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by Jason Lockhart / New York Islanders
Hard work has turned recently-signed prospect Dustin Kohn into an effective two-way defenseman

Dustin Kohn
Dustin Kohn, the Islanders' latest addition to the defense corps, is a prototypical Western Canadian. As a kid, Kohn learned to skate (almost) before he learned to walk, and by the age of five he had his own set of equipment. At six he was already playing organized hockey, with his parents the driving force behind his love for the game.

"We lived out of town, so we had plenty of room to build our own make-shift rink in the backyard," Kohn told Wednesday night. "My dad used to flood the backyard and he'd skate around with me and my older brother."

While Kohn was too young to remember the Edmonton Oilers during their hey-day, considering he was only three at the time of their last Stanley Cup in 1990, he was still an avid Oilers fan and dreamed of one day lacing up his skates for an NHL team.

Kohn's parents were the biggest proponents of their son's dream, taking him to morning practices and buying him new skates and sticks every year.

"They're the reason I've been given this opportunity," said Kohn about his new three-year contract with the Islanders. "Without their dedication when I was younger, this could have never happened."

Starting at six, Kohn continued his ascent through the hockey ranks, striving to play at the highest level available to him.

"Billy Moores, who is now an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers, always told me I should play at the highest level possible," said Kohn. "Another important coach of mine was Ted Olson, who coached me when I was 11-14. He taught me how to work hard, but at the same time how to have fun. He passed away five years ago, but I consider him my most influential coach growing up."

By the time Kohn was 15, he still hadn't chosen a definite position. He had been playing both defense and forward, but it was during his teenage years when he started to lean towards defense.

"I played a lot of both positions, but I realized I liked being an offensive defenseman," said Kohn. "I liked being able to play the point on the power play."

At age 16, Kohn was ready to make the move to junior hockey. There was little question that he would play in Canadian Juniors, since it was considered the most competitive hockey at that age.

In his first season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL), Kohn was only 3-6-9 in 52 games. Sixteen-year-olds, Kohn explained, do not get much ice time. There were games he'd only have one shift, and others where he would have more if a player was injured. At this time, Calgary had plenty depth on defense.

What a difference a year made as Kohn jumped up to 8-35-43 in 72 games in his second season, proving he had the potential to be a contributor. It helped that he played the point on a power play that included current NHL players Andrew Ladd (Carolina) and Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim). His sophomore performance gave the Islanders reason to draft him in the second round of the 2005 Entry Draft.

"Dustin is an exceptional skater and tremendously mobile," said Islanders assistant general manager Ryan Jankowski. "His game allows him to chase down pucks and move them up the ice on breakouts effectively."

However, Islanders management wanted Kohn to focus more on the side of the game that is generally connected with his position – defense. That was no problem for Kohn.

Kohn showed vast improvements the next season. While his offensive numbers went down, he responded with a greater effort in the defensive end. In his final season, he found that perfect balance, setting career highs in points with 50, while finishing first on the team with a +23.

"In my first full season I was all about putting up as many points as possible," admitted Kohn. "But when I was 17, I cut back on the offense and tried to focus on making fewer mistakes in our own end. My final year of 06-07 was my best year because I put up good offensive numbers, while being responsible in our own end."

While Kohn has honed both his offensive and defensive skills, he's hoping this new contract and his experience will help him at his third Islanders training camp.

"Each year I'm at training camp I expect to gain confidence," said Kohn. "I'm going to be confident with the puck and compete hard each day. It was pretty intimidating coming to my first training camp at 18 and playing with all of these NHL players. But now that it's my third camp I'm more used to it and will be more comfortable."

Now that the Islanders have signed Kohn to a three-year deal, he knows it's the next step to earning a spot with the team in the future.

"Dustin has developed over time and is still a work in progress," said Jankowski. "But he is certainly someone that brings defensive depth to this organization. He'll get a chance this fall to prove himself against NHLers. We want to see that he's stronger, sure of himself and has taken the necessary steps to becoming an NHL player."

Getting to Know...Dustin Kohn

Skate Brand: Bauer
Stick Brand: Bauer
Favorite NHL team growing up: Edmonton
Favorite NHL player growing up: Doug Weight
Favorite movie: Backdraft/Ladder 49
Do you like the shootout? Yes
Do you think the NHL should send its players to the Olympics? Yes
How old were you on your first date? 13
Favorite Superpower: Flying
Green day or Eminem? Green Day
Favorite non-North American City: Anywhere in Sweden
Alternate Career: Golfing
Family Guy or Simpsons: Family Guy
Superman or Batman? Batman
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Favorite sport other than hockey: Golf
The actor who would play you in a movie: Paul Walker
If you could have dinner with two people who would they be? Bobby Orr and Tiger Woods
If you could be part of one moment in history what would it be? Any Stanley Cup winning team
What's playing on your iPod? Mainly country - George Strait, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, also Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer
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