SHOW STOPPERS: DUSTIN KOHN
Islanders defenseman Dustin Kohn talks about his first taste of the NHL
Tuesday, 06.15.2010 / 5:16 PM / News
By Alex Silverman
It was a pretty cool feeling. I was driving back from Portland, where I was for the AHL All-Star Game, and I got a phone call from Cappy (Head Coach Jack Capuano) in Bridgeport. He told me that I was going up and it was a pretty exciting feeling. The trip to Long Island was pretty easy. I went up the morning of the game as we were set to play the Florida Panthers that night. I had come back from Portland the day before, so I got my stuff together and headed to Long Island in the morning.
Did any of the guys in Bridgeport or on the Island give you any advice beforehand?
There were a couple of the guys who had played with me before: Andrew MacDonald, Blake Comeau and Jeff Tambellini. They just told me to have fun out there and play my game and not worry about making mistakes.
What were you feeling when you stepped onto the ice for your first shift?
I was pretty nervous to be honest. The first game I was nervous, but very very excited. At that point I think adrenaline takes over a little bit and you’ve played the game long enough to know what to do with the puck and on the ice. Instinct takes over when you’re nervous like that.
What was your “Welcome to the NHL” moment?
Getting to play with Doug Weight was pretty cool. Growing up in Edmonton, I was a big Oilers fan and he was my favorite player. It was really cool and probably the point where I thought to myself that it was pretty awesome to be playing in the NHL.
How noticeable was the difference in skill level between the NHL and the AHL?
It’s definitely a little quicker and there’s more high-end skill in the NHL. You really just have to be on your game all the time and be consistent every night. You can’t take any shifts off because guys are so good that they’ll take advantage of that.
You picked up your first NHL point with an assist on Blake Comeau’s game-tying goal in that first game against Florida. Describe the play and the feeling.
Like I said, I was pretty nervous that first game, so to get an assist calmed me down quite a bit. I got a pass from Bruno [Gervais] on the point and I just waited for the forecheker to come out at me. I bounced it off the half-wall down to Comeau and he just walked up and fired the shot and scored.
As your time with the Islanders went on, how did you adjust your role from being a call-up guy to someone who was going to stick with the team last season?
I started to feel more comfortable after my fourth or fifth game. I started to try to play more physical, which is something that I want to work on and do better next year. By playing more physical, it helps me get mentally ready and settles me down. I try to use my skating as well to get up the ice. Those are the kind of things I am working to do consistently in the NHL.
Which Islanders went out of their way to show you the ropes of being in the NHL?
Everybody was pretty great to me and very welcoming. It’s a really good team to come into half-way through the year. It’s nice because I’ve known a bunch of the guys. (Andrew) MacDonald and myself are good friends and we’ve played together in Bridgeport the last couple of years. All of that made it easier. Just everybody around I had known the past few years since being drafted. Everybody was very welcoming.
Aside from your debut, what other memories stick out from your first stint in the NHL?
Definitely playing in Vancouver, and being in Canada, was a very cool experience. Some of the better buildings, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, were pretty memorable as well. Like I said also, getting to play with Doug Weight was really cool too.
You suffered a concussion late in the season against the Rangers. How frustrating was it to have your first season in the NHL cut short by injury?
It was very frustrating. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think there’s a lot I could’ve done about it and you just have to worry about the things that are in your control. That was kind of a bad break and I wanted to make sure that I got healthy and had a good playoff in Bridgeport and I think I did that. I was fairly happy with the way things went. Obviously it would’ve been nice to win and beat Hershey and have been able to play the last 10 games in the NHL, but it was out of my control.
Along with Andrew MacDonald you guys had a productive Calder Cup Playoffs. How were you able to transfer your confidence from playing in the NHL to lining up against the top players in the AHL?
Well for Andrew, he was in the NHL longer than me. He played over 50 games with the Islanders and he really established himself as a good NHL player. So, you could definitely see the confidence in him playing at the AHL level, making good plays all the time and just being reliable defensively and then he was able to chip in with a few goals as well. For myself, being injured for two weeks before the playoffs started was a different situation. I hadn’t skated for a couple of weeks and my first action back was against Hershey. I was definitely confident coming down from New York, but I was a little worried about how my legs were going to feel the first couple of games because I hadn’t been in game shape and hadn’t played for a couple of weeks. It was an interesting feeling for me having not played in two weeks and then jumping right into the playoffs. It’s such a fun environment in that rink in Hershey and I just tried to be solid defensively and I was able to help out offensively too, which was a bonus.
What have you been up to so far this offseason and when do you start to prepare for the year ahead?
When I first got back I took a couple of weeks off and since have started working out. I’m into my training now and I’m working out five days a week. I have added yoga classes a couple of times during the week to help with my flexibility. I’m also golfing on the weekends and my workouts are going well during the week.
What are your goals for both this upcoming training camp and your future with the Islanders?
Obviously my goal is to make the team this year out of training camp and play the full season in the NHL. Right now my focus is on getting myself in the best shape that I possibly can and really being ready to do the things that the coaches have been asking of me and telling me I need to improve on in camp. I need to be a consistent player the day we get to Training Camp, all the way until the final day of the season.