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HILLEN'S FIRST PRACTICE

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

Jack Hillen
New Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen arrived last night in New York, just in time to catch the Islanders' game against the New Jersey Devils. With emotions running high, the four-year standout at Colorado College took to the Nassau Coliseum ice for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, practicing with his new team – the Islanders. Ted Nolan indicated after practice that Hillen would be paired with Radek Martinek.


Following his first skate, Hillen gave us some insights on his arrival to the Islanders and various other topics.


On the days following the end of his college career
"I ended the season on Friday against Michigan State. My family advisor called and said things might be moving a little quicker than you think. He helped me out and there were a couple of teams looking at me. I talked to Garth and I liked what Garth had to say. I liked this place and that made the decision easier. It came down to three teams, to start the process there were five or six. It was a tough decision between the Islanders, Florida and Dallas.


On playing for Colorado College
"I was recruited for Colorado College along with Harvard. I visited CC and it was a really neat place, training at 6,000 feet. You have the mountains around there. And the coaching staff was great. I had a good four years there and they really helped me develop. They had a great reputation with a lot of good players - Tom Preissing, Peter Sejna and Marty Sertich won the Hobey Baker and Brett Sterling."


On playing in the NHL despite not being drafted
"It kind of crept up on me. I knew this year that I had to play well because it was my last shot to do something. You never think NHL, it's more of a dream growing up when you're a kid. But I feel I have confidence in myself and if they gave me an opportunity that I could play out there. I know I have to put in my time wherever they put me, but I have confidence in my ability."


On scouts watching him at CC
"I was really living in the moment at CC because we had a really good team. I didn't worry about things that would happen afterwards. This really crept up on me quickly. You know that people are watching you because of the caliber of the WCHA. When you go to the Final Five and the NCAA Tournament you know scouts will be there. But you don't worry about that because your game will just not be there if you start to think about it."


On his first time to eastern New York
"I've been to Rochester for a select tournament, but I've never been to eastern New York. I took the Red Eye in yesterday. I flew out at midnight and got in around six. You don't even need sleep because you're so excited to be here. I watched the game last night and was on the edge of my seat.


On his style of play
"I'm a good skating defenseman who moves the puck well. I like to make that good first pass, jump up into the play, join the rush a little bit and create some offense from the backend."


On his jump in production senior year
"A lot had to do with confidence. I got put into a good position, playing a lot of minutes, which really helped. When you're playing with confidence and having that much fun, you feel like you can do some special things out there. I just had confidence with the puck and a little more patience. On the power play I got my shot through a lot and created some good rebounds and tips. I had a lot of assists thanks to the guys in front tipping pucks and scoring on rebounds."


Jack Hillen
On his first NHL practice
"Practice was a blast. It was a lot different than practice at CC. I had a lot of fun out there. The small games afterwards were probably the best part. The practice was a little faster. You have to have quicker sticks and feet. It's a little more controlled as well. Guys play their positions well on the ice. It's quicker, but it's not as frantic. Guys aren't running all over the ice and that's the difference."


On Okposo affecting his decision to sign with the Islanders
"I played against Kyle when he was at the University Minnesota and I was at CC. We had a two-game series against them earlier in the year. I gave him a call and asked him how he liked it. He had great things to say. He said the coaching staff is great and everyone here is great. I asked him about Bridgeport and some other things and he had nothing but good things to say. That affected my decision because I felt really comfortable with what he had to say."


On jumping right into the NHL
"I never expected it. I thought I would have a couple of weeks off and then would start hitting the weight room, but I guess I'll be playing another week before that. If they put me in there that would just be great. Islanders-Rangers is the biggest rivalry in the NHL and it would be really exciting.


Catch Hillen in his first game with the Islanders as they meet the Rangers, tomorrow night at the Nassau Coliseum.


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