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Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic adapting to changes

Two of longest-tenured Islanders saw longtime teammates leave in free agency

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Not too long ago, forward Josh Bailey and defenseman Travis Hamonic were at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, each hearing his name called by the New York Islanders at the 2008 NHL Draft.

Yet so much has happened in those eight years since Bailey was the ninth player selected and Hamonic went in the second round (No. 53). When center Frans Nielsen signed with the Detroit Red Wings and Kyle Okposo with the Buffalo Sabres in free agency July 1, Bailey became the longest-tenured New York player. The following month, he and his wife welcomed their first child, a son.

Hamonic recently was named an alternate captain. Over the summer, he got married.

Time flies.

Video: ANA@NYI: Bailey's great goal wins the game in OT

"It definitely went by quick," said Bailey, who turned 27 on Oct. 2 but played his 560th NHL game Sunday, when he scored in overtime to give the Islanders a 3-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Barclays Center. "I can't believe it's my ninth year already. A lot of people over the years have come through here, I made a lot of good friends, a lot of great memories, and hopefully a lot more."

"It flies by, certainly," said Hamonic, who made his Islanders debut in 2010 and is expected to play his 400th NHL game on Friday against the Arizona Coyotes at Barclays Center. "I didn't realize it (being one of the longest-tenured Islanders) until a week ago. I guess maybe when you, just from a personal standpoint, look back and realize the time does go quick, but whether it's John [Tavares] or [Bailey] or some of the other guys we have here … I mean, we've got guys like [Jason Chimera] and [Andrew Ladd] who have been in the League forever. I think we have a good mix this year.

"We still have that group of guys who have grown up here together, and then we've injected some of the older players, some veteran guys, and then we've got some of the younger kids coming up. I feel like it's a pretty good mix this year."

On a personal level, Bailey and Hamonic each made memories this summer he'll never forget. But they also had to say goodbye to three longtime teammates. Not only did Nielsen and Okposo leave, left wing Matt Martin (Toronto Maple Leafs) also departed as a free agent. The Islanders signed Ladd and Chimera to help fill the voids left by three key pieces.

Okposo and Bailey were rookies in 2008, the same year Nielsen became a full-time player with the Islanders. Martin, who also was a part of that draft class with Bailey and Hamonic, after 19 games with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League, joined the group in 2010.

Along with Tavares, the No. 1 pick in 2009, the young core helped rebuild and re-energize the Islanders, who last season won a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993 when they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round.

But when Bailey and Hamonic walked into the Islanders locker room at their sparkling new practice facility (Tavares was away competing for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016), Nielsen, Okposo and Martin were gone. It was a weird feeling, one they know they have to get used to. The signings of character players such as Chimera, 37, and Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, is helping to ease the blow.

"You play with those guys for so long and become pretty close with them," Hamonic, 26, said. "It was certainly hard to see them go as friends and as teammates. It's pretty cool though in this day and age with the technology that we can kind of keep in touch with people. It is what it is. It's part of the game, right? I think everyone's pretty understanding of that.

Video: NYR@NYI: Bailey jams home rebound for overtime winner

"When you see those guys go, we get an opportunity to re-inject three new people on our team, and good people, first and foremost. That's something we really want to have here. The people that we got have been great people. But I'm certainly starting to get used to not seeing [Martin's] long hair around here all the time now."

Bailey's highlight-reel goal Sunday gave the Islanders their first win of the season after they opened with losses at the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. His hope is it's the first of many, even if he can no longer celebrate with three of his closest friends.

"It was tough, for sure," Bailey said. "Three good friends, three guys that had been here for a long time. But that's the nature of the business at times. I think everyone in the organization top to bottom wishes them the best. But you turn the page and you move on.

"I think the guys we brought in are great people and great players. It's definitely a bit of a different room this year, but I like our makeup so far. Hopefully we can just keep building."

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