Mathew Barzal knows it's management's decision whether he makes the New York Islanders this season.
It's up to him to make that decision really tough on head coach Jack Capuano and general manager Garth Snow.
"I'm just coming in really humble, ready to work hard and trying to show management and whatnot that I can make a spot on the team this year," Barzal said. "Who knows, they are going to do what's best for me and they have good intentions. I'm just coming in with a positive mindset and am going to work really hard."
Barzal, the Islanders' 2015 first-round pick, nearly cracked the roster last season, going back to junior hockey as one of the last cuts from training camp. He had a career-year with the Seattle Thunderbirds, scoring 88 points (27G, 61A) and taking the team all the way to the WHL Final, so expectations are high this fall.
"There's a little bit more pressure," Barzal said. "Obviously it'd be unbelievable to play there this year. They are obviously going to do what's in my best interest. At the end of the day I'm here to work hard and try to make a good impression."
His quest to make the Islanders kicked off Friday at Northwell Health Ice Center, as the organization's prospects gathered for rookie camp, a week of intense work with the coaches before main camp starts on Sept. 22. On day 1, Barzal centered a line with 2014 first-round picks Michael Dal Colle (fifth overall) and Joshua Ho-Sang (28th overall). Before Barzal can challenge for a spot on the Islanders roster, he's got to stand out from the Islanders' deep pool of forward prospects.
Barzal didn't skate at the Islanders' mini-camp in the summer due to a minor hip ailment, but it's fully healed. The Coquitlam, BC native has been skating with NHLers back home, including 2011 first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, San Jose defenseman Brenden Dillon and Dallas prospect Curtis McKenzie.
"I had a really good offseason, I put on some weight, got a lot stronger," Barzal said. "I was on the ice with some NHLers, so it prepped me for the speed and whatnot. I got to learn a lot from those guys it was a really productive summer."
Barzal, who also made the Canadian Junior team as an 18-year-old, arrived on Long Island a few days early to prep for rookie camp, skating informally with Islanders veterans. He's made an impression on a few of them.
"He's a younger player coming in, but you just watch him and he's one of the more skilled guys you're going to see," Travis Hamonic said. "He's got that dedication to try and make a push this year to get on the squad."
Rookie Camp Day 1 Notes:
With Jack Capuano coaching Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey, Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson is running this week's rookie camp. He's joined by the Islanders and Sound Tigers assistant coaches.
Thompson didn't offer specifics on the 23 campers, but said he was happy with the group's efforts as a whole today.
"It's day 1 of camp, so I don't want to get too excited, but the way they've responded from the prospect camp… the challenges that our staff has given them."
"Guys are in great shape, the pace was outstanding," he added. "The little details throughout the drills that we're looking for [were there] and they seem to be dialed in. Now it's can they stay mentally focused during the course of this training camp and it's going to be a grind."
Bellows at BU:
Islanders 2016 first-rounder Kieffer Bellows is not at rookie camp, due to NCAA regulations. He will play for Boston University this season.
Rookie Camp Lines:
Dal Colle - Barzal - Ho-Sang
Verhaeghe - Beauvillier - Johnston
James - C. Graham - McDonald
DiGiacinto - Schempp