to be as reliable as I can be for these coaches and you know, be consistent so day by day, they know what they’re getting,” Ladue said.
The North Dakota native played in 12 games for Bridgeport this season with three assists and has just returned to the lineup after battling an injury of his own. His “keep it simple” defense bodes well for him getting the call-up.
After a season filled with injuries, Samuel Bolduc has found his game at the AHL level. The Islanders’ 2019 second-round pick has four goals and 16 assists in 24 games, with his assists already being an AHL career-high, as well as his 20 points.
This is his third year in Bridgeport.
Despite his strong showing, Bolduc has never played an NHL game, and after suffering an injury during training camp, he was unable to play in any of the preseason games. He is likely not the player the Islanders would call up just yet.
Here’s what Bridgeport general manager Chris Lamoriello had to say about Bolduc:
“Yeah, he had a tough start last year, no question, and I think the toughest thing for a player, I mean, he did not participate in any training camp. Finally, got back to Bridgeport and not long after that was out, I think, another four weeks basically,” Lamoriello said. “You know, being on the COVID protocol list, and then it was just a matter of him trying to play catch up all year. So I don’t want to say that he’s exceeded expectations, but it’s certainly great to see him, even though he had a little bit of a minor hiccup in training camp. He missed a few days.”
As for what he has seen from Bolduc this season: “We’re most satisfied that he’s been in a position to fully participate and really start to build his foundation and take advantage of his talent. I think that’s something that is very easy to recognize, that he’s a very talented player and he’s a good kid. He’s an intelligent player, and we’re just looking forward to to continue the process with him.”
A former first-round selection by the Detroit Red Wings in 2016, Dennis Cholowski has truly struggled to develop. He does have a connection to Long Island now, as his former assistant coach Doug Houda joined the New York Islanders coaching staff earlier this offseason.
But after struggling defensively in his limited preseason minutes, Cholowski did not make the Islanders out of camp after signing a two-way deal on Aug. 23.
In 21 games with Bridgeport, the 24-year-old Cholowski has no goals with 11 assists.
Over his four-year NHL career, Cholowski has not played much, with just 115 games under his belt. The 20th overall pick in 2016 (one spot before Kieffer Bellows) has 10 goals and 20 assists to his name in 2021-22, but was a mess defensively on a struggling Detroit Red Wings team.
He is likely the current no. two option as a call-up, just given his NHL experience.