The theme for NY Islanders prospect Simon Holmstrom coming into September rookie camp has been "confidence." The start to Holmstrom's North American professional career has been anything but normal dealing with a world pandemic not long after hearing his name called in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, 23rd overall. Now, the 21-year-old winger is looking forward to his first year with all of that (hopefully) in the rearview mirror.
"I don’t think (Covid's) what anyone expected. Coming in at 18 (years old) and then having two or three years that was just Covid all over. It’s good to have my first normal year."- Simon Holmstrom
Even though there were hurdles such as social distancing and further, lockdowns, Holmstrom admits it's much easier to get acclimated to his new lifestyle away from Sweden in the most recent years due to living in North America.
"It’s been a lot better," Holmstrom explained. "The language and all that. Knowing how to get around and what to do, it’s been maturing for me."
After the second day of rookie camp, Holmstrom reflected on his breakout season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Islanders where he was third on the team with 43 points (12 goals, 31 assists), attributing his success to playing in the AHL since he's 18 years old, growing confidence, and being surrounded by talented players.
"I just feel like it’s the confidence, experience, and all that," Holstrom stated. "I played with great players, we had a really good team as well. Like I said, I had more experience and more confidence, and that was the biggest difference for me."
The confidence was evident in the playoffs, too. Holmstrom tallied a goal and three assists in six games, looking like one of the more poised players on the ice. As one of the veterans for the JV Islanders, Holmstrom took charge as a leader on the team to help Bridgeport win their first playoff series since the season before he was drafted.
Fellow prospect Aatu Räty recognized the kind of player Holmstrom was for Bridgeport in the playoffs explaining how good he is on both ends of the ice:
"Great player. He's just an effortless skater. He just moves so well, super skilled, he’s big and getting stronger every day. I feel like he’s good in the corners. He takes good shots and can absolutely rip it. He’s a really complete player. He played (on the penalty kill) in Bridgeport last year so he’s good defensively, too."- Aatu Räty
Playoff experience at any level is always important for the development of a prospect. Holmstrom's goal is to make the varsity Islanders by the end of training camp but knows how good the postseason experience was for the junior Islanders, stating they're a better team than given credit for and is excited about their future, especially if he'll begin the season in the AHL.
"It was awesome, we haven’t really been (to the playoffs) since I got here," Holmstrom explained. "I think it was a good confidence boost for everyone to just know that we can actually do it and we’re good enough. I think we’re better than how far we went. I think we have more to give as well and that’s what we hope for this season."
Lane Lambert isn't in attendance at the Islanders rookie camp which is being led by Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg as well as other coaches and staff. However, Holmstrom will be at training camp next week and is looking forward to showing off his improved repertoire.
"I just want to show everyone how much I’ve improved. My goal is to take a spot in the NHL, of course, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here, ready to go and hoping for the best."
Holmstrom doubled down on his theme. His confidence is growing and he attributes that to how he will be successful in making the Islanders' NHL roster. He'll have some competition, too, with Räty and William Dufour also making names for themselves, while also trying to steal ice time from guys like Zach Parise and Kieffer Bellows. Holmstrom believes he knows how to achieve that goal.
"Like I said, mostly just the confidence to believe in myself and believe in what I can do out there. Just getting stronger and more used to the North American way of play which I think has been awesome for me. I think I’ve shown that, especially in the last half of last season as well."