The Twin Rinks at Eisenhower Park provided a cold refuge on a hot, humid Tuesday as the New York Islanders prospects kicked off 2015 Mini Camp.
It was a welcome return to normalcy for many players, who have spent the first two months of the offseason recuperating from demanding seasons, doing off-ice training and, for some, sitting on pins and needles at the draft.
Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, the Islanders’ first-round picks this June, headlined the list of over 55 invitees at camp. They got their first taste of the Islanders organization Tuesday, from new coaches to potential new teammates, while the coaches got a first-hand look at their new prospects.
“Touching the ice here with all the guys, that was a pretty nice experience,” Beauvillier said. “I’m going to enjoy the moment. It’s a fun week to get experience from the NHL.”
Barzal and Beauvillier were on different squads, but were paired with the Islanders 2014 first-round picks; Beauvillier skated on a line with Joshua Ho-Sang for Team White, while Barzal skated with Michale Dal Colle on Team Blue. The groups are expected to remain intact for Wednesday’s Blue and White Scrimmage at Barclays Center.
“There are a lot of guys with pro experience here,” Barzal said. “They play the game at a fast pace and they do a lot of things right, so if I can pick up a few things from them, it’ll be a good camp.”
While Barzal and Beauvillier are here to learn from new teammates, some mini-camp veterans are looking to get on Head Coach Jack Capuano’s radar ahead of training camp.
“This is just the first step heading into main camp,” Dal Colle said. “I think everyone here is just trying to make an impression. Last year I didn’t really know what to expect. Taking from the experience last year, I know what to expect this year and am more confident on and off the ice.”
Ryan Pulock, the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft, could challenge for a spot on the Islanders’ blue line in September.
“I’m fighting every inch for a spot,” Pulock said. “[Playing in Bridgeport] has helped me mature my game a lot. I think I’ve developed some skills that I was lacking a bit defensively. I just have to continue working on that.”
Pulock scored 17 goals for Bridgeport in 2014-15, and has grown both physically (up eight pounds from last year) and as a defenseman.
Andong Song also adds intrigue to this year’s camp, as the first Chinese-born player to be drafted into the NHL. Song’s presence has raised the profile of the Blue and White Scrimmage internationally, as the game is set to be broadcast on CCTV in China. Japanese invitee Yuri Terao is also returning for his second Islanders minicamp.
While the world will be watching Wednesday, the bulk of the evaluation will be behind those cold, closed doors at Eisenhower Park. Day one is in the books.