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Bailey finding groove 10 seasons into career with Islanders

Forward has developed into top-line presence, first-time all-star

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Josh Bailey is approaching the 10th anniversary of when he was drafted by the New York Islanders.

A lot has changed since that night at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa when the Islanders selected Bailey, who was 18 at the time, with the ninth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft. Now 28, Bailey is a father of two young sons.

"It's pretty wild," Bailey said. "I still remember it like it was yesterday. Obviously, it was a great moment for my family and myself. I still watch the draft every year and get those butterflies. It's a pretty cool memory."

Things have changed on the ice for Bailey too. He will play in the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). It will be his first NHL All-Star Weekend experience.

Video: BUF@NYI: Bailey pots Tavares' slick feed to tie it

"I was hopeful," said Bailey, who has 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 45 games. "It wasn't really set in my mind that it was going to happen for sure, obviously with the way the teams get picked now a little bit. But it was a great call to receive. I'm really excited to have a weekend like that with my family. It'll be good memories and a good thing to share with them.

"It's something not everyone can say they've been a part of. Obviously, it took 10 years, so I'm not going to take it lightly. I'm pretty excited to be able to go there and really just enjoy everything that it has to offer."

When the smoke clears from All-Star weekend, Bailey and the Islanders will resume their pursuit of a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite a breakout season from Bailey in 2016-17, when he had an NHL career-high 56 points (13 goals, 43 assists), New York failed to qualify for the postseason by one point.

"I want to be better each day and be better than last season," Bailey said. "Obviously, it wasn't good enough for our team, not making the playoffs. Whatever it takes to get us back there, we're all willing to do it and put in the work."

Bailey made the Islanders out of training camp 10 seasons ago and had 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 68 games. He never had more than 41 points prior to last season.

"It's an interesting path," said Islanders coach Doug Weight, who was a teammate of Bailey's during his rookie season in 2008-09. "He had a really good career to this point. I guess 16 months ago he exploded for whatever reason, whether it's internal or work away or just extra focus, or it just happened to be his time.

"Whatever reason, he's taken a large step to being a big, big, big part of the hockey team more than he already was. You're proud of that. I think he is too. He should be."

Video: ANA@NYI: Barzal finishes Bailey's feed for PPG

Bailey has found his role with the Islanders, on their top line with John Tavares and Anders Lee. Tavares will join Bailey in Tampa for All-Star Weekend.

"I'm proud," Bailey said. "There's still work to be done. At no point are you ever satisfied or looking back too much, especially during the course of a season. I think you reflect more in the summer. I'm sure I'll do that this year too."

Like Tavares, Bailey can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He admitted it's difficult to not think about his future when he's away from the rink, but his production this season has shown he's focused at work.

"I think it's human nature, but I don't think I spend a whole lot of time thinking about it," Bailey said. "It's pretty easy when you get to the rink. You play this game because you love it. That never changes. Your focus is just what you're doing that day at the rink and not something you potentially worry about in the summer."

But Bailey said he hopes he'll have a new contract long before July 1. He was proud to join the Islanders in 2008 and is hopeful he'll remain with them for the remainder of his career.

"It's been 10 years now, it's all I know," Bailey said. "I've loved every minute of it. The highs and the lows I think make you stronger as a person and player and as an organization. I think it's made us stronger too. I'd like nothing more than to spend my entire career here. There's still some work to be done, but that would obviously be my No. 1 priority."

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