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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
On Day 5 of Islanders Training Camp players are really starting to come in to their own and stand out trying to make a good impression upon the coaches. In an effort to do so, Islanders winger Josh Bailey has come back from summer bigger and stronger than he was last season.

“(Bailey’s) a good player. He’s matured a lot over the last couple years,” said Islanders assistant captain Kyle Okposo. “He’s really coming in to his own and finding his game. He knows what it takes to be in the league now and he’s come a long way. It’s good to see.”

John Tavares also had great things to say about his linemate from last season, demonstrating Bailey’s importance to the Islanders roster.

“He’s a lot of fun to play with,” Tavares said. “Josh is a real talented guy. I know growing up, playing against him in junior, he’s always been a great passer known for the way he sees the ice. He’s really good at making fakes and really making guys commit to open up the ice to make the plays and he’s been able to carry that here. I know he’s excited for a big season.”

Islanders fans should be ready for a big season from Bailey. The 20-year-old was selected ninth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and after making a good impression, found himself a fixture on the Islanders roster that same year. In his rookie season, Bailey played 68 games, recording seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points.

After making the switch from centerman to winger last season, the sophomore got the chance to play alongside Tavares and Okposo. In 73 games during the 2009-10 season, the winger tallied 16 goals and 19 assists for a career high 35 points. Up 10 points from his rookie season, Bailey improved his goal output by nine, as well as increased his plus/minus ranking by 19 to lead the team with a plus five.

Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon was impressed by Bailey’s play after the last two seasons. He said Bailey is an extremely hard working player, who will do everything he can to become a better player, whether it is on or off the ice. And his talent was tested when Gordon switched him the left wing.
A lot of centermen don’t respond very well to going to the wing and (Bailey’s) in a situation where I thought it would be an opportunity to get him more ice time. He responded well and hopefully we have a little versatility if we get some injuries. I mean we don’t want that to happen, but we have a guy that can do both. - Scott Gordon
“He actually had some great success,” Gordon said. “A lot of centermen don’t respond very well to going to the wing and he’s in a situation where I thought it would be an opportunity to get him more ice time. He responded well and hopefully we have a little versatility if we get some injuries. I mean we don’t want that to happen, but we have a guy that can do both.”

But his talent doesn’t stop there, Bailey is the first player to have a six-game assist streak since Roman Hamrlik in 2000-01. And last season he became one of only three players (Okposo, Pierre Turgeon) in Islanders history to score two overtime goals on the road in one season.

Like all players, Bailey has set some goals for himself this off season and he’s while he didn’t share the details, he said, “I think everyone sets goals for themselves. I’ve done that too. Hopefully I can achieve them like (I did) last year.”

In an effort to achieve those goals, Bailey said, “You try to pick pieces of everyone’s game to try and incorporate them in to your own game to make you a better player. I think there are lots of guys that you can look at and whether they’re young or older guys or on other teams, you’re always trying to look to make improvements.”

Bailey also set goals for himself this off season and he spent a lot of time in the gym trying to obtain them. At 6’1” and 188 pounds last season, the winger really wanted to put on some weight over the summer to help elevate his game. He has definitely accomplished that goal, coming in to camp a little leaner and 201 pounds.

“I had the same trainer and same focus (as last year), but the main focus was to gain some weight and I did that,” Bailey said. “I wanted to definitely get bigger, stronger and faster. Same as every summer, but I was definitely a little more focused on putting on some more muscle.”

Coach Gordon also noticed Bailey improved his size this the summer.

“Well, for all our players, when they’re 19, 20-years-old, they’re growing into their bodies and the fact that he’s been able to do that and not sacrifice his ability to get around the ice is important,” Gordon said. “When you’re up against bigger players as a 19-year-old you quickly identify that you have to get stronger and he’s been able to do that.”

Now Bailey’s objective is to have a good Training Camp so the coaches know he will continue to be a great asset to them this season. Whether he is paired with Tavares and Okposo or centerman Frans Nielsen at the end of camp, it doesn’t seem to matter.

“(Playing on the same line as Tavares and Okposo) was good. I think we had good chemistry,” Bailey said. “Everyone brings something different to the line. I think we meshed well together. So it will be interesting with what the coaches want to do as far as line combinations and stuff like that. I think we’ll have to see how preseason goes to solidify our spot in the lineup. I think it will be interesting to see what happens.”

Thus far in Training Camp, the Bowmanville, Ontario native has been paired with Frans Nielsen and Nino Niederreiter. Even though that is likely to change after the Blue vs. Orange scrimmage on Saturday, Bailey seemed happy about the line.

“I’ve played with Fransie in the past and I’m always excited to get the chance to play with him,” Bailey said. “The way he plays really compliments pretty much anyone’s game. He’s a good passer and so reliable defensively. He’s very underrated. I think other teams don’t realize how good he is offensively as well. He brings so much to the table and obviously I was very excited to see that he was going to be in the middle (of my line).”

Even if the lines change after Saturday, watching Bailey skate alongside Nielsen and Niederreiter in the scrimmage will still be entertaining for all Islanders fans.
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