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by Jason Lockhart / New York Islanders
Okposo and Rakhshani lead tournament in scoring; Rogers and Day excel at first camps

To say Islanders prospects Kyle Okposo, Rhett Rakhshani, Doug Rogers and Brian Day performed well at last week’s US National Team Evaluation Camp would be an understatement. Okposo and Rakhshani led the tournament with eight points apiece playing against Junior Finnish and Swedish teams. Rogers finished the tournament with a goal and three assists in four games, while Day chipped in with a goal and an assist, including a dramatic penalty shot goal on the final day.

“All four of our prospects had excellent camps,” said Assistant GM/Director of Amateur Scouting, Ryan Jankowski. “This experience should give them all confidence heading into the 2007-08 season.”

The US squads swept the final day of competition on Saturday, finishing the tournament with a record of 7-0-0-1. In Game 1, Rakhshani stole the show, scoring a goal and adding two assists in Team White’s 5-3 victory over Finland. He closed out the tournament with three goals and five assists. Day opened the scoring at 4:15 with a penalty shot goal after being hauled down from behind while on a breakaway. Okposo added an assist to finish 4-4-8 in four games.

The four prospects will play for their respective colleges during the 2007-08 season. Okposo returns to Minnesota for his sophomore year after placing second on the Golden Gophers in goals and points last season.

“Kyle has the potential to be a complete and dominant NHL player,” said Islanders pro scout, Mario Saraceno, who attended the camp with Jankowski. “He’s still young and has some work to do, but he is prototype solid player. Kyle doesn’t have many flaws. At the camp he was dominant and one of the best players. I like his combination of size and strength. Kyle has good hands and was impressive in one-on-one battles. He showed a lot of confidence playing against the best American kids under 20.”

Rakhshani rejoins Minnesota rival, Denver for his second season as well. The southern California native ranked first on the team in assists in 2006-07. The Golden Gophers and Pioneers will meet twice in Minnesota the weekend of Nov. 2 and play back-to-back in Denver the weekend of Feb. 8.

“Rhett stood out this week because of his offensive instincts,” said Saraceno. “He’s slippery and hard to pin. I never saw him get hit solidly. He’s very good in tight and has good hands. Rhett wants the puck and wants to score. His desire to make a difference might go a long way.”

Harvard will be happy to have Rogers back in their lineup. The Massachusetts native finished second on the Crimson with 24 points last season in his freshman year.

“Doug really grew on me,” said Saraceno. “He does the little things well. Playing against this level of competition, I was impressed with the way he was responsible in all three zones. Doug has got good potential because he’s responsible defensively and offensively. He got a lot of experience out of this camp.”

Meanwhile, Day will make his collegiate debut in 2007-08, skating for Colgate. Harvard and Colgate are scheduled to clash twice next season, at Harvard on Nov. 17 and at Colgate on Feb. 29.

“This was a great learning experience for Brian, playing at this level,” said Saraceno. “He was one of the only players to have no college or junior level experience. I thought he played well. His work ethic was very impressive, and made up for his lack of experience. His involvement and the effort he put forth were second to none. He now knows what it takes to get to the next level. This camp will ease that transition a player would normally have when he first plays at the college level. It will save him two to three months of getting used to that style of play.” 

The four Islanders prospects were among 45 Americans challenging for spots on the 2008 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008 in Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic. Final selections will be made in early December.

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