The long wait is finally over. The off-season that seemed way too long has ended and a new crop of eager rookies took the ice at the Nassau Coliseum Saturday to officially start the Islanders rookie camp. Veterans will report next Saturday at the Nassau Coliseum.
“It’s great to be back,” Isles Coach Jack Capuano said after his team left the ice. “We saw a lot of these kids obviously in July. Knowing they’ve got games coming up Monday and Tuesday, the practices are more exciting now.”
There is definitely a different feeling at the Coliseum now than there was in July’s rookie camp. The players and coaching staff both seem a lot more serious and the atmosphere is more intense.
“A couple of months ago, they come in and they didn’t know one another so it’s a good opportunity for the guys to interact and learn a little bit about Long Island and have some fun,” Capuano said. “But obviously now it’s game on and the compete level is going to be at a high.”
The two upcoming games rookie games against first year players from the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins Monday and Tuesday will be the players’ first real chance to make a strong impression on the coaching staff. Tickets for Tuesday night’s game are $10 each and are available at http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0000471998178BA4?artistid=805986&majorcatid=10004&minorcatid=9.
Practices today and tomorrow were mostly to prepare the players for these games. “We’ll try to give them all a few systems, you can’t cover everything in two days but a few things to go out and play Monday and Tuesday night,” Capuano said. “Today’s just the first day, there’s a lot of bodies on the ice and you’re trying to concentrate on just warming them up and doing skill drills and working on some system. But come Monday and Tuesday night, they’ll be some eyes on them.”
Some of these players will earn a chance to attend the full team training camp which begins next Saturday when veterans report.
“We plan on giving guys a long look and there are some guys who will be around for a little while,” Capuano added.
While the fans are paying the most attention to players like Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Strome and Calvin de Haan, but Capuano will be closely examining some other players as well. “I can tell you we’re going to take a look at everybody but obviously, some of the guys from Bridgeport, some of the veteran guys, it’s their time now, too,” he said. “They’ve played in the minors of couple of years now and they know what we’re all about and what we’re looking for and so it’s going to be important for them to step it up if they want a chance to make our hockey team.”
The players were eager to make a good first impression. “Just want to make myself a better player. It’s a chance to prove myself,” said this year’s first round draft choice Ryan Strome. “We’ll be playing against the Boston rookies and I know some players there as well. It will be fun to compare yourself and play against some other good talent and to earn a spot in the next camp.”
Kirill Kabanov, the Russian third round pick of a year ago was also excited by this opportunity. “I’m going to try to work hard and show coaches I’m ready,” he said. Both Strome and Kabanov are considered long shots to make the big club this year but are definitely in the Isles’ future plans.
Kabanov also sounded a more serious note, mentioning how much he and the rest of the hockey world were shaken up by the plane crash in Russia that took 43 lives earlier this week. “It’s pretty hard because four of my friends were there and we had a small a small memorial at my university,” Kabanov said. “It’s a big tragedy for me. It’s pretty hard to think about hockey after that.”
The Islanders announced the signing of Brett Gallant and Benn Olson to professional tryout contracts on Saturday. They also inked Art Bidlevskii to an amateur tryout contract. Goalie Kevin Poulin was also officially removed from the injured reserve where he had been since suffering a knee injury last season.
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