The Islanders' two first-round picks from the NHL draft two weeks ago, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang, stepped onto the Nassau Coliseum ice for the first time Tuesday for the team's week-long prospect camp.
There's no question Dal Colle and Ho-Sang will be back with their junior clubs once the NHL season gets underway. The Isles have too many experienced NHL forwards for those two teenagers to crack the roster.
Where the opportunity lies for prospects on the Island this week is defense. Griffin Reinhart, the Islanders' 2012 first-rounder, leads the pack, but there is quite a group of young defensemen trying to snag a precious roster spot in October.
"He's a real mature player, good skills, really sound defensively as well," Ryan Pulock, the Isles' 2013 first-round pick, said of fellow Western Leaguer Reinhart. "He's ready to take the next step and I'll be right there pushing him, trying to take that next step myself."
Pulock, who had 23 goals and 40 assists for Brandon this past season, is in that well-regarded group of young defensemen. And there is Kevin Czuczman, the 23-year-old who signed with the Islanders as a college free agent last March and played 13 games down the stretch last season.
Count Scott Mayfield in there, too. The 21-year-old played five games with the Isles after a full season in Bridgeport. And throw in 2012 second-rounder Ville Pokka, who won a Finnish League title with Karpat last season, plus 2012 third-rounder Adam Pelech, who had 54 points and a plus-52 rating with Erie of the OHL, and you've got a group of young 20-somethings who will all be learning on the fly for Brent Thompson in Bridgeport.
"Yeah, we're young, but the quality is high-end," said Thompson, who returns as Sound Tigers head coach after two seasons as an Isles assistant. "My first year in Bridgeport, we had a pretty young corps there -- we worked with them on a regular basis. Aaron Ness, Matt Donovan, Calvin de Haan, those were three young guys just feeling their way around and they turned out to be pretty good defensemen. There's no reason this new group can't take the same route and develop the same way."
"You can only control how hard you work out, your attitude." Czuczman said. "If you do well in those areas, you've got a shot."
Notes & quotes: The Blue-White Scrimmage is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum, the only portion of this week open to the public. Tickets are $10, with proceeds going to the Islanders Children's Foundation.
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