Informative, fun, intense, tiring, fantastic were all words uttered this week at the Mini-Camp by the prospects and invites, looking to play for the Islanders next season or in the years to come. On Tuesday morning the 39 players from all across the United States, Canada and Europe went their separate ways. Some players, like 2006 second-round draft pick Jesse Joensuu
traveled back to Finland, while others like undrafted James Marcou only had to travel east a few miles to his hometown of Smithtown.
It was a memorable experience for prospects such as 2007 third-round draft pick Jason Gregoire, who visited New York for the first time. Gregoire made the most of his first camp, notching four goals in the three scrimmages to help lead Team Bossy to a three-game sweep of Team Trottier. He and his linemates, undrafted free agent Justin Bourne and recent Islanders signing Trevor Smith, scored a majority of the team's regulation goals.
Not to be outdone by his younger peers, Jeff Tambellini showed why he is ready to step into the Islanders' lineup to start the 2007-08 season. His strong play and leadership skills matched his level of fitness, which has been superb ever since he joined the Islanders organization at the end of the 2005-06 season. The dynamic Dane, Frans Nielsen
, also stepped into the limelight, scoring one of the most impressive goals of the week with a high slap shot in Game 2 of the series.
Despite the wide-open style of play and the toned-down physical play, the goaltenders were arguably the most consistent of all the players at camp. Bridgeport Sound Tigers netminder Mike Mole made a number of impressive stops throughout the tournament to keep Team Trottier at bay. Team Trottier goaltender Stefan Ridderwall, who made his first appearance at an Islanders Prospects Camp after being drafted in 2006, made the transition to the North American game look easy. Jase Weslosky, who is set to take the reigns next season at highly ranked St. Cloud State, stood on his head at times to shut out Team Bossy during his playing time in Game 2.
There were also periods when it seemed like the goaltenders were hardly tested, due to the steady play of the defensemen. Islanders signing Dustin Kohn, who was chosen in the second round of the 2005 Draft, is primed to play his first season of pro hockey. Andrew MacDonald
is in the same boat after spending his last season with Moncton of the QMJHL. In-season Bridgeport signing Jamie Fraser didn't shy away from his offensive skills. Playing on the blueline, Fraser was a key provider to Team Bossy's offense, often joining the rush.
It was amazing to see what a difference a year makes. Due to the NHL Lockout, most of the Draft classes of 2006 and 2005 – 14 in all – took part in their second Prospect Camp. They came to last year's camp a little timid and not quite ready to let loose both on and off the ice. This year it was a completely different story.
Shea Guthrie, a sophomore standout at Clarkson University, used his soft hands to dangle throughout the week. He admitted he was a bit in awe of the whole experience last year. Denver forward Rhett Rakhshani
and soon-to-be Colgate forward Brian Day were vital contributors on the ice as well. Islanders 2006 first-round pick Kyle Okposo
returned to his second camp showing that he's tougher than ever and in possession of a deadly shot.
Off the ice it, was also apparent the players were both maturing and forming stronger bonds with each other. The absence of notable talkers Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais from this camp didn't keep the prospects quiet. The players shared stories about their first seasons with their respective colleges or final ones with their Canadian Junior teams. Rhett Rakhshani
was one individual that let his personality shine all week, keeping the mood light during the group's trips to the Mets and Yankees games, the mall and dinner.
Islanders TV was on site all week, shooting not only the on-ice workouts and scrimmages, but also the off-ice antics. Check out Islanders TV to see and hear Blake Comeau and Okposo Mic'd Up as well as hours of other exclusive content. There are more than 30 new videos posted from the Prospects Camp, and still more to come as Islanders TV continues to upload new material each day during the off-season.
With more chatter, came more anecdotes from the prospects, who each had their own unique story to tell. For example, Harvard forward Doug Rogers talked about growing up with six other siblings in a house only big enough to fit five people comfortably. Weslosky, meanwhile, shared his experience of balancing his hockey playing with his pre-med track at school.
From high above the rink, Ted Nolan watched the future of the Islanders on Monday afternoon before making his way into the locker room for one final pep talk. What stuck out most in the minds of the young players was Nolan's point on the draft just being the start of things to come.
"Some players feel that once they're drafted, that's it," said Nolan to the prospects. "That's just the beginning. It's up to you to take it to the next level. Wherever you go back to for next season, whether it's to college, juniors or Bridgeport, take what you learned at this camp to help you take that next step."