Two years ago, Islanders 2006 first-round draft pick Kyle Okposo
came to Long Island for Prospects Camp with much hype, having been chosen seventh overall just weeks prior. Okposo did not disappoint -- showing his peers, the coaching staff and the fans he was the real deal. On the ice, he barreled through players to create offensive chances, and off the ice was as friendly and accommodating as you could ask from an 18-year old and recent high school graduate. Less than two years later, he's already shown he has all of the makings of being an impact player in the NHL.
This Summer, the fanfare of a high first-round draft pick has once again swept across Islanders Country. Big things are expected from the ninth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Windsor Spitfire center Josh Bailey
. And after playing just one week on Long Island, Bailey has turned in an excellent performance.
"I was just excited to get back into games," said Bailey at the conclusion of the 2008 Prospects Camp. "I wanted to do well and show why they picked me. As far as the games went, I thought I did pretty well. I've been pretty happy with how things have gone. I had the opportunity to play with some good linemates. That helped for sure."
|Prospects Camp |
During the camp's four scrimmages, Bailey and Okposo combined to be one of the more potent combinations. Their pretty passing play on Thursday helped lead to Team Morrow's come-from-behind win and murmurs that "Bailey to Okposo looks nice." In the final scrimmage on Friday, Bailey capped off the week with a nifty deke in the shootout to end the game with an exclamation point.
While Bailey was working his magic on the ice, he was making even bigger strides off the ice. It's easy to look up his impressive stats from the past season -- 96 points in 67 games -- but this week his teammates, coaches and the fans had the chance to meet the person underneath the helmet. And what they discovered was that Bailey is an 18-year old kid who is completely grounded, well-spoken, and someone any fan would want to root for.
"Meeting people at these camps is probably the thing you're most nervous about," said Bailey. "You just want to get to know them. But everyone is in the same situation. It's been great meeting everyone, especially the fans who are so welcoming. It's only been a week, but you can see how enthusiastic they are here. I look forward to meeting more of them in the future."
With 13 selections in both of the 2006 and 2008 NHL Entry Drafts, there were far fewer "veterans" at this year's Camp relative to past years. Only three players -- Okposo, Blake Comeau and Jack Hillen -- had suited up for the Islanders last year. Bailey was not surprisingly given quarters with his first-round predecessor -- Okposo.
"It's nice to have a guy like Kyle around," said Bailey. "He's only a year older than me and he's guy whose footsteps you want to follow in."
Bailey and the rest of the Camp had an opportunity to bond off the ice, while paintballing, attending a Yankees game, and visiting the beach on the final day.
"It's good to get away from the rink and the hotel, go out and have some fu
n," said Bailey. "With the paintballing, you still had that competition going, but it was still a lot of fun. Everything on Long Island has been better than expected. I'm looking forward to seeing the entire place. I haven't really seen too much yet. On the drives you see what the atmosphere is like here."
While Bailey enjoyed his week at Prospects Camp, he is already looking ahead to Training Camp, which takes place in September up in Moncton, New Brunswick.
"I'll probably take more from Main Camp than anything," said Bailey. "It's when all of the pro guys are around and you really get to learn from them.
The veterans will have a lot of good things to say. You're going to be listening to them and taking it all in. The leadership and work ethic that they bring will really help my game."
If Training Camp goes well enough, there's a chance that it will not be long before Islanders fans will get very familiar with the phrase: "Bailey to Okposo."
To find out more information about the 2008 Prospects Camp, check out the Islandermania thread by clicking here
. Check out Islanders TV all week for complete Prospects Camp coverage. PROSPECTS CAMP PHOTO GALLERIES:
- Photo Gallery 1
- Photo Gallery 2
- Photo Gallery 3READ ALSO:
- JOENSUU NETS HAT TRICK - THERE AND BACK AGAIN- Okposo Caps Off Three-Goal Comeback - From Ivy to the Island- Guthrie Scores Two; Team Morrow Victors - "AHHH, HOCKEY'S BACK"
- PROSPECT PERSPECTIVES
- THE SHOT FROM 'ROUND THE WORLD
- THE PRIDE OF OKLAHOMA
- PROSPECTS CAMP PRIMER PART ALSO CHECK:
- Sound Tigers - Day 1
- Sound Tigers - Day 2
- Sound Tigers - Day 3
- Sound Tigers - Day 4