Nearly 5,000 fans turned out at the Nassau Coliseum Saturday night to watch the Islanders Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage. The crowd got their first look at the Isles’ top two draft choices, Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson and got to see many of the team’s prospects show off their skills.
In the end, the Orange Team won the scrimmage 3-1 but the Blue Team captured the skills competition that followed.
More important than who won, however, was the exposure these young players got to the Islander organization and the NHL.
“This whole week isn’t about anybody coming to make the Islanders,” Coach Scott Gordon explained after the scrimmage. “It’s about building team unity so when they come to camp they know the coaches, they know the training staff, they know the players. It’s an opportunity for them to learn how to be a pro both on and off the ice and how we coaches do things here so when the time comes for them to turn pro, they have a better understanding of what it takes.”
The Islanders invited several local products to the camp and some of them were represented on the score sheet. Jericho native and Dartmouth College defenseman Danny Markowitz opened the scoring for the Orange Team in the first period. Joey Diamond of Long Beach and the University of Maine made it 2-0 Orange Team in the second period.
Nino Niederreiter, who the Isles selected with the fifth overall choice in this year’s Entry Draft scored on a penalty shot while Brock Nelson, the club’s second pick in the first round this year, scored the only goal for the Blue Team.
The most physical player on the ice was Matt Martin, who was back for his third prospects camp. Martin, who spent five games with the Islanders last season, threw more body checks than anybody else on the ice.
Martin has enjoyed mentoring some of the younger players in camp. As for his own game, the 6’2″, 192 pounnd Windsor, Ontario, native knew what he needed to work on to establish himself with the big club this fall. “My skating, that’s what I’m criticized most for in my game,” Martin said. “That’s something I want to improve on and something I want to make one of my strengths so no one can really talk about it anymore.”
Of the goalies, the most intruiging prospect was big Mikko Koskinen who takes up an awful lot of net at 6’5″ and 187 pounds. The Finnish netminder did not give up a goal during the first period.
A skills competition followed the scrimmage and the goal was to keep things fun and show off the some of the moves of the participants. David Ullstrom won the fastest skater competition with a 14.6 second lap around the rink. Tomas Marcinko, who played with Bridgeport last season, had the hardest shot which was clocked at 94 miles per hour.
In the end the players got a chance to make a first impression while the 4,940 fans in attendance had a glimpse of their team’s future and a taste of hockey in July.
Defensemen Calvin de Haan and Mark Katic and goalie Kevin Poulin were not active for tonight’s scrimmage due to injuries. In addition, forward Kirill Petrov suffered a shoulder injury at the morning skate and was held out of action. Defenseman Anton Klementyev suffered a leg injury and was also missed the scrimmage.