The New York Islanders invited 31 of their brightest stars for rookie training camp that began yesterday at Nassau Coliseum.
Mike Willhoft and I were fortunate enough to be on hand for our first media event as newly minted members of the Islanders blog box. We were joined by Christian Arnold of NY Hockey Journal in the media room about 15 minutes prior to start time.
As we looked to our right in the hallway, head coach Jack Capuano passed us in khaki shorts and flip-flops. In other words, it’s good to be the king. He waved hello to us and the one noticeable thing about the Islanders bench boss was that he looked very relaxed and confident heading into, believe it or not, his fourth season leading the club.
With Capuano and general manager Garth Snow looking on from a perch approximately 20 rows above the ice, Bridgeport lead man Scott Pellerin and pro scout Eric Cairns led the players onto the ice for day two, beginning promptly at 10am.
The session was up-tempo from the start, with many showing a lot of energy and plenty of skating legs. As the camp wears on, time will tell which ones still possess those traits come tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday for the completion prior to the main stars arriving on Thursday.
One of the early standouts that was making himself very visible was defenseman Dallas Jackson. The 6’2, 23 year old is a tremendous skater and moved about the ice with grace and precision. Not to mention he bears a resemblance to ex-Islander standout Kenny Jonsson. While his chances to make the senior squad are probably slim, he will be a very nice addition to Pellerin’s Sound Tigers team for the upcoming season.
Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee were all wearing white practice jerseys, a sneak peek at what the lines would look like later in the session when the team began practicing their 3 vs 2 drills. Strome looked particularly deceptive with his shot, as he was looking to snipe Anders Nilsson high blocker three consecutive times.
Kenny Reiter looked sharp in goal and was given a lot of coaching on the ice, particularly dealing with close in situations when things tend to get scrambled around the goal crease.
Many readers were asking me to take a close look at Joe Diamond, the diminutive undrafted winger out of the University of Maine. What I saw today was a player with tremendous skills, especially handling the puck but as with many before him at 5’8″ will find the AHL especially rough and much different than what he might have been used to in college hockey. I can see Joe being a quality player in the AHL given some more development but facing a real uphill battle to the bright lights of Brooklyn.
Lastly, Calvin DeHaan looked very sharp, especially in his transition passes on breakout drills. After only playing 3 games last season due to a serious shoulder injury, if he keeps up this level of play it will not be only Matt Donovan that we are talking about come the close of camp. This competition could be a lot closer than I had even anticipated prior to this morning.
As the players began leaving the ice, the excellent Islanders PR staff led us to the locker room where Christian, Mike and myself were able to get some words from coach Pellerin, Anders Nilsson, Matt Donovan, Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson. Below are the clips from those interviews.
Next up for Eyes is the Thursday training camp opener at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Follow us on Twitter for all the latest in what proves to be a very exciting and fun filled day with two practice sessions to officially open the 2013-14 season.
As always, thanks for reading us here at Eyes On Isles.