By Travis Betts
Twenty-one prospects in the Islanders system, along with 26 camp invites are on Long Island this week, taking part in a five-day mini camp loaded with off and on-ice workout sessions.
For many players, it’s their first chance to meet fellow prospects, impress the Islanders coaches and see the Island. For some of the more experienced veterans appearing in their second or third camp, it’s a chance to reinforce what they’ve learned in previous years and set an example for the younger players.
“Today was good,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said following the first on-ice practice at Nassau Coliseum. “I thought the guys worked hard. We told them that it’s not a long camp, but we want to make sure that when they’re at the rink, they’re working hard every day. They’ve got a good pace. It’s a great opportunity for them to interact with one another and have a good time here on Long Island.”
The players are broken down into two teams, which will go head-to-head Thursday in the Orange vs. Blue Rookie Scrimmage & Skills Competition at Nassau Coliseum. While one squad skates, the other works out in the gym with the team’s training staff. The key to the off-ice training, according to Director of Sports Performance Sean Donellan, is to show the players how the techniques they learn on a track or in the weight room can translate to improved on-ice performance.
“We’re trying to introduce the new guys to our overall program,” Donellan said. “We don’t expect everybody to master the program, because it is really technical, but we want them to at least learn the concepts and theories, and then begin to show efficiency in carrying it out. What they learn here links to what they do on the ice, and our goal is getting the players to understand that.”
Depending on his age or experience, each player’s specific focus at camp varies. Defenseman Scott Mayfield, who wrapped up his collegiate career in the spring before making his professional debut in AHL Bridgeport at the end of the season, got a taste of what he needs to do to succeed at the next level.
“The experience of playing in Bridgeport was great,” Mayfield said. “It showed me what I need to do this summer. I felt good the six games I played there, but there’s definitely work to be done. Guys are bigger, faster and stronger. That’s definitely something for me to work up to. And you have to make decisions quicker up here. Those are the things I’ve been working on this summer.”
Fellow defenseman Doyle Somerby, who recently made the transition from prep school competition to the United States Hockey League, is set to begin his NCAA career at Boston University in the fall. The 6’6 blueliner attended his first mini-camp as a 17-year-old in 2012, less than 24 hours after the Islanders selected him in that year’s draft. This time around, he feels less overwhelmed heading into the week.
“I’m certainly a lot more comfortable,” Somerby said. “I’m not worried about the draft still, or worried about what to do out there. I have a better idea of what to expect. I’ll probably be a little more outgoing this time around. It’s nice coming in this year, knowing what to expect. This week is a good chance for me to get better every day and re-familiarize myself with the workout program.”
The 26 undrafted prospects at camp earned invites based on what Islanders amateur scouts saw from them over the course of last season. Those players hope to earn professional contracts someday, and this week their skills and character are on display for Islanders brass.
“This camp is not only for your draft picks,” Capuano said. “Our scouts work extremely hard over the course of the year to bring in some college free agents and look at them as well. It’s another opportunity to get to know them a little bit better. It’s a win-win situation.”
Fans will have a chance to catch all the prospects in action this Thursday, July 11, during the 2013 Orange vs. Blue Rookie Scrimmage & Skills Competition at Nassau Coliseum. The event starts at 7:00 p.m., and tickets can still be purchased by CLICKING HERE.