New York Islanders Training Camp features some players who have been in the NHL for 10-plus years, as well as others who have yet to play their first NHL game. It’s a wide range of talent and experience, but camp offers a chance for Islanders head coach Jack Capuano to get a good look at the entire organization to see where each player stands.
“We’ve got a lot of guys here,” Capuano said. “Some guys are going to need a little bit more seasoning in Bridgeport, and we know that. But we’re going to find out more here in camp and at the preseason games coming up.”
The camp’s attendees will have ample opportunity to prove they belong, as the Islanders are scheduled to play eight preseason games. The first exhibitions are set for Tuesday, Sept. 17, when the Islanders and Calgary Flames play a pair of split-squad games in Calgary, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan.
“That’s what the preseason is for,” Capuano said. “And we’re going to get a good look at a lot of guys.”
One of the players Capuano and the rest of the coaching staff is surely taking notes on is Brock Nelson. Last season was the 21-year-old’s first as a professional and he led the Sound Tigers with 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists) in 66 games. He made his NHL debut in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I’ve seen enough of Brock to know that he’s close,” Capuano said. “He’s a guy that’s big and strong and has paid his dues in the offseason. He just goes about his business a certain way and we like the way he goes about it. He’s going to get a real good look in this preseason.”
With the exhibition games on the horizon, Nelson knows it’s a chance to make an impression.
“We’re just going to work hard and battle,” Nelson said. “I think the coaching staff has done a great job so far getting us ready for that. There’s a couple of days left before we get our first exhibition so guys are just going to get ready for that and give it everything they have on the ice.”
Aaron Ness played nine games for the Islanders in 2011-12. He knows every time he steps on the ice at camp is a chance to prove he belongs in the NHL full-time.
“I think you’ve just got to play your game,” Ness said. “Obviously they think highly of all of us, so you’ve got to do what makes you a better player and work as hard and as smart as you can.”
The players have been split into two groups at camp. Group A consists of the Islanders veterans while Group B is comprised of the younger skaters, including both Nelson and Ness. But Capuano warns to not read too much into the way players are divided.
“We’ve always felt if there is somebody here who is going to help us win, they have a spot on our hockey team,” Capuano said. “Just because the groups are where they are today, with A and B, once we get [preseason] games in, their play is going to dictate our decision making.”