Sound Tigers Hit Long Island for NHL's Return to Play
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The New York Islanders opened training camp in East Meadow, NY this morning as part of Phase III of the NHL's Return to Play Plan. Among those on the roster are nine players who appeared in at least 14 games with the Sound Tigers this past season.
Headlining the group was Bridgeport's leading scorer in 2019-20, former first-round draft pick Kieffer Bellows. The 22-year-old collected a team-best 22 goals and 31 points in 52 American Hockey League games, in addition to three points (two goals, one assist) in eight NHL games with the Islanders. He ended the season with six goals in his last seven AHL contests.
Forwards Oliver Wahlstrom, Otto Koivula and Andrew Ladd also spent significant time with the Sound Tigers in 2019-20. Wahlstrom and Koivula each made their NHL debuts and played at least nine games with New York in addition to their time in the AHL, while Ladd finished third on Bridgeport's roster with 11 goals in 34 games.
Sebastian Aho, Grant Hutton and Thomas Hickey joined the Islanders' defense for camp after spending the majority of the season in Bridgeport. Despite playing just 49 AHL games this year, Aho led all Sound Tigers defensemen and ranked second on the team overall in scoring (30 points), and represented the Sound Tigers at the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic in Ontario, CA. Hutton had 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 55 games as a rookie this past season, and is still looking to make his NHL debut.
Between the pipes, Christopher Gibson and rookie goaltender Jakub Skarek were also called to Long Island to join Isles regulars Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov. Gibson led all Sound Tigers goalies with a 2.78 goals-against-average and .914 save percentage in 25 games this year and posted a 10-8-5 record along the way. His 76 career wins with Bridgeport rank second all-time. Skarek went 3-10-1 in his first AHL season with a 3.27 goals-against-average and .888 save percentage in 16 appearances. He is also looking to make his NHL debut.
Cal Clutterbuck (conditioning) and Tom Kuhnhackl (conditioning) also appeared in at least two games with the Sound Tigers in 2019-20.
In total, 23 of the 30 players on the Islanders training camp roster have spent time with the Sound Tigers during their careers.
Twenty-four NHL teams will complete in the unprecedented Stanley Cup Qualifiers next month. The Qualifiers begin Saturday, Aug. 1 with the top four teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a three-game round-robin, and the No. 5-12 seeds playing in eight best-of-5 series. The 7-seed Islanders will face the 10-seed Florida Panthers beginning Aug. 1.
The AHL season was paused on Mar. 12 due to the on-going coronavirus crisis. It was officially cancelled on May 11, but the NHL and NHL Players' Association voted to ratify the terms of their Return to Play Plan on Friday, as well as approve a Memorandum of Understanding to extend their collective bargaining agreement through the 2025-26 season.
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