The Islanders rookies wasted no time on their first day of camp Saturday. Players arrived at Nassau Coliseum for 7 a.m. physicals and just a few short hours later, the 25 attendees were on the ice for their first session.
“It’s great to be back,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We saw a lot of these kids in July, but knowing that they have (exhibition) games Monday and Tuesday - a couple days of practice is more exciting now.”
With two exhibitions against the Boston Bruins prospects set for Monday and Tuesday, the Islanders and Bridgeport Sound Tigers coaches got right down to business with a pretty intense practice. Trying to build some chemistry right from the get go, lines were already set and working together.
It’s hard to believe just a few short months have passed since Mini Camp in July.
“A couple of months ago they came in and they didn’t know one another,” Capuano said. “It was a good opportunity for guys to interact and learn a little bit about Long Island and have some fun.”
But Mini Camp and Rookie Camp are two different animals.
“Now it’s game on,” Capuano said. “We’ve told them that these (exhibition) games are very important, compete levels are going to be at a high, the desperation and determination to play at a high level. We’ll try to give them a few systems, you can’t cover everything in two days, but give them a few things to go out and play.”
Undoubtedly, the team will be watched from all points on the ice, as well as from the stands. Rookie Camp is a precursor to the team’s main Training Camp, which begins Friday. These next few days are the prospects last opportunity to show management that they deserve an invitation.
Capuano has yet to talk to Islanders General Manager Garth Snow about dates for first cuts, but said, “I’m sure that’s something we’ll talk about over the next week, but we plan on giving guys a long look. I’m sure guys will be around a little while.”
Last September, Capuano had yet to be appointed to Head Coach of the Islanders so his role at camp was slightly different. Although, he became comfortable with a system that worked for him last season and after a summer of reflection, he said he’s not going to deviate from how he did things in the second half.
As for camp, he said, “Obviously every coach runs their camp a little differently, conditioning is big with me. There might be some things that we change up, but we’re going to build that foundation early and build toward (opening night) October 8th.”
So who from rookie camp could be on the Islanders roster come opening night? Capuano’s keeping all eyes open.
“I can tell you that we are going to take a look at everybody,” Capuano said. “But the guys from Bridgeport, some of the veteran guys, it’s their time now too. They’ve played in the minors now a couple of years and they know what we are about and what we are looking for. It’s going to be important for them to step it up in this camp if they want a chance to make our hockey team.”