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Ness Putting His Best Foot Forward

22-year-old defenseman knows now is the time to impress the Islanders coaching staff

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 6:28 PM / News
By Travis Betts
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Ness Putting His Best Foot Forward
Aaron Ness' strong play in Bridgeport earned him a nine-game call-up to the Islanders in February (Getty Images)

Islanders defenseman Aaron Ness has an important summer ahead of him.

After earning nine games with the Islanders last year as a rookie, the 22-year-old is vying for a full-time spot on the team. He’ll try to impress the Islanders coaches at every opportunity, starting with Prospect Camp this week. Ness scored 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 69 games with AHL Bridgeport last season, but says the brief experience of playing in the NHL has motivated him all summer.

“I played a few games up (with the Islanders) and got a little taste for it,” Ness said. “That taste has helped this summer, pushing me to get bigger and stronger and just working on little things in my game hopefully to take the next step.”

Ness made the most of his time with the Islanders last season, soaking in the experiences and learning as much as possible.

“You get a taste for the speed and the strength,” Ness said. “The guys are incredible hockey players; the most talented players in the world. To learn how to defend against them, or to learn what you have to do to create offense as well, it was a good learning experience.”

With potentially two spots up for grabs on the Islanders blue line next season, players with NHL experience like Ness may have a slight built-in advantage. But because the club drafted seven defensemen in the 2012 NHL Draft, and acquired veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky via trade from Anaheim, competition for a full-time spot just got a lot stiffer.

As one of the players on the coaches’ radar, Ness knows the importance of having a good summer before the start of Training Camp in September, especially because the free-agent period could fill another spot on the blueline.

“This offseason is huge,” Ness said. “Any time you come to a camp like this, you want to see where you’re at. I think any chance you can get to get back on the ice and skate with some good hockey players, it’s a lot of fun.”

The defenseman has come a long way since the Islanders selected him in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft. He played 111 games from 2008-2011 at the University of Minnesota before being called up to play 13 games with Bridgeport at the end of the 2010-11 season. The 2011-12 campaign was the Roseau, MN native’s first full season in the professional ranks, something he said was crucial toward his development.

“I think for me, it was just getting a feel for the 80-game season,” Ness said. “I wasn’t used to that in college. It’s a different game. It’s more of a skill game.”

With three mini-camps under his belt already, Ness is a veteran presence in an inexperienced locker room this week. He’s confident that the experience he has gained since Draft Day four years ago has prepared him for this opportunity.

“It’s been a good four years for me development-wise. I feel more skilled and more comfortable out there, and more comfortable with the game itself.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 65 41 18 6 175 146 88
2 NYI 66 42 21 3 211 185 87
3 TBL 66 40 20 6 217 173 86
4 NYR 63 39 17 7 197 155 85
5 DET 62 36 15 11 182 160 83
6 PIT 63 36 18 9 182 158 81
7 WSH 66 35 21 10 194 164 80
8 BOS 63 31 22 10 168 165 72
9 FLA 65 28 23 14 159 185 70
10 PHI 65 28 25 12 173 187 68
11 OTT 62 28 23 11 176 167 67
12 NJD 64 27 27 10 144 165 64
13 TOR 65 26 34 5 175 199 57
14 CBJ 63 26 33 4 163 201 56
15 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
16 BUF 64 19 40 5 123 215 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 66 31 36 5 67
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 66 14 28 22 42
B. Nelson 66 18 20 8 38
F. Nielsen 66 11 26 13 37
A. Lee 60 22 13 14 35
J. Bailey 54 13 20 13 33
J. Boychuk 56 7 25 15 32
N. Leddy 66 9 19 17 28
T. Hamonic 56 4 21 16 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 34 13 1 .911 2.48
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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