Avoiding the Sophomore Slump
Wednesday, 09.28.2011 / 9:21 AM ET
A total of 62 players ended up playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers during the 2011-12 season. Some played as few as one game, others appeared in more than 70. The vast majority of those players had various changes of scenery, whether they were call-ups to Long Island or demotions to East Coast or Central Hockey League teams.
One of only a handful to have spent his entire season with the Sound Tigers was David Ullstrom. The rookie forward appeared in 67 games with the Sound Tigers, the third most on the team. The Sound Tigers had a roster that was in flux for most of the season, but Ullstrom was a constant presence that could be relied on by the end of the year. Although he never got the NHL call up he had been hoping for, he took plenty of positives away from his first pro campaign in the U.S.
“I was really happy with last season,” said Ullstrom following an on ice session at Islanders training camp. ”When the season first began, I wasn’t really to sure what to expect. As the year went on, I grew as a player. I was happy with my production after Christmas, I got to understand the system and the game a little more. It's so much different than back home, and as time passed and I got to know the guys more it got better.”
Ullstrom signed his entry-level contract during the summer of 2010. The Islanders fourth round pick (102nd overall) from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft had played previously with HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League, but his role was relatively limited. That was far from the case last season, when Ullstrom played big minutes and was used in every situation.
“I saw a lot of opportunities from the start, I was really excited by the amount of minutes I saw,” Ullstrom said. “I had a lot of responsibility whether it was as a center on one of the top lines, or being on the power play and even some time on the penalty kill at the end of the year.”
Those opportunities arose due in part to the large amount of injuries sustained by the Islanders during the season. By the second half of the 2011-12 season, the Sound Tigers roster was merely a shell of what it was in October. The team’s struggles in the second half were something that Ullstrom had never experienced before, but knows there’s plenty to take away from the end of the season.
“It was my first time playing on a team that didn’t make the playoffs,” Ullstrom explained. “Back in Sweden, I always played for successful teams. It was very different in that way, but it was something I’m going to take with me and remember. This year I think we’re going to be a lot better. There’s a lot of solid, young talent and if I don’t make the Islanders out of camp ill go to Bridgeport. I think both teams will very good this year.”
Last season, Ullstrom’s numbers came in waves. Despite his solid overall numbers to conclude the season (17 goals, 24 assists), Ullstrom only had one goal from Dec. 1 – Feb. 13., but broke out of that with six goals in a three-game span, earning AHL Player of the Week honors.
“Consistency is a huge thing for me,” Ullstrom said. “That’s something I know I have to improve. I had a lot of different linemates last season so it was hard to develop a lot of chemistry at times. I had some good streaks last season, but I need to have more consistency if I’m going to be successful and make it to Long Island.”
Ullstrom saw many of those who were closest to him make that step to the NHL. Last season, he was roommates with fellow rookies Travis Hamonic, Kevin Poulin, and Rhett Rakhshani, all of whom saw different amounts of time with the Islanders. Despite not getting that call, Ullstrom was encouraged to know the opportunities to move up were there.
“It was huge to get to live with Hammer and Pouls and Rhett, they all got their chances. It was nice to see them succeed, and obviously I want that chance this year. It’s exciting though because the Islanders want to promote from within, and I want to be a part of it. Hopefully I can make the team out of camp and if not, I’ll hope I get that call from Cappy at some point.
Just like other players at Islanders Training Camp, Ullstrom’s goal this season is simple.
"My main goal is obviously to make the Islanders out of camp,” Ullstrom said. “But if not, I’m going to play my best for the fans in Bridgeport and if I get my chance, I’ll try to prove that I’m good enough to play at the NHL level.”