Current, Future Sound Tigers Present in Mini Camp
The retired numbers hanging at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow, NY represent the New York Islanders decorated past, but the players skating below them this week will provide a glimpse of the future – many of them with current or future ties to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The New York Islanders prospects kicked off the on-ice portion of the team's 2018 Mini Camp on Tuesday, taking the ice two groups - Team Blue and Team White. The groups will skate every day from Tuesday-Saturday, playing the Blue and White Scrimmage on Thursday night and another closed scrimmage on Saturday.
"What I saw on the ice was awesome," said Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson (pictured below), who was running Tuesday's sessions. "I loved what I saw from our picks this year, some great habits from a lot of the young guys. I thought it was a good first day, guys came in and worked extremely hard and had a little bit of fun, to me it was a step in the right direction."
For 2018 draft picks like Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Bode Wilde, Jakub Skarek, Blade Jenkins and Christian Krygier, this week's development camp - their first pro camp - is all about getting oriented with the Islanders staff, players and facilities.
"I think it's more having fun this week and getting to know some of the guys, the staff around the organization," Dobson, one of the Isles two 2018 first-round picks, said. "There's bits and pieces you can learn from these coaches for what you need to get to the next level, but the main thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience."
Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick in the draft, said he was ready to work hard and make a good impression on the coaching staff and management, as well as improve his own game.
"I'm going to take this week in and learn a lot," said Wahlstrom. "Work on habits, work on that stuff and just develop this whole week, soak everything in and work."
One of the low-key thrills of Wahlstrom's first NHL camp, beyond getting a taste of the NHL lifestyle, was trading in his bubble for a visor and getting to know the other prospects.
"It was awesome, my first time wearing a visor," said Wahlstrom, who is mandated to wear a full face shield as part of US National Team Development Program's U-18 Team. "There's a great group of guys here, we joke around with each other a lot, but it was just really fun, I'm going to take this week in and learn a lot."
For the returnees, development camp is a good time to check in and get some hands-on instruction from the Islanders, especially for European prospects like 2017 second-round pick Robin Salo, who spends the winter months overseas in Finland. The Finnish defenseman said it felt good to get back in the groove on Tuesday.
"We were skating 100% and trying to do our best, it's been a little while since I was last on the ice," Salo said. "I'm ready to work on my skating, power and moving faster."
For Kieffer Bellows (pictured below in white), the Islanders 2016 first-round pick, this summer's development camp will be his third and he plans to take on a leadership role, showing the way for younger players.
"I think the past two years I've been looking up to the older guys trying to learn from them and trying to take as much advice as I can and now I'm trying to help the younger guys out," said Bellows, who is coming off a 40-goal season with WHL Portland.
"It's obviously an overwhelming experience coming to your first camp, or even first two camps, so you just help them feel comfortable and enjoy it."
As for Sound Tigers standouts in 2017-18, Sebastian Aho and Mitch Vande Sompel, who led all defensemen on the team in scoring last season, were among the first skaters on the ice. Other notables in this year's camp are forwards Michael Dal Colle, Scott Eansor, Josh Ho-Sang and Ryan Hitchcock, and goaltender Eamon McAdam.