Islanders will make use of Pierre Engvall’s versatility

Where Pierre Engvall will fit into the Islanders’ lineup is a question whose answer may have more to do with the team’s immediate need than anything. 

General manager Lou Lamoriello stressed on Wednesday that Engvall, primarily a left wing, can play all three forward spots.

So the question is where the Islanders, currently down a center in Jean-Gabriel Pageau and a center-turned-winger in Mathew Barzal, are most in need. 

Coach Lane Lambert was noncommittal Tuesday when asked where Engvall fit into the fold, but he stressed the same attributes as Lamoriello had prior to the 2-1 shootout loss to the Wild. 

“He’s got great speed, he’s got good size,” Lambert said. “He’s certainly gonna help.” 

Until Pageau gets back — he is considered day-to-day and has started skating — it’s possible the Islanders could try Engvall at center.

Otto Koivula, who centered a fourth line Tuesday between Ross Johnston and Josh Bailey, has one NHL point in five games — a secondary assist on Bailey’s goal against the Wild — and has largely failed to make much impact. 

The Islanders can plug Pierre Engvall into any offensive opening as needed.
The Islanders can plug Pierre Engvall into any offensive opening as needed.
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The other option would be to slot Engvall to Bo Horvat’s right, where Simon Holmstrom and Matt Martin have both played since Barzal went out with injury.

That would be a longer-term play — Lamoriello sounded less than optimistic when asked about the timetable for Barzal, though the Islanders have said they plan for him to be back this season. 

“He’s been [injured] two weeks Saturday now,” Lamoriello said. “We’ll see where he is after three weeks, but I have no timetable.

Engvall brings speed and some offensive firepower with him.
Engvall brings speed and some offensive firepower with him.

“These are injuries that, really, you can’t determine exactly when it’s gonna happen. You just have an idea.” 

If those two potential roles for Engvall sound completely divergent from one another, it’s because they are.

Lamoriello made no secret of valuing his versatility as well as the speed and strength of the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Swede.

Engvall was also in the Maple Leafs’ organization while Lamoriello was general manager there, giving him some familiarity, though Engvall was still in the minors at the time. 

“He was with the [AHL] Marlies and was part of a Calder Cup and certainly had a great series there, we watched that series,” Lamoriello said. “It’s always helpful when you know the individual.

“But it’s his playing ability, it’s the player that we’re talking about right now. It’s always great when you get a great individual, too. And he’s a combination of both in my mind.” 

The Isles, particularly without Barzal, could use some speed, especially next to Horvat.

Holmstrom, the default option on the right since Barzal’s injury, has struggled at times to put the puck on net, and Engvall would be an improvement in that aspect as well, with 12 goals and nine assists this season. 

“He’s a big guy, plays well,” Matt Martin said. “Has had success in this league, and obviously we were a little thin with our lineup right now.

Mathew Barzal's
Mathew Barzal

“I think he’ll help us. We’re excited to bring him into the fold and get going.” 

It also helps that the Isles, who have played more than anyone to this point, are going to get some practice time as the rest of the league starts to catch up.

They have three days before their next game against the Red Wings, then two more until they face the Sabres. 

That could turn into a vital advantage, especially with the next 10 days featuring four games against teams in the wild-card race. 

“There’ll be time for [Engvall] to get acclimated to the way we do things,” Martin said, “and hopefully he can come out flying for us.”