Among the 48 players deemed "prospects" and invited to the Islanders four-day mini camp this week are four Long Island lads, fellows who have known their way around Nassau Coliseum for many years.
Kings Park's James Mazza, 19, in fact played a high school championship game for St. Anthony's High at the Coliseum a year ago. "I grew up a Ranger fan," he said, "but slowly turned into an Islanders fan. When I first came to the building, I probably was about 6. They used to have rookie camps here and I'd come and watch, so it's funny to be in one.
"It's a very cool experience. You try to show 'em what you got and see where you're at with these other guys, and learn from it. Just absorb everything they tell you."
Mazza played for Youngstown in the USHL last season but will be in the mid-level ECHL this year.
Both Ben Rosen, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate, and Joey Diamond, 23, of Long Beach, have signed with the Islanders' Bridgeport affiliate and therefore are officially in the organization.
"This actually is my third mini camp with them," Rosen said. "But my first one since I signed, so I guess it's my first really meaningful mini camp." He guessed that he first attended an Islanders game when he was "4 or 5. My dad probably took me. It's great to play for a team like this that you grew up watching, definitely real exciting to be here."
Diamond, too, "grew up coming to this building," he said, with his first fan experience when he was "3 or 4, so it's very exciting to me to be a part of this organization."
He is living at home, still in touch will all his Long Beach friends and his Long Beach coach, Joe Brand, who "actually has a deli in Long Beach, Brand's Deli. I'm trying to get a sandwich named after myself, but I don't know about that."
The other Long Islander in camp is 20-year-old Steve Alonge of Lynbrook, coming back from shoulder surgery after a season with Windsor in the junior Ontario Hockey League. As a boy, Alonge said, "we used to get 20-game packages with my dad, so I've probably been coming to games since I was 7 or 8, my whole life. It's nice. This is a dream come true, no matter what."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said the priority for the local players is "to have some fun and enjoy it. Thursday night , I'm sure they'll be buying a few tickets. It's a great experience for these kids, and especially to come to a camp where you're not living too far away.
"And that's the message we sent to all these guys: When you leave these camps, it's not about us evaluating you, it's about you evaluating yourself, and where you need to be to become a better pro."
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