For the past week, the Islanders prospects have been running through drills, learning systems and lifting weights, all in preparation for main camp, which starts Friday.
It's all practice, but Wednesday night's prospect game against the Philadelphia Flyers offered a chance to show what they'd learned in a game setting. There were no points at stake - the Islanders lost 4-0 - but the stakes on the ice were real. Across from the Islanders was a real opponent, throwing real hits - it was a chippy game highlighted by big hits - forcing them to make real split-second decisions and essentially practice with live rounds.
"It's good to get the systems under your belt," said Josh Ho-Sang. "We're playing with and against guys who have been playing these systems for a couple of years now. To get a week underneath our belt is good and [I] took a lot out of that game too."
Ho-Sang, the Isles 2014 first-rounder, skated on a dynamic line with fellow 2014 first-rounder Michael Dal Colle and 2015 first-rounder Mathew Barzal. The trio showed off their speed and creativity with the puck. They'll be followed closely when main camp gets underway on Friday, so a chance to tune up the week before pays dividends.
"It's just a taste for when the big boys come in," Dal Colle said. "I'm trying to develop all aspects of my game, whether it's getting stronger. Everything. Even my strengths, I tried to work on."
A minor hip injury kept Barzal out of Islanders Mini Camp over the summer, so getting reps in was especially important.
"It was a good," Barzal said. "I got a lot of skating in, got my legs ready and learned the forecheck and some systems stuff and got a head start on that. To have a game under our belts now it's nice heading into main camp, so overall it was a really good week."
While the prospects showcased their speed and raw skill for the fans on Wednesday, they've been showcasing themselves for the Islanders management all week. Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson takes rookie camp and the prospect game seriously, as he'll be coaching some of these guys in the AHL.
"You see some of our guys - whether they make the Islanders or whether they are going to be with me, we have the opportunity to take them and hopefully mold them and improve them by the end of the year."
With Wednesday wrapping up rookie camp, the focus can now fully shift to main camp on Friday. It's an exciting prospect for the excited prospects.
"It's going to be good getting out there with the older guys and getting that pace going," Barzal said. "I'm really looking forward to it."