The Waterloo Connection
Three Islanders 2013 draft selections have a built-in familiarity after playing junior hockey together in Iowa
|Minnesota head coach Don Lucia on Taylor Cammarata: "Taylor has things you can’t teach. He’s got a terrific set of hands, can pass, can create offense. He’s pretty strong right now but it will be interesting to see how far he can come with added work off ice. He’s a guy who will certainly benefit from playing college hockey." (Click for more photos)|
Eamon McAdam was making his way through the locker room hallway at Prudential Center, minutes after the Islanders selected him early in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft, when he made an unexpected observation.
“I was walking out of my first interview, and a lot of the Islanders staff were rushing around, trying to get ready,” McAdam said. “Someone told me the Islanders had just picked six picks later, and that the next guy was on his way in. I was like, ‘Wow, you guys just picked that soon already?’"
The Islanders used the 70th overall selection in the draft to pick McAdam, a goaltender from the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. But the club also owned the 76th overall pick, and with that, selected McAdam’s good friend and junior teammate, Taylor Cammarata.
“I had no idea who they picked, but all of a sudden there was Taylor, walking around the corner wearing an Islanders jersey,” McAdam said.
The funny reunion hit the 18-year-old goaltender unexpectedly. Cammarata, who watched from the stands as McAdam took the stage minutes before, was the first of the two to know that both players had been selected by the same team.
But for Cammarata, temporarily distracted by the life-changing moment unfolding before his eyes, it hadn’t quite clicked yet.
“When I heard my name, I was just really surprised,” Cammarata said. “Then everything happened so fast. I was shocked. I kind of blacked out for a little bit there.”
Before heading underneath the stands, he had to, well, cheat a little.
“I had to look at the draft board again real quick, because it occurred to me that Eamon just got drafted there,” Cammarata said. “It took a few minutes for a realization to set in.”
Adding to the fun, the Islanders selected another goaltender in the fourth round, Stephon Williams, who played half of the 2011-12 season with Waterloo before beginning his college career at Minnesota State.
Williams, who elected to stay home and watch the draft on television, waited patiently to hear his name called. But despite his attentiveness, in a strange twist, he missed his draft moment completely.
“The broadcast of the draft went to a commercial break before the Islanders made their pick, so I found out through some texts from friends,” Williams, who posted a 2.00 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 35 games as a freshman for the Mavericks, said.
The 20-year-old Williams didn’t let that spoil the moment.
“I was really overwhelmed with joy,” Williams said. “It was a dream come true to be selected, especially to a really good organization like the Islanders, with the tradition they have and the way they’ve improved lately.”
A fourth Black Hawk who was also in the crowd in Newark was PK O’Handley, Waterloo’s head coach, who worked closely with all three players.
“For me as a coach, obviously it was great,” O’Handley said. “My initial reaction was how great it was for each of those guys. We want our players to reach their dreams. This is one more step for those guys to do that.”
McAdam played the last two full seasons for Waterloo, after making a four-game cameo in 2010-11, compiling a 30-18-3 record as his wins and save percentage increased each year. Cammarata led the Black Hawks in goals and points each of his two seasons, combining for 162 points (65 goals, 97 assists) in 119 games.
Of the three draftees, Williams had the shortest tenure in Waterloo. In 2011-12, as a member of the rival Sioux Falls Stampede, he was traded to the Black Hawks midway through the season to join the playoff push.
“Willie was a little bit older, Eamon was still really young, and we felt at the time we needed a number one (goalie) to get us to the playoffs,” O’Handley said. “Stephon got us all the way to Game 5 of the Finals. Eamon and Stephon handled that dynamic of playing together really well.”
“We pushed each other in practice and games,” Williams said. “Being a goalie, you always want to play. It’s kind of a competition, but it was very healthy. We supported each other. We were friends off the ice.”
Although the acquisition of Williams took playing time away from McAdam, who was 16 at the time, the younger of the two benefited in the long run.
“[Williams] was a great guy to play with,” McAdam said. “I learned a ton from him. He was a big time playoff guy. He showed me how to really handle yourself as a starting goalie in the league.”
McAdam will head to the college ranks next year at Penn State University. O’Handley says that the netminder has the tools to make the successful jump to the next level.
“Obviously, he’s a big guy,” O’Handley said of the 6’2 backstop. “He’s one of the more aggressive goalies I’ve seen at this level in a long time. He’s not afraid to take a risk, and I think it throws shooters off. He’s got mobility that other guys his size don’t have in goal.”
Cammarata will play for the University of Minnesota, where he is already attending summer classes. While on the surface, playing against bigger competition presents a challenge for the 5’7” forward, O’Handley says it’s nothing new for the crafty 18-year-old.
“Even in the USHL, he was one of the smaller players,” O’Handley said. “But I’ve learned to never count him out because of his size. He’s managed to put up the numbers he has, being the smallest guy on every team he’s played on. I don’t see that changing. Obviously there’s going to be an adjustment at higher levels, but he’s smart enough. He’s actually used size to his advantage. Guys have a hard time hitting him.”
Williams will continue to develop his skills at Minnesota State, where he will be a sophomore next season. In 2012-13, he was named WCHA Rookie of the Year, WCHA Goaltending Champion and was selected First Team All-WCHA, posting a 21-12-2 record as the team enjoyed its first winning season in five years.
“His competitiveness and intelligence in goal will get him to the highest level sooner than most goalies his age,” O’Handley said. “I’ve never seen a kid prepare himself in a way where he knows every player on the other team and what they’re doing. He knows the opposition’s power play, the penalty kill, the whole works.”
While all three Waterloo alum will continue their development at the NCAA level, fans can catch a glimpse of McAdam, as well as 2013 Islanders draftees Ryan Pulock, Viktor Crus Rydberg, Alan Quine and Kyle Burroughs at the Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage Thursday, July 11 at 7:00. Tickets can be purchased HERE.