The Islanders rookies showed plenty of promise in their 7-2 win over the Bruins rookies Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
This year’s first round pick Ryan Strome had two goals and an assist while Casey Cizikas also scored twice to head the Islanders attack.
The Isles got strong goaltending from Anders Nilsson who didn’t give up a goal until the third period when the Isles already had a 7-0 lead.
“He’s a big guy,” Isles Coach Jack Capuano said when asked about Nilsson’s performance. “He controlled his rebounds he wasn’t passive…I thought he did well.”
The 21-year-old Swede had a strong season last year in the Swedish Elite League, finishing with a 1.92 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 31 games.
Last year’s top draft pick, Nino Niederreiter, also had a strong game, scoring once and setting up two other goals for the Islanders. While “El Nino” picked up three points, his coach was impressed with his all-around play.
“He had a good game tonight,” Capuano said. “There are games that he put up more numbers and more points but tonight I thought he won some wall battles and his defensive zone coverage was good and he chipped some pucks out when he had to.”
Kirill Kabanov also had a strong game. The talented Russian assisted on two goals including one where he showed excellent hustle in outracing two Bruins defenders to negate an icing call before centering the puck to Cizikas who poked home the puck from the slot.
The most encouraging thing to Capuano was way his team adjusted to the critiques he gave them after watching the film of Monday night’s 8-5 loss to against the Bruins rookies.
“They executed structure much better than last night,” Capuano added. “I thought our special teams were outstanding. The penalty kill was great our power play scored some timely goals and especially on the 5-on-3 (penalty kill), Nilsson made some big saves. Overall I was just proud of the guys. We talked about the physicality of the game and how they stuck up for each other and overall, it was impressive.”
The game got off to a spirited start with three fights in the first five seconds of action. A fight started immediately after the opening draw and the next two faceoffs after that. Fights are common in rookie games as players try to make an impression on the coaching staff. After the first three bouts, things settled down for the rest of the game.
Overall, Capuano was pleased with the play of his youngsters. “Tonight was a total team effort,” he said. “They won as a team tonight in all areas of the game. We did see some good things from the guys who will be going to the main camp.”
Veterans report for physicals Friday and hit the ice for the first time Saturday as training camp officially gets underway for the Islanders.