EAST MEADOW — New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello had never been one for promoting young prospects to the NHL ahead of schedule — or even on time. But times are changing, and the Hall-of-Fame executive is trying to at least keep an open mind, even if he doesn’t like it.
“Unfortunately these days, you rush them a little bit… because you’re always looking for something better,” he said during his availability on Monday. “But we’ll see where they’re at.”
Among the crop of young players that will attempt to impress Islanders brass over the next week are forwards Ruslan Iskhakov and winger William Dufour, both of whom were specifically named by Lamoriello as options to keep an eye on.
“There are a couple of young forwards,” Lamoriello began. “I don’t like to name people but whether it’s Iskhakov or Dufour, they’re close. How close, we’ll find out.”
Iskhakov, 23, posted 17 goals and 34 assists (51 points) in 69 games with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport last year, including eight goals and 12 assists (20 points) in his final 26 games and league Player of the Month honors in October. It was his first season playing within the organization after he was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft. He attended UConn for two years before making the jump to Europe.
At 21 years old, Dufour posted 21 goals in his first season with Bridgeport after putting together a historic showing with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in 2021-22 (56 goals, 60 assists in 66 games). It helped earn him a call-up to the NHL in January in hopes of providing a jolt to a slumping squad. But his time with the big club lasted just 6:48 after he was on the ice for two Boston Bruins goals. He was sent down shortly after.
Both Iskhakov and Dufour will certainly have to impress at camp, though, to make a legitimate NHL push. The Islanders’ veteran-laden forward lines already appear to be at capacity with a core that has remained nearly unchanged over the last four years.
And even if they do put on a show in the exhibition season, it’s going to come with a grain of salt for Lamoriello.
“You have to be very careful with training camp and exhibition games,” Lamoriello said. “All of that has to come in the evaluations of what you do. Exhibition game, you usually play against 60%, maybe 70% of the rosters that you’ll see on opening night, but you find out what they can and can’t do and how close they are.”