Friday marked another checkpoint on the road to hockey season as the New York Islanders opened their 2018 Rookie Camp at Northwell Health Ice Center.
The prospect group included 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows, 2018 first-round pick Noah Dobson and 2018 second-round pick Bode Wilde, as well as AHL All-Stars Sebastian Aho and Mitchell Vande Sompel.
The prospects and camp invitees are on Long Island for a week of on-ice and off-ice workouts with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers coaching staff and under the guise of Islanders management.
Video: Rookie Camp: Day 1
"Today was a great day for all the players," Assistant GM Chris Lamoriello said. "The enthusiasm, the excitement, the way coaches ran practice. For us, that's what we were looking for… For us it was a good start and we'll look for the continuation of that."
The prospects will practice for five days and then play the Philadelphia Flyers rookies on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. at Northwell. The six-day camp ultimately serves as a lead up to Islanders training camp, which begins next week.
"We're trying to give the rookies a head start into main camp," said Bridgeport Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson, who was leading drills Friday.
That momentum is important for a player like Bellows, who aspires to challenge for a roster spot after a 40-goal season with WHL Portland last year. Despite Bellows long list of junior accomplishments - including gold and bronze medals at the World Juniors - he'll have to prove himself to a new regime that features GM Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Barry Trotz.
"There are some different people in the organization now, a different setup, but you just try to work hard every single day, show my best and play hard," Bellows said. "I want to play in the NHL. That's my goal and I'm going to work hard every single day to get there."
For first-timers like Dobson and Wilde, camp presents another opportunity to learn how to be a pro. Dobson, who skated on a pairing with Sebastian Aho, admitted to some nerves before stepping onto the ice before settling in.
"It's the first camp so I didn't know what to expect, but after a few drills I kind of got adjusted and felt good out there," Dobson, the 12th overall pick in June's draft, said. "As a young guy, you just want to prove yourself that you belong up here and can play against the older and bigger guys… I'm just trying to leave a message with the staff of how I play, come in be myself and play my game and learn as much as I can."
Thompson said he's looking towards Rookie Camp vets like Vande Sompel and Bellows to be leaders and mentors.
"They all have great attitudes," Thompson said. "It's an opportunity for each one of these guys who have been through this stuff to be a leader, to grab the guys who haven't been at these camps, to be at the front of every line for the drills - and I'm seeing that."
Stay tuned to NewYorkIslanders.com, IslandersTV and @NYIslanders for updates throughout camp.
SKAREK HERE ON 'SHORT-TERM' BASIS, SODERSTROM DAY-TO-DAY:
Goalie Jakub Skarek is here for a good time, not a long time.
The Islanders' 2018 third-round pick was on the ice for the first day of Rookie Camp, but only on a short-term basis, according to Assistant GM Chris Lamoriello.
Lamoriello said the Islanders want the goalie to rejoin his team - Pelicans - in Finland's Liiga, who are already underway with their season. It was reported by The Athletic that Skarek will only be at camp until Sunday.
While Skarek is on the ice, Swedish goaltender, and 2014 fourth-round pick, Linus Soderstrom was not, as he's considered day-to-day. Lamoriello said the Islanders were not going to rush Soderstrom back. Soderstrom signed an entry-level deal with the Islanders in 2017 and is slated to play his first season in North America this year.