Pierre Engvall says Islanders are getting a ‘two-way player’

The Islanders wasted no time throwing new acquisition Pierre Engvall into the deep end, putting him on the top line with Anders Lee and Bo Horvat at Thursday’s practice, Engvall’s first with the team.

In accordance, the Islanders shifted Simon Holmstrom down to the fourth line, where he skated as the center between Ross Johnston and Josh Bailey, while sending Arnaud Durandeau back to AHL Bridgeport to create space for Engvall on the roster.

The story, though, is the top line, where the Islanders have struggled to fill the hole created by Mathew Barzal’s absence.

Engvall, who the Islanders got from Toronto on Tuesday by sending a 2024 third-round pick in return, played on the third line for most of the year with the Maple Leafs.

But he sees himself as a versatile piece, and the Islanders see a player whose speed and size can complement Horvat.

“I see myself as a two-way player,” Engvall said. “I think that my skating is my biggest asset. So I think [it will be] really [helpful] to get a chance with those guys.”

Coach Lane Lambert did not commit to keeping the same configuration beyond Thursday — the Islanders have another day before their next game on Saturday against the Red Wings — but it would be surprising to see them change things before seeing it in an actual game.

Engvall also worked on the penalty kill, where Lambert sees him fitting in right now.

For now, at least, Lambert said he doesn’t want to overload Engvall with time on both special teams units, but given the current makeup of the second power-play unit, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him there soon.

Pierre Engvall
Pierre Engvall
NHLI via Getty Images

“Good size, and he skates well,” Lambert said. “With any player that comes in, it’s his first day on the ice and getting acclimatized to the complete environment. I thought he did well.”

The 26-year-old Swede is still getting his bearings after a busy 48 hours, starting in Seattle when he and Rasmus Sandin were surprisingly traded by the Leafs, with Sandin going to the Capitals.

Engvall couldn’t make it to Minnesota in time for the Islanders’ 2-1 loss to the Wild that night, but the two days leading into his Islanders debut represent valuable time to get acclimated.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know I was gonna get traded,” Engvall said. “But I’m really happy to be here. I think we have a great group of guys, and I think we can do something really good here. So, looking forward to that.”

Engvall has 12 goals and nine assists this season, and with the Islanders’ depth depleted in the wake of Barzal’s injury — he was spotted at practice Thursday without a noticeable limp but has yet to start skating — the hope is that Engvall can help plug some of the holes.

The Islanders have responded to the injury about as well as can be expected, going 3-1-1 in their first five games without Barzal thanks to shutdown defense and a renewed focus on structure.

That’s given Lou Lamoriello license to add with the trade deadline coming on Friday.

It’s not clear whether Engvall will be the last piece of the puzzle — Lamoriello laughed off a question to that effect on Tuesday, and the Islanders could still use a defenseman with some mobility — but a versatile winger who can play any position and add a bit of speed and scoring to the lineup was near the top of the wish list.

“It was definitely a change, jump on a plane right away and go here,” Engvall admitted. “[But] it feels really good to be here. Really excited to get it going.”