Travis Hamonic's first month as a pro was spent in Bridgeport. But, being a defenseman in the Islanders organization means never having to wait long for a call-up. He came to the Islanders in November and didn't look back, putting together a very solid rookie season.
Heading into this season, it's not a question of whether Hamonic is a mainstay on the blue line (he is). It's whether he'll be continuing to work with Andrew MacDonald or get more first-pair minutes alongside Mark Streit. At 21, Hamonic has worked hard to be a key component of the team's young core.
"I wouldn't say I'm comfortable right now. It's more familiar," he said after the team's practice at IceWorks Thursday. "There's a big difference to me. I know the system well, I know all my teammates, so I think that leads to less nervous plays on the ice."
It didn't take long for Hamonic to embrace the physical side of playing defense, but he has shown an ability to move the puck and unleash a heavy shot that could help him earn some power play time early this season. He worked with the first power-play unit that went 3-for-6 against the Devils on Saturday and, with Brian Rolston (groin) still not ready for game action, Hamonic could work in a bit more with the man advantage.
"I think I developed that side of my game in juniors, and I'm working to be a contributor here too," Hamonic said. "You always want to be out there in all situations as a D-man. You have to be versatile."
And determined. Hamonic got his chance last season after a flurry of defense injuries; most everyone is healthy now, so he's not ready to take a step back.
"I knew when I started in Bridgeport that I was going to work as hard as I could to be ready if they brought me up," he said. "And when I got here, I wasn't going to let anyone just take my spot. They'd have to rip it out of my hands."
Notes & quotes: MacDonald (hip surgery) may play one of the final two preseason games, most likely Saturday against the Bruins in Bridgeport. Rolston hasn't played a preseason game but has been skating on his own . . . D Milan Jurcina (groin) is day to day and F Rhett Rakhshani (knee) is out indefinitely.