Barry Trotz has spent plenty of time since being hired as the Islanders coach on June 21 trying to familiarize himself with his new players.
Now, the real learning process is about to begin.
The Islanders’ rookie camp concludes Wednesday with a game against the Flyers’ prospects at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow at 6 p.m. The veterans report for training camp Thursday and the first on-ice sessions are Friday. The Islanders open their eight-game preseason schedule against the Flyers on Sunday at Nassau Coliseum at 1 p.m.
“I want to see if they have the right attitude,” Trotz said on Tuesday by telephone from the Islanders Children’s Foundation Golf Outing at Bethpage Golf Course. “Are they willing to put in the work to have success? I want this group to understand certain things they have to do, certain foundations, certain accountabilities you have to have to win.
“You want to make sure you have the right guys,” Trotz added. “Everybody has got a clean slate here.”
Trotz has been a constant presence in the stands alongside new president and general manager Lou Lamoriello observing rookie camp since it opened on Friday. He’s also peeked in on the well-attended veterans’ informal skates.
But the real evaluation will come in the games.
The Islanders also face the Flyers on Monday night at Philadelphia and Tuesday night at Barclays Center as they start their preseason with six games in seven days. The Islanders conclude against the Sabres in Oshawa, Ontario, on Sept. 28 and open the regular season at Carolina on Oct. 4.
“You just try to get familiar with what the players bring to the table,” Trotz said. “When you get someone to defend against you, push against you, go into tight spaces, some guys don’t have a lot of substance to it. We’ll be looking to see if a guy has some substance to his game.
“We want players who are hard to play against and that’s not always physical,” Trotz added. “We want them to use their talent and play to their strength and identity. If you’re a solid two-way guy, we want to see that. Every player can be difficult to play against and that’s what we’re going to try to identify as we go along. We’ve got to find out what the player is first. We think we know the players. But you don’t until you spend a lot of time with them on and off the ice.”
Trotz, 56, is joining the Islanders after four seasons with the Capitals and leading that franchise to its first Stanley Cup in June. He also coached the Predators from their joining the NHL in 1998 until 2014.
He called the challenge of learning about a new group of players “invigorating.”
“It’s exciting, it’s invigorating,” Trotz said. “Hopefully, it’s invigorating for the players. I loved my time in Nashville. I loved my time in Washington. I got an opportunity to come to work with Lou on Long Island. He showed me some things and I really liked the plan.
“The schedule is laid out for evaluation right now,” Trotz added. “There are a lot of similarities to what the Islanders did systematically but there are some changes we’ll make. If anything, it’s just the way we do things. The previous regime did a lot of good things but we’re just going to do it differently. We’ll do it the way we know works for us and the vision Lou has for the group. We’re going to be meticulous in terms of a lot of areas.”
One player Trotz got to know somewhat during the summer development camp is Josh Ho-Sang, the 28th overall pick in 2014 who ended last season unhappy with how he’d been handled by the Islanders but reported to rookie camp with an upbeat attitude.
“I spent some time with him just sitting, just talking how he sees the game, how he sees life, how he sees himself,” Trotz said. “He has a tremendous amount of talent. With Josh, the No. 1 thing is to understand the whole thing of being a pro in every aspect. It’s the whole package.”