Islanders’ Pierre Engvall to get 1st-line look alongside Barzal, Horvat: ‘I think we can be a big combo’

Islanders PIerre Engvall
New York Islanders’ Pierre Engvall (18) passes the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander (88) defends during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy is adding a little more speed to his top line. 

Left-winger Pierre Engvall joined Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal on the top line Monday morning before the Islanders take on the Seattle Kraken Tuesday night at UBS Arena. He swaps places with captain Anders Lee, who flexes down to the second unit alongside Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri.

“I just want to try different things,” Roy, now in his third week as Islanders head coach, said. “I get to know them…I want to see different avenues and see how things will go. It could be short-term, it could be long-term. I don’t have a timeline on this… I’m curious to see those lines like that.”

Speed is the name of the game. Behind Barzal, the 27-year-old is the fastest skater on the Islanders — a tantalizing skillset that could help create more chances for New York’s top playmaking duo.

“I’m going to bring my speed and my work ethic,” Engvall said. “I’m going to work with two great players so I have to make sure I’m in the right position and play the right way. I think we’re going to do good.”

But consistency has been hard to come by for Engvall, who scored five goals in 18 games for the Islanders after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, giving him a career-high 17 on the year. But this year has seen just six goals with 10 assists in 46 games — the first season of a seven-year deal he inked with Lou Lamoriello over the summer.

Islanders Mathew Barzal Coyotes Bo Horvat
New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates with teammate Bo Horvat (14) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Putting him on a line with Barzal and Horvat, who have combined for 102 points in 102 games this year, could help open the floodgates. However, he’ll have to blend his finesse game with a bit more sandpaper. That means using his 6-foot-5 frame to play strong along the boards or crash the net when necessary. 

“He’s going to have to do this and he’s capable of it,” Roy began. “So I don’t see it as a problem.”

“What stands out to me is his size and his puck possession and protection, his ability to make plays,” Barzal added. “I think if we’re going to be successful we need him winning battles and getting in the forecheck, using his size. And he will. I think we can be a big combo.”

An injection of quickness could also allow that line to amp up its intensity even further, which plays perfectly into Roy’s new aggressive philosophy.

“He’s got a lot of speed. That can complement Barzy and I pretty well,” Horvat said. “With his speed, we have to try and get on pucks quicker in the neutral zone so we can just take advantage of it and go.”

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