Despite the NHL season currently suspended due to COVID-19, the New York Islanders made news Thursday morning when they announced that Samuel Bolduc signed a three-year entry-level contract. Bolduc was drafted by the Islanders in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft and had 43 points in the QMJHL with first the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and then now the Sherbrooke Phoenix.
Related: Revisiting the Islanders’ 2014 Draft
Sherbrooke was having a fantastic year and sat in first place before the season was suspended. It would have been an excellent opportunity to show what he can do in the playoffs for a team that lost just 11 times in 61 games this season.
Future Role with Islanders
At 19 years old, Bolduc will run into a similar problem that Noah Dobson had with the Islanders in that he will not be able to play in the AHL this upcoming season. He does not turn 20 until December and will either have to make the big team out of training camp or report back to his junior club. At 6-foot-4, 184 pounds, Bolduc is a terrific skater at his size and is a two-way defender. He will have a chance to get a good look at training camp next season, assuming everything gets back to normal by then.
Bolduc joins a pretty crowded group of defenders as well, who will all be fighting for six spots with the return of Adam Pelech from injury and established blueliners in Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, and Scott Mayfield, under contract. One would expect the Islanders would send out qualifying offers to both Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews, meaning Bolduc would remain far back on the depth chart. Dobson has already seen time in the NHL, and the Islanders have players like Sebastian Aho and Bode Wilde with more professional experience. The Islanders also liked Andy Greene, and could potentially bring him back for a reasonable price tag.
It is likely when Jonny Boychuk and Nick Leddy become free agents during the 2022 offseason that will be Bolduc’s best chance to make the NHL. However, with all the depth the Islanders have, and their lack of a prolific goal-scorer, general manager Lou Lamoriello has the option to shop some of his defenders. The most logical choice would be Leddy as a trade piece as New York has plenty of offensive defensemen on their team with Pulock and Toews. If the Islanders were to move Leddy, Bolduc would have a better chance of making it to NHL quickly as he plays on the left side like Leddy, but one of the young defenders will likely be involved with any major move.
The Islanders also do not have a first-round pick in the upcoming NHL draft, as they acquired Jean-Gabriel Pageau in February. That makes someone like Leddy even more expendable if the Isles would like to try and get back into the early rounds if a team is willing to take on the final two years of the contract.
Both Bolduc and Dobson could potentially make a strong second pairing in the future. They both are smart players that have had similar paths to the NHL. With Dobson turning 20 years old this year, there is a chance he sees some time in the AHL to develop even more with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It is tough for a young player to grow when they are rotating in-and-out of the lineup as he did for the first half of the season.
All this would likely be in perhaps two to three seasons, with many players still under contract. However, if the Islanders can improve their offense a bit, they could end up becoming legitimate Stanley Cup contenders with a talented defensive core and Ilya Sorokin coming over to the NHL from the KHL.