By Jason Lockhart
An energetic crowd of over 3,000 migrated to the Nassau Coliseum Saturday evening to witness the future of the Islanders at the 2006 Islanders Draft Party.
Radio color commentator, Chris King was the master of ceremonies and special guests Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais and Islanders 2005 first round pick, Ryan O'Marra were on hand to share their thoughts about Draft Day and sign autographs.
Doors opened to the free event at 5 p.m., with fans lined up eagerly to get inside to welcome and celebrate the Islanders' future. Once in the Coliseum, visitors were encouraged to take a tour of the Islanders' locker room, partake in interactive games and receive autographs from Campoli, Gervais and O'Marra. Islanders' merchandise, including game worn jerseys and helmets was on sale prior to the start of the festivities.
At 5:45, the evening kicked off with a call from GM Neil Smith live from Vancouver who described the scene at the Draft.
"The excitement is building here in Vancouver," said Smith. "We're excited where we are with the seventh overall pick."
King next introduced Campoli, O'Marra and Gervais who discussed the thrill of their respective Draft Days and their selection by the Islanders.
"It's probably the most nerve racking day of your life," said O'Marra. "But it was also a really exciting day. I was ecstatic to be picked by the Islanders. They have a great tradition of hockey here on Long Island."
"I had to wait a little longer than Ryan," joked Campoli, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2004. "But I was excited to be chosen by the Islanders."
"It was a great day," said Gervais, selected by the Islanders during the sixth round in 2003. "As a young kid you never know what's going to happen. I was really happy to end up on the Island."
After their speeches, the Draft was up and running on the JumboTron. Sporting their draft scorecards, Islanders fans could feel a buzz in the Coliseum as they eagerly awaited the team's seventh overall pick.
The Isles' first selection rolled around minutes before 7 pm, and with the selection of Kyle Okposo, an elite right winger from the USHL, there came a roar from the Coliseum crowd.
Following the Islanders' first round pick, fans listened to other live interviews from the Draft in Vancouver, including head coach Ted Nolan and the newest Islander, Okposo.
Nolan emphasized how thrilled he was with their Draft selection and how much they look forward to working with Okposo as they develop the future of the franchise. Okposo exuded his own excitement for joining the Islanders organization.
The fans milling about Nassau Coliseum, many wearing Islanders jerseys of current players and former stars, echoed that spirit, welcoming Okposo and the team's other Draft selections to Long Island. The quality picks at this year's NHL Entry Draft, combined with the insight and aggressive attitude of the organization's new management, should make for a bright Islanders future.