HILLEN TAKES GAME IN STRIDES

Hillen's skating sets him apart

Monday, 09.20.2010 / 5:29 PM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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HILLEN TAKES GAME IN STRIDES
If you ever pay attention to the different players on the ice, you will notice that each skater has their own unique skating style. New York Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen is no exception to that rule. With smooth, long strides, he’s a very exciting player to watch out on the ice because he can be very explosive off the start, catching unknowing forwards off guard.

“My skating is definitely my strong suit. I know it,” Hillen said. “It gets me in position to make body checks, make passes and break the puck out. I think as a 5’10” player, you have to be able to do that… I need to play a positional game and if I weren’t able to skate, I wouldn’t be in the NHL right now. I wouldn’t be able to play at this level.”

Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon agreed, saying, “At Jack’s size you can’t play at this level unless you can skate. There aren’t too many guys at his size that don’t skate well.” He added, “What we get from Jack is solid defense and positional play and the ability to get up into the play and make a good first pass and that’s an important part of it.”

But it isn’t an accident that Hillen’s skating is one of his strong suits out on the ice. He’s been practicing and fine tuning his skills with the same two coaches for the past 15 years. “They’re just top notch skating coaches,” Hillen said about his skating coaches Barry and Jodie Karn. “They basically formed my stride. It’s not something that just happened by accident. I put a lot of work into it ever since I started skating.”

Hillen’s skating skills helped him make an extremely quick transition to the National Hockey League. After his senior year with Colorado College, Hillen signed with the Islanders as a free agent on April 1, 2008 where he played in two games, recording one assist for a plus one ranking. The defenseman then split the 2008-09 season between the Islanders and Bridgeport, where he recorded a combined NHL/AHL total of five goals and 18 assists for 23 points.

“Jack’s a very cerebral player,” Coach Gordon said. “He’s a quick learner. He thinks the game well and I think that how far he came in such a short time is pretty impressive.”

Getting that far that fast is impressive for any player, but being an undrafted defenseman who made it to the NHL full time in less than two years, makes his first full season at the NHL level more notable. The defenseman played in 69 games during the 2009-10 season, notching three goals (one on the power play) and 18 assists for 21 points.

But midseason Hillen took a slap-shot to the chin from Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, shattering his jaw. After that January 26 injury, Hillen missed the next nine games and when he came back, he needed to wear a full face shield for added protection.

“Jack was playing really well for us right up until he got hurt,” said Coach Gordon. “That was a big setback for him to have a full face shield because at times he couldn’t see the puck.”

Even though the defenseman had a rough first year due to the injury, Coach Gordon is still impressed with his play. “That whole first half of the year last year he and Sutts (Andy Sutton) were a good pair for us. He did a great job and they compliment each other well,” Coach Gordon said.

This season, Hillen is looking to improve his game even more, so he spent a lot of time in the gym working with his trainer this off season.

“I trained at the same place I’ve been training at since I was a freshman in college, had the same trainer and everything,” Hillen said. “Basically Jesse (Demers, the Islanders Strength and Conditioning Coach) gives us the workout and I go with my trainer one-on-one. We get a high-intensity workout in with low rest to keep the heart-rate up. I felt like I came in (to camp) in great shape, probably the best shape I’ve ever been to camp in, so I’m really excited about that.”

Hillen has looked like he was at top of his game these first few days of Training Camp, so hopefully he will find a great match in his new D partner this season to help excel his game even further.

SCHEDULE

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Bailey 5 2 3 2 5
J. Tavares 5 1 3 0 4
K. Okposo 5 2 1 1 3
N. Leddy 5 0 3 -2 3
R. Strome 5 2 0 0 2
B. Nelson 4 2 0 0 2
C. Clutterbuck 5 1 1 1 2
L. Visnovsky 4 0 2 5 2
C. Cizikas 5 1 0 1 1
C. de Haan 5 0 1 -2 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 2 3 1 .913 2.61
M. Neuvirth 0 0 0 1.000 0.00

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