Who to keep an eye on at NY Islanders rookie camp

Finland v Slovakia: Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship
Finland v Slovakia: Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship / Andy Devlin/GettyImages
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We made it. After an off-season that seemed to last forever, the NY Islanders and teams across the NHL are set to begin training camp this week.

With the rookies completing their physicals yesterday, they're set to hit the ice today for the start of rookie camp. It's been well documented by plenty of media outlets how the Islanders have one of the weakest prospect pools in the league, but that won't stop any of these young players from making the best of their opportunity.

Plenty of current Islanders weren't the top prospects in their respective draft classes, yet they have made a name for themselves at the junior level. Anders Lee (152nd overall) went from a sixth-round pick who was deciding between playing hockey and football to now being the captain of the Islanders and one of the top net-front presences in the league. Casey Cizikas (92nd overall) and JG Pageau (96th overall) were both mid-round selections who have made careers for themselves and are the base for the Islanders' depth at center.

There are plenty of prospects with the opportunity to make NHL careers for themselves despite their draft position. Here, we look at three to keep our eyes on as camp begins.

Isaiah George, D (98th overall, 2022)

Isaiah George has already made headlines, signing his ELC with the Islanders yesterday. He made a brief cameo at training camp last season but missed significant ice time after suffering an injury. George is one of the more anticipated prospects attending camp this year, as we'll get our first good look at him in blue and orange.

George was projected to go as high as the second round at the 2022 NHL Draft. He was one of the most athletic players in the draft and possesses phenomenal skating ability. Playing a two-way game on defense, George can change speeds while remaining hard on his edges, allowing him to keep up with the puck carrier on defense and evade a forecheck with the puck.

Spending the last two seasons with the London Knights of the OHL, George will be one of the leaders on a talented squad that could compete for the OHL title and a Memorial Cup. He thinks with more of a defensive mind, but his offense has become stronger during his time playing junior hockey. During his first season with London, George averaged .34 points per game, improving those numbers to .41 last season. Entering his final year of juniors, he'll take on a more significant offensive role as the Islanders hope he'll take another step in his development before joining the team in Bridgeport.

Danny Nelson, C (49th overall, 2023)

Drafted from the USNTDP in the second round, the Islanders hope they found their top-6 center of the future in Danny Nelson. Nelson played third-line minutes on a stacked USA roster behind Will Smith and Oliver Moore, both first-round picks. Nelson will attend Notre Dame this season for his freshman campaign, where it will be interesting to see how his game fares against a more mature opposition every night.

Not only does he have the same last name, but his frame and skill set is similar to Brock Nelson. He stands 6'3" and plays a two-way game with offensive upside.

Trailing 2-0 in the Gold Medal game in the 2023 U-18 World Championship to Sweden, Nelson cut the deficit to one halfway through the third period as it seemed to change the tide for the Americans, as they came back to claim victory in overtime. Nelson has a knack for stepping up in big moments when his team needs him the most.

As the Islanders lack high-end draft picks, Nelson is considered the Isles' top prospect by many and deservingly so. It was thought he'd be drafted in the first round, with the early second round being the latest. He'll now look to prove all the teams who passed on him wrong, looking to leave a lasting image before heading to South Bend for the NCAA season.

UPDATE: Nelson and other current NCAA prospects will not be attending camp.

Eetu Liukas, LW (157th overall, 2021)

A name very few people were familiar with before signing his entry-level contract with the Islanders on June 7, Eetu Liukas will in no way become a game-changer on the offensive end of the ice. Where he's valuable is as a potential replacement for either Matt Martin or Cal Clutterbuck if either doesn't return when their contracts expire after this season.

Liukas is a load to handle at 6'2", 200 lbs, willing to throw the body at any given moment. While he's entering his first season in North America, Liukas has plenty of professional experience, playing in Finland's Liiga over the last four years. Last season with HPK, he tallied 23 points (14 goals, 9 assists) in 58 games, spending time on the team's first line at times.

He may be projected as a fourth-liner, but Liukas possesses an outstanding shot. Capable of beating goaltenders with his wicked wrister, he can also blast a one-timer given the opportunity. His style of play is similar to Clutterbuck in that he plays physically but has the skill to complement it.

He may be a long shot to receive a call-up from Bridgeport this season, but with a strong performance, Liukas may be presented the opportunity to become an NHL regular next year.