JOHAN HALVARDSSON READY TO CRACK LINEUP
By Jason Lockhart
Johan Halvardsson is back at the Islanders development camp for the first time since 1999, when he was drafted in the fourth round 102nd overall.
At 26, he is the oldest player at this year's mid-summer camp, but he doesn't look that way on the ice. His smooth skating is reminiscent of former Swedish Islander D-man Kenny Jonsson.
Halvardsson has been playing the past eight years with Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League, but after signing a new contract with the Islanders he felt like he should come back to Long Island and train with the Islanders prospects.
"I feel much more comfortable at this year's camp," said the 6-4 Swede. "This camp has been much better for me."
Halvardsson, who remembers rooming with Gino Odjick at the 1999 camp in Lake Placid, said he likes the atmosphere at this camp better than the one in 1999.
"This year it's more like a team," said Halvardsson. "At Lake Placid you were more by yourself. This year we are together all day. It's been good times."
With the newest acquisitions of talented defensemen Brendan Witt and Tom Poti it will make earning a spot with the Islanders a little tougher, but Halvardsson is optimistic about making the team.
When asked what it would take to crack the Islanders lineup Halvardsson joked: "I'm a stay-at-home defenseman, so don't let any goals in."
Halvardsson admits that there were a couple of years he took some time off from the game and wanted to quit all together to play golf.
"I realized after being out of the game for a while I missed it," said Halvardsson. "I loved the game and decided to come back and be even better than before."
From his stats with Jonkoping in the Swedish Elite League - no more than two goals in a season - it's apparent that Halvardsson's game does not focus on the offensive side, rather he has honed the defensive defenseman role.
Halvardsson's style of play isn't precisely geared for the development camp's scrimmages, which are played with no hitting, but that didn't stop him from using his physical presence on a few players rushing up the ice. In one instance, Robert Nilsson flew down the right wing on Halvardsson, but Halvardsson got his big body in the way and took Nilsson to the ground.
"I like playing the North American game more," said Halvardsson. "I have a physical game and the smaller rinks keep the guys closer and make it easier to hit them."
After the Islanders development camp wraps up, Halvardsson will head back to hometown Jonkoping, Sweden for the rest of the summer. Halvardsson knows that you don't make the team in July, so he'll have the rest of the summer to train in order to prepare for training camp in September, when the final decisions are made.