Dennis Cholovsky did not know Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders’ general manager, but did know Lamoriello Cholovsky. That, Cholowski joked on Friday, helped lead him to the islanders.
“I don’t know how or when,” said the rescuer, “but I think he knew me when I was little.”
The Red Wings’ first-round pick from six years ago, Cholowski sat in a cramped stall inside a small locker room surrounded by a curtain at the Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. The Islanders – Big Islanders, that is – don’t use that room. This is for players in the rookie camp, of whom there are only a handful. Chance to make the opening-night roster, Cholovsky, the only free agent Lamoriello signed this off-season, is among the group with a chance.
This is the third franchise in a year for the 24-year-old, who was picked up by Kraken in an expansion draft, lifted the waiver by the Capitals, then waived again and sent back to Seattle. Through it all, Cholovsky played more games for the AHL Charlotte Checkers, an ally shared by the Krakens and Panthers, than he did in the NHL.
After closing between the shores, Cholovsky spent the summer in Minnesota, where his fiancé’s family is located. Now, with airline miles in tow, Cholovsky is on Long Island.
He is hoping that this arrangement, a two-year deal with an average annual value of $762,000 at the NHL level, will be more permanent. But the uncertain nature of that hope is betrayed by a look at his contract, a two-way deal that lets the Islanders pay a comparatively $200,000 to play for AHL Bridgeport this season, if they should so choose. .
The NHL’s starting lineup has a place to win, however, likely opposite Scott Mayfield on the third pair, to the left of the Blue Line. Between Cholovsky, Robin Sallow, Sebastian Aho, and even Grant Hutton, someone would win that spot. Another player would end up on the NHL roster as a healthy scratch and two would begin the season in the AHL.
“That’s the goal,” Cholowski said. “Obviously I want to make it and play in the NHL. I’ll do my best to do that every day.”
At this point in camp, the team is mostly power skating and working on skills, with little difference between groups. Only three of the four are on the ice with the rookies, as Aho’s presence will not be required until next week, when NHL roster camp opens. It is too early for spirits to be anything but high. Cholovsky, who has 30 points in 115 career NHL games, spoke of renewed confidence on Friday despite a nomadic year.
“I felt like last season, I really changed my game to a full defensive, offensive game,” he said. “Despite I moving around a lot, I found a lot of confidence. I feel good about my game.”
Cholovsky has always been a capable offensive contributor from the Blue Line, and those characteristics would be welcome in an Islanders team that struggled to move the puck from one zone to the next last season. It’s mistakes on defense that have hurt Cholovsky in the past. He was a combined minus-46 in his first two NHL seasons with the Red Wings.
Beneath this, however, is a player who is good enough drawn in the first round Not that long ago.
“I think he has so much talent, so much promise,” Hutton, who played against Cholovsky in the AHL playoffs last season, told The Post. “I know he’s already played a lot of games in the NHL. He’s got a lot of experience.”
He has a shot here too. And he knows it.
“I was happy when [the Islanders] Finally arrived,” Cholowski said. “Excited about the opportunity.”