The Islanders prospects are hungry to make the NHL, but until they beef up, they’ll be stuck at the kid’s table.
Drafted at 18 years old, few prospects have the size to compete in the NHL right away. Even some of the most skilled players return to junior or college clubs until they’re deemed big enough to handle the physicality of playing with grown men.
Just one year of physical development can do wonders for an 18 or 19-year-old prospect. At this week’s mini camp, where prospects spend a week in the gym with the Islanders’ strength-training staff, 11 Isles skaters arrived heavier than last season.
“I’ve been following the Islanders’ program,” Sebastian Collberg, who added a noticeable nine pounds to his 5’11 frame, said. “I feel pretty good this summer, building up my body the way I wanted to and that means gaining some weight.
The Islanders staff outlines workout regimens for their prospects and use mini camp to sharpen technique and evaluate progress. When the trainers talk about gaining weight, they’re also referring to increasing strength and athleticism.
They stress consistency, spending a lot of time “under the bar” in the weight room, while also learning to move efficiently and explosively, to retain speed while cultivating mass. Something as natural as running, which most first-time mini campers think they’ve mastered, can be improved (mechanics and stride for example) and the results can show on the ice.
Collberg has taken the Islanders program to heart and made gaining weight one of his top priorities. He admittedly struggled to pack on pounds in the past three offseasons, citing a nagging shoulder injury that was surgically repaired last year. Now fully healed, Collberg is making the physical changes he needs to compliment his skill and compete in North America.
“I felt I was a little light (last) year,” he said. “My body wasn’t ready to play the tough game that it is over here [in North America]. I didn’t know how tough the game was over here either. I felt like I needed some more weight so my body could be stronger at every point.”
Another highly-touted prospect, Michael Dal Colle, raised eyebrows at Mini Camp, coming in 10 pounds heavier than his last weigh in. At 6’3, Dal Colle is one of the taller prospects at camp and the 10-lbs. increase is a good start to transitioning from a slender frame to an NHL body.
“[Gaining weight] was definitely harder [for me],” Dal Colle said. “I’ve always been a lanky kid, I grew early and my body still has to fill out, but it comes naturally. I think I’ve put on some weight and that was a goal.”
While weight and athleticism help in the corners and around the net, Dal Colle said his release is what makes his shot – which netted 42 goals last season – so lethal. Nevertheless, the focus remains on getting bigger and stronger, which means more time in the gym and more food on the plate.
“I’ve been eating a lot more,” he said. “It’s a natural stage, 18 and 19 are the developing years.”
Being hungry to make the NHL can be a tasty endeavor. And Dal Colle, Collberg and the others are putting in the work to graduate to the adult table.