Could he be in Islander Blue someday? UMass hockey freshman defenseman Oleg Yevenko was a big man in town in Saturday's 4-2 upset of Boston College. Thom Kendall photography

Thoughts from Isles Prospect Camp


As the prospect camp closed it doors, a few comments about what I saw:

1.  Got to talk to Matt Donovan – who called himself the “old man” as he attended his fifth prospect camp.  His improvement over that time has grew steadily each year.  He looks quite comfortable in his skin, and getting to work with the younger guys, giving the advice that he got from the older players to keep working hard, working out, get stronger and listen to the coaches and players on the ice.  Basically to absorb it all in.  Donovan, who got to play 3 games at the NHL last season, is working on his body in a great deal of off-ice training to be ready for the rigors of an NHL season.  The first Oklahoman born and raised NHL player was even recognized in the stands watching the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NHL playoffs.  No – he is not having drinks with Kevin Durant anytime soon, but the young up-and-coming defenseman should have a real good opportunity to make the big club this season, along with Aaron Ness, who also impressed the writers and coaches at camp too.

2.  Another ‘young’ player that impressed me was Grant Somerby.  The fifth round defenseman (125th overall), Somerby is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound defenseman who still has a year remaining at Kimball Union Academy in Meridan, N.H. Then, he’ll head to Boston University to continue his career.  He does not even turn 18 years old until July 4th.

“It is so surreal”, said Somerby to reporters after Friday’s camp.  “First being drafted, and them coming here to camp, and sitting next to NHL players such as Nino Niederreiter, it is just really cool.  It was a little tough at the beginning being a little intimidated, but the guys are real nice, and they helped me out.”

Somerby was converted to a defensemen from a a forward at the age of 14, feels that he needs to work more on his defensive skills, and will do that this year.  He was the last player to leave the ice on the final day, working with the Islander coaches on his body positioning and his one-timer.  He, for one, is most appreciative of the instruction he got, and looks forward to working harder on his game.

3.  Oleg Yevenko.  A camp invite, this young Russian defenseman played last season at U-Mass Amherst.  He had one goal and two assists and 38 penalty minutes in 33 games for this season.  Just looking at the numbers would not be so impressive.  But his size definitely makes up for that.  He is “LISTED” at 6’7″ and 241, but had to be bigger than that.  To me – I would call him Zdeno Chara with a russian accent.

The freshman from Minsk, Belarus, made a major contribution in a game that U-Mass beat #1 Boston College this season.  According to an article in the Springfield Republican, Yevenko has the nickname of “Soft”, given to him by his teammates as a reversal joke about his size, but his game, according to his coach at U-Mass is “anything but soft!”

Playing previously in Fargo of the USHL, Yevenko impressed me with his skating, and his shot.  Perhaps just some work on his positioning, and some more seasoning in the tought Hockey East Conference, and he may be ready for another jump.

There were more stories about the camp, but I am quite convinced that the Islanders took another of their solid steps in building this team with their youth.  In the past, they have been criticized for not tackling the defensive side of the game in the draft.  This year not only did they tackle it, but knocked it out of the park.  Craig Button of the NHL network was totally impressed by what Garth Snow did, and so am I.  These young men that were selected, can be some interesting cogs in the Islanders future.

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Tags: Aaron Ness Featured Garth Snow Grant Somerby Matt Donovan New York Islanders Oleg Yevenko Popular