has come a long way in nine months.
Since being drafted in the first-round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Islanders, Bailey has been a focal point. Heading into training camp, the question was: Could the young center make the team? At the beginning of the season, the question was: would be overmatched in the NHL?
Today, however, there are far fewer questions.
With a full NHL season almost under his belt, Bailey has proven that he belongs. He has been a solid player for the Islanders throughout the 2008-09 season, seemingly improving with every game.
“One of the biggest things for Josh was getting him to play at an NHL pace, and that has been one of the things we have stressed with him,” said Islanders head coach Scott Gordon. “From an offensive standpoint, I don’t really care if he scores goals or gets assists, I just want to make sure that he’s pushing himself beyond his comfort level to play at a speed that everyone else is playing at.”
One of the things that’s directly affected Bailey’s play, especially during the second half of the season, has been his confidence level.
“It feels good to go out there and be confident with the puck and try and play your game,” Bailey said. “During the first part of the year, there were a lot of ups and downs. I would have a strong game and then not such a strong game, and points were hard to come by. But I keep working on it and have been gaining more confidence.”
More confidence—combined with hard work—has enabled Bailey to score seven goals and 24 total points. He enjoyed his first multi-goal game when he scored twice against the Ottawa Senators on March 21st.
“Scoring goals is definitely something I strive for, but it’s just the adjustment to each level—it gets harder and harder to score,” said Bailey, who scored 29 goals and had 67 assists last season for Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League. “You get less chances and the goalies are better, and it just comes with time. I think confidence is also a big part of it.”
One thing that has impressed Gordon in recent months, is the way Bailey has played away from the puck—becoming more of an asset to his linemates.
“Every game I see it,” Gordon said regarding Bailey’s improvement as a complete player. “He’s become more of a contributor away from the puck, getting to places that makes it easier for our team to retrieve pucks.”
Having compiled 17 assists this season, the young centerman has enjoyed forging an on-ice chemistry with his linemates.
“As the year goes on, you start knowing how guys play, what they do and where they’re going to be,” Bailey said. “It’s all part of getting to know each other out on the ice.”
For Bailey, it has been a season-long education—learning while on the job. And with a year of experience in the books, it is clear that Bailey’s hard work and growing confidence will most certainly translate into an exciting career with the Islanders.