The Islanders prospect mini-camp has begun: You can see visual evidence of these whippersnappers, some of them the future of the franchise, in the official site's photos of first-night arrival on Long Island. (The really furry blond one is, I believe, Robin Figren.)
One cool aspect of these mid-summer mini-camps -- I'd count "hockey in summer" and "prospects on display" as two others -- is that they give local products a chance to rub elbows with NHL-caliber players and be seen by staff and evaluators of an NHL team. There are fewer and fewer cracks to slip through in today's world of total immersion scouting, but for kids trying to make it as far as they can in pro hockey, it never hurts to have someone in a high place see you play and learn your name.
With that in mind, here are the local non-draft invitees on the camp roster this week, most of whom are college- or juniors-bound. If I left anyone out, or if you have any additional info on them from your own travels, do weigh in.
Brian Robbins, G
Hometown: Scotrun, PA | Age: 19 (April birthday)
Robbins is actually from Pennsylvania -- hey, rules for goalies are always different, 'cause nothing stinks worse than scrimmaging without one -- but he does his junior hockey with the USHL's Capital District Selects in Albany.
So mysterious he only gets a silhouette headshot on the Islanders' Web site (and the silhouette of a skater, at that).
Justin Agosta, D
Hometown: East Meadow, NY | Age: 19 (October birthday)
A USHL player last year (16 goals from the blueline? Nice.), Agosta will head to UNH next season where he will remind Blake Kessel (not on this summer's camp list) that the Islanders are still really cool. As you can see, he's got some roller history. And even his own Hockey-Fights page.
I've looked at his name six times and my eyes still read "Juan Agosto" that old '80s middle reliever.
Zach Josepher, D
Hometown: Wantagh, NY | Age: 22 (July 5 birthday)
Josepher went all the way to British Columbia for junior hockey, with the Jr. A Penticton Vees -- the same club 2010 20th overall NHL draftee Beau Bennett came out of -- where he was their top-scoring defenseman. Last year he played 35 games as a freshman at Michigan State.
His is a different stylistic spin on the old "two first names" phenomenon.
Matt Mangene, F (or is it D?)
Hometown: Manorville, NY | Age: 21 (March birthday)
Mangene is listed with the D-men on the Isles site, but the University of Maine -- where he played his freshmen year last year and picked up 11 points -- has him as a forward. They also say his sister plays hockey at Boston College, which is cool.
Apparently he wears #57 for Maine, but we know that's Comeau Country in these here parts.
Michael Marco, D
Hometown:Park, NY | Age: 20 (September birthday)
Marcou will be a junior at UMass and logged two seasons in the USHL for a champion Waterloo squad before that. UMass calls him a two-way defenseman who sees time on both the PP and the PK. Turns out UMass has 11 former USHL players in their program, including someone named Eddie Olczyk.
Another "two first names" guy, when you think about it.
Danny Markowitz, D
Hometown: Jericho, NY | Age: 22 (March birthday)
One of the "elders" in camp, Markowitz is at Dartmouth. But in his pre-college USHL days, he had that athlete rite of passage of being traded, from Tri-City to Ohio. He too has his own Hockey-Fights page, thanks to two fights in the USHL.
Everyone lists him as 6'0" but just 175 lbs., so you wonder if he's put on any weight since those measures were taken. A lot of these guys seem to be in that "tall but not big" group or the "skilled but undersized" group.
Ben Rosen, D
Hometown: Syosset, NY | Age: 21 (January birthday)
One of two Rosens (unrelated) in camp, though this one wasn't the curious 7th-round pick last month. Rosen was South Shore's leading scorer in the EJHL before getting 7 games as a freshman at Boston University, where he's a teammate of 2008 Islanders pick Corey Trivino.
Couple Rosens in the house? That can only call to mind one thing: Classic Fletch moments. Dr. Rosen [audio].
Joey Diamond, C
Hometown: Long Beach, NY | Age: 21 (June birthday)
A teammate of Mangene's at Maine, Diamond starred in the playoffs as a freshman both in the Hockey East tournament and with a big goal in the NCAA semis. Diamond is undrafted by NHL teams, but he was on a silver-medal-winning USA U18 squad in 2006.
Hope he keeps playing well at Maine, because right now when you Google "Joey Diamond" you get something else entirely.
Rich Purslow, F
Hometown: Greenlawn, NY | Age: 23 (July 30 birthday)
Purslow is a decent scorer at U of Nebraska-Omaha and was a scorer in the USHL, but you have to imagine his listed size of 5'9", 165 lbs. limited his opportunities.
The Inside College Hockey write-up describes his skill set as "respectable skating ability along with creativity with the puck."
TJ Sarcona, F
Hometown: West Islip, NY | Age: 18 (June birthday)
Sarcona was with the New Jersey Rockets in the AJHL last year, but his rights have been drafted (and traded) in the USHL. If you believe this report, the 5'10" Sarcona's game is described as the "poor man's Rod Brind'Amour."
Rudy Sulmonte, RW
Hometown: Woodhaven, NY | Age: 18 (February birthday)
Another undersized Rocket, Sulmonte put up lots of points with that Junior A club and will attend Mercyhurst U. in the fall.
He was actually ranked by Central Scouting for the 2010 NHL Draft (202 at mid-term), but it appears they didn't list him in the final ranking. In any case, he wasn't selected.
Stephen Schultz, W
Hometown: Westbury, NY | Age: 22 (December birthday)
Zak Stone, F
Hometown: Roslyn, NY | Age: 20 (August birthday)
No matter where he goes in hockey, he should make a better name for himself than this guy. Yikes.
Visitor from Japan
That's it for the local non-draft invites. But there is also the Japanese U18 captain, Kotaro Yamada, who at 6'0" will actually be taller than a lot of players in camp. Yamada has a profile at Eliteprospects.com, but not a lot of info there. The Islanders did something similar last year by inviting Shuhei Keiji. Personally, I really like little intercultural moves like that -- a lot more practical, in my book, then trying to hold the entire September NHL training camp in China.
Hopefully all these guys have some fun and get something cool out of the experience.
One particular note from Josh Bailey that's always worth repeating:
"The guys are bigger and stronger playing the NHL,” Bailey said. “In Mini Camp the prospects don’t really get too much of a taste of that because it’s mostly younger guys. At camp it’s still Juniors guys and NCAA guys.”
As demonstrated by that extensive interview with Josh Bailey about his mini-camp experiences, the official site should have some steady coverage. Players hit the ice Wednesday, and the publicly accessible Orange vs. Blue scrimmage is Saturday (tickets are $10). So we'll go into the camp goals and status for rest of the roster -- made up of Islanders draft picks like Nino, Mikko, Hamonic and the gang -- a little later.