FIRST ROUNDERS MAKING NOISE
By Kerry Gwydir
It's become evident that Islanders hockey is truly back on Long Island following the second day of the team's rookie camp at Islanders Iceworks on Sunday. On top of that, the clock on the 2005-06 campaign is set to begin Monday when the Islanders' veterans report to Nassau Coliseum prior to the team's departure to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for Training Camp 2005.
Day Two of Rookie Camp commenced with another energetic crowd in attendance and plenty of action on the Islanders Iceworks' ice. Unlike Saturday, when the prospects' day began at 6:45 a.m. with a series of physicals and tests administered by the Islanders' training staff, the Isles' prospects reported immediately to Islanders Iceworks for a scrimmage that consisted of two 25-minute non-stop time periods and a practice afterwards.
And what's becoming apparent is that the Islanders' quartet of first rounders attending rookie camp -- Robert Nilsson (2003), Petteri Nokelainen (2004), Sean Bergenheim (2002) and Ryan O'Marra (2005) -- are all off to strong starts heading into the team's main camp that begins Tuesday at the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth.
Nilsson starred in Sunday's contest that saw Team Blue tally four unanswered goals in the second half for a 6-2 victory. Nilsson's set up three goals, including a dazzling sidestep in the neutral zone to initiate Steve Regier's score that gave Team Blue a 2-1 advantage midway through the first half. Nilsson, playing the right wing on a line with Regier and off-season free agent signee David Masse, later made a pretty look to find defenseman Mike Yarmuth in the slot for Team Blue's fourth score of the morning.
Bergenheim was a buzzsaw for much of the contest as he generated at least a half-dozen scoring opportunities during the scrimmage. He played a key role in Team Blue's sixth goal when he took the puck hard to the net while fighting off two checkers. Tuomas Tarkki made the first stop, but couldn't contain Masse, who buried the second opportunity.
After showing no ill-effects of an almost nasty knee-on-knee hit with Bergenheim in the second half of the scrimmage, Nokelainen has been everything that's been advertised -- early on -- of the tenacious Finn. "He's just so strong in all aspects of the game," said Islanders' Chief Canadian Amateur Scout Doug Gibson. "You look at the way he shoots the puck -- he gets his money worth every shift."
Nokelainen hooked up several times with defenseman Chris Campoli for several quality one-time opportunities that tested Team Blue goaltenders Chris Madden and Tarkki. The forward, who switched on Sunday to play center with Jason Pitton on the left and Luch Aquino on the right, again displayed a propensity for coming out of the corner with loose pucks and never shying away from body contact.
O'Marra, who sports an already NHL-size frame at 6-2, will need to add muscle in the coming seasons. Still, he's displaying the competitiveness and two-way play that made Islanders' Director of Amateur Scouting Tony Feltrin call his name to the NHL Draft podium in Ottawa during the first round in July.
"He's a competitor," said head coach Steve Stirling. "He's got some maturing in the physical department to do, but there's no doubt that Ryan's going to be a big part of our future. He's an impressive prospect."
Besides the first rounders, a host of youngsters continued to make their marks at camp.
Campoli, who was the surprise last season in AHL Bridgeport by notching 15 goals and 49 points in 79 games, is poised to make a strong run at a spot on the big club. The defenseman, who was the Islanders' seventh choice in the 2004 draft, likes to jump up into the offensive flow whenever the opportunity presents itself. Yet, he continues to learn to do it without infringing upon his defensive responsibilities.
2005 fifth round pick Masi Marjamaki (a draft-re-entry after not signing with Boston) has impressed those in attendance with his tenacity along the boards and his headiness with and without the puck. His checking behind the Team Blue net disturbed Jarmuth long enough to begin the sequence for the game's first goal, a centering feed to O'Marra that was rifled behind Tarkki. Both days during camp, Marjamaki has played on the left wing with O'Marra at center and Blake Comeau on the right.
Speaking of Comeau, for the second-straight day, the swift-skating 2004 2nd rounder continued to parlay an impressive performance last month at Team Canada's World Junior Camp. Although the righthanded-shooting winger was kept off the scorecard, Comeau was involved in the flow of the game nearly every shift - whether it was starting an offensive rush with a crisp outlet pass in the neutral zone or by consistently finishing his checks.
Cole Jarrett posted two goals as he is making the transition to left wing from defense following splitting time between both positions last year in AHL Bridgeport.
Jeremy Colliton tallied a goal and assisted on Jarrett's second score.
Keep the name Dustin Kohn tucked away. The 2005 second rounder, a defenseman, has plenty of wheels and doesn't mind jumping up into play when he gets the opportunity. He also attended Team Canada's World Junior Evaluation Camp with Comeau and O'Marra.
Steve Regier-David Masse-Robert Nilsson
Cole Jarrett-Jeremy Colliton-Sean Bergenheim
Ryan Caldwell-Bruno Gervais
Nick Tuzzolino-Vince Macri-Mike Jarmuth
Masi Marjamaki-Ryan O'Marra-Blake Comeau
Jason Pitton-Petteri Nokelainen-Luch Aquino
Chris Campoli-Jody Robinson
Jaroslav Mrazek-Paul Flache
PHOTOS BY RICH STIEGLITZ