Samuel Bolduc’s NHL debut a silver lining for reeling Islanders

Among the silver linings from the Islanders’ 0-2-0 trip to Ontario was the NHL debut of Samuel Bolduc — the fifth player this season to hit such a milestone for the Isles.

Even better, the 2019 second-round pick showed himself well in losses against the Maple Leafs and Senators, averaging 16:18 of ice time and playing mostly sound and mistake-free hockey. It’s not clear whether Bolduc will stay in the lineup when the Islanders play a pair of games at home against the Red Wings and Golden Knights starting Friday — that will presumably depend on the health of Noah Dobson, who missed both games in Canada with an undisclosed issue — but the future looks bright for the 22-year-old given a successful cameo thus far.

“He looks poised, which we feel that he is,” coach Lane Lambert said after Bolduc made his debut in Toronto. “He’s a big guy. I liked the way he played.”

Samuel Bolduc skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at the Scotiabank Arena.
NHLI via Getty Images

After falling off the map with a rough 2021-22 season, Bolduc has bounced back in a big way with eight goals and 18 assists with AHL Bridgeport, earning an AHL All-Star nod and vaulting himself into the mix on the organization’s depth chart for left-side defenseman. Once Dobson is healthy, the Islanders will be glad to have their top six intact again for the first time since early December — Adam Pelech returned from a presumed concussion in Toronto — but Parker Wotherspoon and Bolduc, two afterthoughts in training camp, both acquitted themselves well.

“Still my first game, so I have a lot of things to learn,” Bolduc told reporters after the Toronto game. “The more experience I’m gonna take, the better it’s gonna be for me.”

Between Bolduc, Wotherspoon, Simon Holmstrom, Aatu Raty and William Dufour — the Isles’ five NHL debutants this season — a farm system that has long been ranked near the bottom of the league has shown it has something in its stores.

Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders makes a save against the Ottawa Senators as Ridly Greig #17 of the Ottawa Senators in his NHL debut battles for position against Samuel Bolduc #4 at Canadian Tire Centre on January 25, 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Semyon Varlamov makes a save against the Ottawa Senators as Ridly Greig for position against Samuel Bolduc at Canadian Tire Centre.
NHLI via Getty Images

That could pay off down the line.

“I think it’s been a bright spot with each one of the players that have come up,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. “They’ve filled the role, whatever’s asked of them. And sometimes they had to go in situations that maybe is not the best for them. … And I think each and every one of them in a different way have handled every situation the way we would’ve liked them to handle it, and also giving us an indication that they’re not far away from being a significant factor in our lineup.”

Anders Lee is one point away from reaching 400 in his career. Dobson and Scott Mayfield are both one point away from reaching 100 in their careers.

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