As training camp opens, the Isles will look to improve upon their record from last season, when they finished with the worst record in the NHL.
For the most part, it is the same roster from a year ago. The only newcomers are forward John Tavares, and goalies Dwayne Roloson, and Martin Biron.
Even though the roster is not much different, the Isles should be much more competitive this season.
Here are three things to watch in camp as the Isles prepare to open the season Oct. 3rd against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
1. What position will John Tavares play?
Tavares is a natural center, but there is a good chance that he will start his NHL career as a winger, playing alongside veteran center Doug Weight.
Having JT on the wing would help alleviate some of the pressure that will be on him this season because wingers do not have as much responsibility as the centers do.
JT can learn a lot playing alongside Weight, and it will help make JT a better player down the road.
I feel that moving JT to the wing for his rookie season would be a good move by the Isles. The Penguins did the same thing with Sidney Crosby in his rookie season, and that worked well for them.
2. Who will be the starting goalie opening night, and when will Rick DiPietro be ready to play?
The Isles signed Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron over the summer. Both of these goalies are starting caliber goalies. We all know DP won't be ready to start the season, so Biron and Roloson will be fighting for playing time until DP is ready to play.
Unless there is an injury or Biron has a sensational camp, look for Roloson to be the starting goalie on Oct. 3rd.
The Isles have more invested in Roloson, as he is signed for the next two seasons. Biron should get plenty of playing time though, because the Isles will want to showcase him so they can trade him when DP finally does return to the line up.
Even though I believe Roloson will be the opening night starter, I expect him and Biron to split time somewhere between 50-50 and 60-40.
As for DP, clearly he won't be ready to start the season. DP will continue to rehab slowly, and hopefully he is ready to return sometime in late November and early December.
3. Will any of the prospects in Bridgeport make the opening night roster?
This Isles lineup is mostly set, but guys like Jesse Joensuu, Trevor Smith, and Joel Rechlicz could push Jon Sim, Jeff Tambellini, or Nate Thompson out of a roster spot with a strong camp.
Thompson is signed to a two way contract and could be sent to Bridgeport. Sim and Tambellini have one way deals, and would have to clear waivers before going to Bridgeport.
Joensuu and Smith could get long looks because they could give the Isles line-up some much needed size.
Rechlicz has a decent shot to make the team too because the Isles need an enforcer.
In the end, unless there are a lot of injuries, I don't think any of these guys will crack the opening night line-up. They should be in Bridgeport, getting more playing time to work of their games.
However, I do expect to see all three of them at some point during the upcoming season.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, I will preview the Isles forwards, and defensemen/goalies. I will also have an overall preview, with where I predict they will finish this season.
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