Denis Chulovsky did not know the general manager of the inhabitants of the island, Lou Lamoreello, but Lamorillo did know Chulovsky. Chulovsky joked on Friday that this is what helped him reach the islanders.
“I don’t know how and when,” said the defense man, “but I think when I was younger, he knew me.”
At the first-round pick for the Red Wings six years ago, Cholowski sat in a cramped booth inside a small curtain-lined locker room at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. The islanders – the senior islanders – do not use that room. It’s for junior camp players, only a handful of them You have a chance to prepare the opening night menu. Chulovsky, the only free agent for Amoreello to sign this off-season, is among the group that has a chance.
This is the third franchise in a year for the 24-year-old, who was selected in the expansion draft by Kraken, won concessions by the capitals, then waived again and sent back to Seattle. Through it all, Cholowski played more games for the AHL Charlotte Checkers, a subsidiary the Kraken and Panthers share, than he did in the NHL.
After all those shuttle trips between coasts, Chulovsky spent the summer in Minnesota, where his fiancée’s family is. Now, airline miles in tow, Chulosky on Long Island.
He hopes that this arrangement, a two-year deal with an average annual value of $762,000 NHL-wide, will be more permanent. But the precarious nature of that hope is betrayed by a look at his contract, a two-way deal that allows the islanders to pay him a relatively paltry $200,000 to play for AHL Bridgeport this season if they so choose.
There is a place to win in the NHL starting lineup, though, on the left side of the blue line, likely versus Scott Mayfield in the third pair. Between Cholowski, Robin Salo, Sebastian Aho, and even Grant Hutton, someone will win this spot. Another player on the NHL roster will likely end up as a health scratch and two will start the season in the AHL.
“That’s the point,” Chulovsky said. “Obviously I want to make it and play in the NHL. I will do my best to do it every day.”
At this point in camp, where the team works mostly on figure skating and skills, there is little differentiation between the group. Only three of the four are on the ice with the starters, as Aho’s attendance won’t be required until next week, when The NHL roster opens camp. It’s too early for spirits to be high. Chulovsky, who has 30 points in 115 games in the National Hockey League, on Friday spoke of a renewed confidence despite a nomadic year.
“I felt like last season, I turned my match into a full offensive defensive match,” he said. “Even though I move around a lot, I have gained a lot of confidence. I feel good about my game.”
Cholowski has always been a capable offensive contributor from the Blue Line, and those traits will be welcome in the Islanders who struggled to move the disc from zone to the following last season. Defense errors are what hurt Chulovsky in the past. He was a minus 46 during his first two NHL seasons with the Red Wings.
Beneath that, though, is a player good enough to have it Drafted in the first round Not so long ago.
“I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of promise,” Hatton, who played against Chulovsky in the AHL playoffs last season, told The Post. “I know he has played a lot of games in the NHL already. He has a fair amount of experience.”
He also has a chance here. And he knows it.
“I was happy when [the Islanders] Chulovsky said. “Excited for this opportunity.”