POSTED ON Sunday, 09.11.2011 / 3:41 PM ET
Saturday, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano told the media it’s time for the more experienced prospects to “step it up” if they want a chance to make the team. He reiterated that same message on Day Two of Islanders Rookie Camp.
“I’m expecting those (experienced) guys to challenge for a spot on this hockey team no different than the way Matt Moulson did a couple of years back,” Capuano said. “I think that they realize they don’t want to be in the minors, they spent their time there and they want an opportunity. If they play well, they are going to get that opportunity.”
Rhett Rakhshani, Justin DiBenedetto and Mark Katic are some of those so called “experienced” prospects. Each of them has attended rookie camp at least three times. And over the last few years, all have become staple players for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
All of them were honored to be in the same category as Moulson.
“It shows that they are willing to take a young guy on the team,” Katic said. “Moulson came out of nowhere and scored 30 goals. I think there are a lot of guys in this room capable of having a breakout year like that. It’s just a matter of who has a better camp and gets that advantage and takes that opportunity.”
Rakhshani said, “It’s definitely a good thing for us. They’ve definitely shown that they give the young guys an opportunity and it’s just a matter of grasping it. Someone’s got to do it so hopefully the young guys start stepping up. I’m definitely hoping that I can be one of the guys that can do that this camp.”
DiBenedetto said, “He (Capuano) should be expecting a lot from the older guys (at camp). Personally, I’m going on my third year pro and I expect big things out of myself, too. So I’m going to go out and work hard.”
Rakhshani, a skilled winger, led the Sound Tigers in goals (24), assists (38) and points (62) last season as a rookie. DiBenedetto, a scrappy and pesky winger, ranked second on the Sound Tigers in goals scored with 19. Lastly, Katic, a smooth puck-moving blue-liner, led all Sound Tigers defensemen in scoring (30 points).
What these three players have in common is their NHL experience. All received call-ups from the Islanders last season, but all were returned to the Sound Tigers after a few short games. While they may not have stuck last year, each of them are hoping to implement what they’ve learned.
“Just being up with the NHL for those eleven games, it made me realize I can play at this level,” Katic said. “I just have to fine-tune a few things. It gives me more confidence on the ice, knowing I played in the NHL.”
He added, “You just have to reassure yourself that you can do it. The mental aspect of the game is 90 per cent of it. I’ve been trying to tell myself that I’m ready all summer so hopefully it works out.”
Rakhshani knows the mental aspect all too well.
“I think I've been my biggest enemy in some of the recent years because, for myself, I know what I can do, but sometimes I hold myself back from playing to my full potential,” Rakhshani said. “I want to go out there and play to my full potential and not be restricted by anything.”
Rakhshani’s time with the big club was limited to two games due to a concussion. He still took a lot from the experience.
“Now I know what to expect, and that it’s not too overwhelming,” Rakhshani said. “I’m good enough to play at the NHL level. Guys are a little faster and stronger (than in the AHL), but I’m definitely at that level and can play with any of them. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”
Even a physical player like DiBenedetto learned a few things.
“When I was up last year, I noticed how strong the defensemen were in front of the net compared to the AHL,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s something I wanted to focus on and I think I did that.”
These exhibition games against the Bruins will give all the prospects ample time to prove to management that they are worth a second look. For the more experienced players, it’s hopefully where they shed the “rookie” status.
“First impressions are important,” Katic said. “It’ll be great to make a good first impression if I play well, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m coming in here with an open mind. Obviously I want to make the team, that’s the ultimate goal. But if I get sent down, I want to be called up at some point in the year and stick and become a full-time NHLer.”
DiBenedetto and Rakhshani shared the same sentiment and put it plainly, “My goal is to make the New York Islanders.”
There’s no doubt these guys are talented. They were all drafted for a reason. But now is the time for each of them to break out and show why they deserve a spot on the Islanders roster.
POSTED ON Sunday, 09.11.2011 / 1:54 PM ET
Click the photo of David Ullstrom, Justin DiBenedetto and Mikko Koskinen from Day 2 of Rookie Camp to view a gallery.
POSTED ON Saturday, 09.10.2011 / 4:10 PM ET
This time last year, Nino Niederreiter arrived on Long Island for his first Rookie Camp. In his first exhibition game for the blue and orange, he showed heart; he not only did he score a goal, but also had his first career fight. Most of all, the Swiss power forward impressed Islanders management enough to receive an invitation to Islanders Training Camp.
But this season, Niederreiter comes to camp with a new outlook.
“Last year, I was way more nervous,” Niederreiter said. “I didn’t know what to expect... I think I definitely feel better this year.”
Despite his nerves, he made enough of an impression to play the first nine games of the Islanders 2010-11 season. And while it’s every player’s dream to make it to the National Hockey League, Niederreiter isn’t going to get ahead of himself.
When asked if he’s thought about his chances of making the team this season, he said, “I’ve got to take it step by step, then we’ll see how it goes.”
In the off season, Niederreiter took steps to improve his skating.
“I went to a power skating camp," Niederreiter said. I think I improved a lot. The first three steps is definitely something I could improve. I worked hard.”
Easing back into the locker room with the rest of the rookies, Niederreiter said he’s glad to be back.
“It was good to see all of the boys back,” Niederreiter said. “Everybody’s excited for the rookie games. I’ve got to say the ice was a little soft out there so it was little tough to handle the puck, but I think it was good first practice.”
Niederreiter wasn’t the only one who had a good first day. Ryan Strome, the Islanders fifth overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is back for his second camp on Long Island, though he knows this one carries a bit more weight.
“This is what we train for all summer,” Strome said. “This is the big camp.”
While he hopes to make a good impression at camp, Strome said he knows making it to the NHL is an uphill battle.
“I just know there’s a long ways to go still,” Strome said. “There are a lot of solid caliber players, just like the last camp. There’s a lot of older guys, a lot of skill guys and guys who are really big. It’s a chance for me to take what I learned in the pro atmosphere out here. I have a taste of what it’s like and now I have to try to adopt that to my everyday life.”
Playing in the exhibition games is something he’s looking forward to.
“I just want to make myself a better player,” Strome said. “It’s a good chance for me to prove myself. We’re going to be playing against the Boston rookies. There are a lot of good players there as well.”
When it comes to the Bruins rookies, Strome has an advantage over some of the other Islanders prospects. Boston’s ninth overall pick, Dougie Hamilton, is Strome’s teammate and good friend from the Niagra IceDogs.
“I haven’t made any bets with him,” Strome said of Hamilton. “We’ll see what happens. I’ll text him tonight and see what he says.”
Whether a bet transpires or not, Strome said he’s looking forward to playing against another team’s future talent.
“It will be a lot of fun to compare yourself and play against some other good talent but also earn your spot in the next camp,” Strome said.
POSTED ON Saturday, 09.10.2011 / 3:25 PM ET
The Islanders rookies wasted no time on their first day of camp Saturday. Players arrived at Nassau Coliseum for 7 a.m. physicals and just a few short hours later, the 25 attendees were on the ice for their first session.
“It’s great to be back,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We saw a lot of these kids in July, but knowing that they have (exhibition) games Monday and Tuesday - a couple days of practice is more exciting now.”
With two exhibitions against the Boston Bruins prospects set for Monday and Tuesday, the Islanders and Bridgeport Sound Tigers coaches got right down to business with a pretty intense practice. Trying to build some chemistry right from the get go, lines were already set and working together.
It’s hard to believe just a few short months have passed since Mini Camp in July.
“A couple of months ago they came in and they didn’t know one another,” Capuano said. “It was a good opportunity for guys to interact and learn a little bit about Long Island and have some fun.”
But Mini Camp and Rookie Camp are two different animals.
“Now it’s game on,” Capuano said. “We’ve told them that these (exhibition) games are very important, compete levels are going to be at a high, the desperation and determination to play at a high level. We’ll try to give them a few systems, you can’t cover everything in two days, but give them a few things to go out and play.”
Undoubtedly, the team will be watched from all points on the ice, as well as from the stands. Rookie Camp is a precursor to the team’s main Training Camp, which begins Friday. These next few days are the prospects last opportunity to show management that they deserve an invitation.
Capuano has yet to talk to Islanders General Manager Garth Snow about dates for first cuts, but said, “I’m sure that’s something we’ll talk about over the next week, but we plan on giving guys a long look. I’m sure guys will be around a little while.”
Last September, Capuano had yet to be appointed to Head Coach of the Islanders so his role at camp was slightly different. Although, he became comfortable with a system that worked for him last season and after a summer of reflection, he said he’s not going to deviate from how he did things in the second half.
As for camp, he said, “Obviously every coach runs their camp a little differently, conditioning is big with me. There might be some things that we change up, but we’re going to build that foundation early and build toward (opening night) October 8th.”
So who from rookie camp could be on the Islanders roster come opening night? Capuano’s keeping all eyes open.
“I can tell you that we are going to take a look at everybody,” Capuano said. “But the guys from Bridgeport, some of the veteran guys, it’s their time now too. They’ve played in the minors now a couple of years and they know what we are about and what we are looking for. It’s going to be important for them to step it up in this camp if they want a chance to make our hockey team.”
POSTED ON Saturday, 09.10.2011 / 2:10 PM ET
Click the photo of Ryan Strome, Tyler McNeely, Nino Niederreiter and Andrey Pedan from Day 1 of Rookie Camp to view a gallery.
POSTED ON Monday, 08.1.2011 / 10:44 PM ET
If the majority of residents went to the polls today and voted “yes,” the referendum will move to the County legislature, who will hold a vote for a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue to be built in Nassau County before being turned over to NIFA for final approval.
Gathered at the Coliseum, Islanders owner Charles Wang set the mood early. At about 7:30 p.m., he addressed the Islanders staff, who gathered for a light dinner and refreshments after spending the entire day in the Nassau County community, and thanked them for all of their hard work over the last few months as the team has tried to spread the word and urge residents to Vote Yes for Nassau County’s future.
Tonight, all that work has come to a close. The final tally from today’s vote is being calculated and could come in at any moment. As everyone congregates and enjoys the end of the very much political campaign between Islanders/Republicans and Democrats, there is still that anticipation, the hope and the nervousness as Nassau’s future waits in the balance.
So if you’re glued to the television, Twitter, Facebook or any other sort of news outlet waiting to hear the outcome of today’s vote, you’re not the only ones feeling anxious. All of us in Islanders country are waiting in the balance.
POSTED ON Monday, 08.1.2011 / 8:04 PM ET
|On August 1, 2011, Heather and Cole Schlesinger voted yes to bring jobs to Nassau County residents.|
We’re out here today being Islanders fans and being in support of Nassau County,” Tom Waddell said. “This is a good idea to come out and vote yes for the project and to move forward. I think it’s a good thing for Long Island and Nassau County, but also to keep the Islanders at home. It’s a beautiful day. I think people should come out and vote.”
While the first half of the day was sunny and warm, it started to rain and hail after 4 p.m., halting East Bound trains on the Long Island Rail Road. It is yet to be determined how the inclement weather will affect the remainder of the day at the polls.
Prior to the rain, the Waddell’s weren’t the only family who came to the polls together.
Kathy Voigt said she brings her nine-year-old daughter Marianne with her every time she votes because even though her daughter isn’t quite old enough to have her voice heard, Kathy feels it’s important to teach her daughter about the process.
“I came out to vote today because I think it’s important that people take a stand one way or the other,” Voigt said. “They (the community) should have some influence in what is going on. I chose to vote yes for the job factor. There is a lot of unemployment (in Nassau County). The project will bring revenue to the area and we’d like to keep the Islanders here.”
|Tom Waddell and his wife Alison bring their son Alexander with them to the polls at Massapequa High School on August 1, 2011.|
“I know a lot of people who don’t have kids in school anymore and I’m one of them,” Heather Schlesinger said. “I think it’s very important to support the community. I’ve lived here since I was five (years of age) and I think we need to bring revenue (to Nassau County).”
Schlesinger continued, “It’s important that we do this. It will add a lot of jobs. We shouldn’t just think about the taxes going up. You have to think about all the opportunities that are being created.”
ven Rangers fans, like Massapequa resident Peter Cardone, showed up to vote yes.
“I’m a Rangers fan, but I do root for the Islanders,” Cardone said. “I’ve been to many games there (at Nassau Coliseum). Overall, I think it’s just going to be good for the whole atmosphere because if we lose a team on Long Island, the city is really going to be the only place we have to see a game. And of course, you always have to have a rivalry. Jets-Giants, Islanders-Rangers. You have to have it just for the spark.”
Whatever their reasoning, hockey fans, non-hockey fans, Islanders fans or not, Nassau came out to vote Monday. Now they just wait for the final count and hope that enough of their neighbors, friends and family showed up to keep the Islanders on Long Island as well as bring 4,500 jobs and millions of dollars of tax relief to Nassau County.
POSTED ON Monday, 08.1.2011 / 11:38 AM ET
Out in Bethpage this morning, residents seemed overwhelmingly in support of Vote Yes and as cars drove by, we got plenty of honks and thumbs up.
As one resident drove by the Islanders Vote Yes crew on the corner of Stewart Avenue and Central Avenue, he rolled down his car window and yelled, “Thanks for the reminder, I almost forgot! Go Islanders!”
Look for Vote Yes signs near the on ramps to the Seaford Oyster Bay Parkway (135) off Hempstead Turnpike! The Vote Yes crew will be out there all day so Honk if you’re Voting Yes!
We know you've all been waiting for the rundown of the skills competition. So here it goes:
|Skill||Blue Team||White Team|
|The Hardest Shot:||1. Mayfield||1. Pedan|
|2. Theoret||2. Donovan|
|3. Katic||3. Trivino|
Each player will have two shots. Both shots count, but only the hardest shot (miles per hour) will be recorded.
|The Rapid Fire Test:||1. Persson||1. DiBenedetto|
|2. de Haan||2. Lee|
|3. Sundstrom||3. Ness|
|4. Cizikas||4. Nelson|
|Shooting on Rosen/Nilsson||Shooting on Riopel/Rawlings|
This competition tests the goalies. All three skaters will be armed with three pucks each and will shoot from inside the top of the faceoff circle. Each goalie will face nine shots each.
|The Breakaway:||1. Niederreiter||1. Kichton|
|2. Strome||2. Ullstrom|
|3. Kabanov||3. Rakhshani|
|Shooting on Nilsson||Shooting on Rawlings|
This is the standard shootout challenge. Each skater will have one opportunity to score on the other team's goaltender.
||Shooting on Rosen||Shooting on Riopel|
All the skaters from each team will participate in this challenge. All the skaters must be on their bench other than the two players trying to score. The first skater will start on the blueline as he heads for a shot on his opposing team's goaltender. If he misses the shot, he must place the puck back on the blueline before his teammate is allowed on the ice to take the next shot. The first team to score seven goals wins.
Scoring: The winning team of each skills competition will be awarded one point, which will be added on to the final score from the scrimmage.
The Islanders equipment staff have worked hard to complete the setup of both the Blue Team and White Team's locker rooms and now they're ready for the game to begin. Here are a few photos of the dressing rooms.
The Blue Locker Room:
The White Locker Room: