We're one step closer to the start of the hockey season, as the New York Islanders opened rookie camp on Friday at Northwell Health Ice Center.
Islanders' prospects hit the ice on Friday, taking drills with Isles and Bridgeport Sound Tigers coaching staffs. The 24-man camp includes first-round picks Kieffer Bellows (2016), Mathew Barzal (2015), Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang (both 2014), as well as 2017 picks Sebastian Aho and Arnaud Durandeau.
The five-day camp serves as an appetizer for main camp (which begins later next week) and a chance for the Islanders management to evaluate the young, up-and-coming talent.
"You always get excited for this time of year," Head Coach Doug Weight said. "You saw these kids today. They come out - and you could be skating all summer - but that adrenaline and that excitement to push themselves, they'll be sleeping tonight."
Weight said the opportunity for rookies to prove themselves starts now. Anthony Beauvillier should serve as motivation, as he played his way into the Islanders' lineup as a 19-year-old last season. Mathew Barzal also made the team out of training camp last year before being returned to the Seattle Thunderbirds, so the Islanders are willing to give opportunities regardless of age.
"Certainly at camp I think they see that and I think they that Barzal had two long camps and a lot of games played," Weight said. "It's going to be fun to see how everything plays out. It's probably going to have to be some tough decisions, some discomfort, but that's good."
For Barzal, who was one of the last cuts two years ago and played two games with the Islanders last season is now one of the veterans of rookie camp. The WHL Playoff MVP is looking to make that jump and force Weight into a tough decision.
"I have a little more confidence," Barzal said. "I'm feeling more comfortable every year. I've worked hard this summer and I'm hoping it pays off on the ice."
The rookies will practice for six days before heading down to Philadelphia for a rookie game against the Flyers on Wednesday. Veterans report to camp for physicals on Thursday.