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Japanese prospect making most of his first visit to North America

Mei Ushu, a 20-year-old defenseman, was invited to Islanders Mini-Camp

Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 7:25 PM / News
By Brittany Cole
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Japanese prospect making most of his first visit to North America
For one of the top hockey players in Japan, a first trip to the United States is one that he hopes will turn into a permanent stay.

Mei Ushu, a 20-year-old Japanese Islanders Mini-Camp invite, made his first trip to North America this past weekend to attend camp. He’s already enjoying his stay on Long Island for a number of reasons. He said he loves the hockey atmosphere in the organization and the skill level of his fellow players.

“I’m enjoying playing with talented players,” Ushu said through his interpreter Taka Shirai. “I haven’t really played with top players like this in Japan. I’m really learning and I want to improve my hockey skills.”

Mei Ushu skates at Islanders Mini-Camp held at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
Ushu has that chance to improve thanks in part to Shirai, who has ties with the Islanders organization from when he was a past intern. The friends have known each other for about three years now as Ushu attends Waseda University, located in Shinjuko, Tokyo – also Shirai’s alma mater.

Shirai, a former hockey player himself, said he can see Ushu’s excitement.

“He’s really enjoying this experience,” Shirai said. “It’s definitely a different environment than he’s used to, but you can tell he’s very excited. He’s one of the best Japanese players for his age, but these players here are better or as good as him so it’s good competition for him.”

Ushu, a defenseman, started playing hockey at age seven and has since gone on to play for the under-18 and under-20 Japanese National Teams and traveled to Belarus, Italy and Latvia for games. He captained the U-20 team last year before starting his Japanese collegiate career at Waseda. This fall, he will enter his sophomore season and continue to major in sports sciences.

With so many talented players from across the world at mini-camp, the language barriers can sometimes make communication difficult, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Ushu. Though he speaks very little English, he said it’s all about how you play the game on the ice.

“I can’t really speak much English, but hockey language is how we speak to each other,” he said through Japanese translation. “I’m gradually making friends and trying to communicate with all of them.”

Those friendships were apparent as Ushu skated and laughed with Islanders prospects Corey Trivino and David Ullstrom after their skate Thursday afternoon.

“I was just playing around with the puck and Corey after practice,” Ushu said. “We were having some fun. I’m having fun here, too.”

Mei Ushu poses against the glass with his translator and friend Taka Shirai at Islanders Mini-Camp held at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.
With this trip being his first to Long Island, Ushu does not want it to be his last. Just like all of the prospects this week, his goal is to make it to the NHL and represent the Islanders someday. He’s only watched NHL games on the Internet, but he said that’s not going to deter him from trying to make it to the league.

“I can only watch American hockey games from NHL.com in Japan,” he said. “It’s a great league and my dream is to play in it.”

Playing for the Islanders would make that dream even better.

“I want to keep putting on this jersey,” Ushu said with a smile referencing his Isles practice jersey. “It’s so exciting to be here, so I would be even more excited to play here. I would be honored. It would be great to stay and play here.”

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 PIT 32 22 6 4 102 72 48
2 NYI 33 23 10 0 104 91 46
3 MTL 34 21 11 2 92 83 44
4 TBL 35 20 11 4 113 93 44
5 DET 33 17 8 8 93 82 42
6 TOR 33 19 11 3 114 98 41
7 WSH 32 16 10 6 95 85 38
8 NYR 30 16 10 4 92 81 36
9 FLA 31 14 9 8 69 79 36
10 BOS 33 16 14 3 82 85 35
11 OTT 33 14 13 6 89 92 34
12 CBJ 32 14 15 3 79 102 31
13 PHI 32 12 14 6 88 96 30
14 NJD 35 12 17 6 77 102 30
15 BUF 33 13 18 2 63 105 28
16 CAR 32 9 19 4 68 91 22

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2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 33 13 15 -5 28
K. Okposo 33 7 21 -3 28
B. Nelson 33 14 13 6 27
R. Strome 33 6 15 12 21
F. Nielsen 33 6 11 1 17
N. Leddy 33 5 10 8 15
J. Boychuk 23 2 12 7 14
N. Kulemin 33 6 7 -2 13
M. Grabovski 30 5 7 3 12
T. Hickey 32 2 9 2 11
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 18 6 0 .919 2.24
C. Johnson 5 4 0 .868 3.59

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