"Thank you veddy much. Which way iz to beach?"
Running down the locals invited to Islanders mini-camp was fun, but of course there are some major pieces (hopefully) of the Islanders future skating on Long Island this week. [Aside: Did you see the agents' quotes about Garth Snow at Yahoo's Puck Daddy? Discuss them (and the bit about Glen Sather) in mikb's FanPost here.] [Aside's aside: Looks like the future will be skating on Long Island in September, too.]
Though the skates outside of Saturday's scrimmage are closed to the public, thankfully they are open to media and we're getting a nice flow of information from the official site (lines and photos), from Chris Botta's IPB (with a tantalizing bit on the Kirill's), and from Newsday's Katie Strang (if you're subscription-deprived, check her twitter feed).
Kirill Petrov's continued assurances -- through his new translator, Kirill Kabanov -- of his desire to come to the NHL are refreshing. But I admit I'm still a big Doubting Thomas until I see it happen. Without a precedent of a Russian peacefully buying out his own KHL contract, I remain guarded. If ice time is what he lacked in the KHL, where Kevin Dallman is an All-Star, can he really secure the promise of ice time from an NHL team -- even a rebuilding one? We wait in joyful hope. For the love of Bossy, it would be a wild ride.
That story aside, this is an important camp for a lot of Islanders draftees. They can't win jobs or anything like that, but they can make statements to team personnel about where they are in their development. With that in mind, here are my "camp assignments" for the drafted players in camp. This is a team-teaching exercise, so I expect you all to weigh in with your own -- and even contradict my assignments, when you see fit.
Status: Recovered from hip surgery in time to impress in both the ECHL and AHL playoffs this past spring.
Camp Assignment: Show you're healthy, show you've grown into that big body, show there's every reason to expect you can be a #1A in the near future. Also: Maybe don't talk about the hip injury; that topic gets people down.
Anders Nilsson, G
Status: A goalie of interest, who the Islanders hope to sign before next summer, when he could otherwise re-enter the draft.
Assignment: Have a look around, show them what a professional you are, and return to Sweden with a big season that earns you a contract. Also: Get along with that Finn Mikko; you guys might share a crease in a few years.
Cody Rosen, G
Status: The most curious of late-round picks last month, having played all of one period at Clarkson last season.
Assignment: Don't do anything to get them doubting the late-round flier they took on you. Do the "I appreciate the opportunity" dance.
Tony DeHart, D
Status: An overage junior draftee from Calvin De Haan's OHL club, he has the chance to be a nice late bloomer.
Assignment: Show at camp that you belong with the more highly regarded prospects. De Haan's presence may have been what got you on the Isles' radar, but show them you belong on the blueline with or without the still-rehabbing 2009 1st-rounder. Also: Sell Islanders marketing on the ideal of "Double DeHa" posters.
Matt Donovan, D
Status: Coming off an excellent season at Denver. As a freshman.
Assignment: Give 'em reason to try to coax you out of college early. Whether that's in your plans or not, it never hurts to be wanted. Also: If Rhett tells you life in Bridgeport was awesome, listen. If he tells you he misses college, ignore him; he's just jealous.
Status: Coming off a breakout season, a shut-down performance at the WJC, and a shoulder injury. (Fie on you Swiss!) Played well enough in the playoffs and Memorial Cup to make us think the shoulder is sound.
Assignment: Give them reason to think you can bypass Bridgeport. But don't bypass Bridgeport. Also: Please don't crush anyone, unless it's a non-draftee. We sort of need these guys.
Status: The sleeper pick from the depths of the 2009 draft, who showed promising but raw skills in Bridgeport. He actually made his NHL debut last year in a pinch -- and also served briefly as a Garth Snow pawn to get the ear of the KHL on Petrov.
Assignment: Stay the course. Tell the Kirills all kinds of nice things you learned about Bridgeport and Long Island over the past year. Acquire blackmail photos if necessary.
Aaron Ness, D
Status: Heralded for his skill but seen skeptically because of his small frame, Ness had a stalled season last year along with pretty much all of his Minnesota Gopher teammates. By all accounts he's headed back for another year of college.
Assignment: The competition in camp isn't that great, but show them you can: 1) deliver sublime outlet passes to players named Kirill and 2) defend against players like Kirill, too.
Shane Sims, D
Status: An East Amherst native and 5th-round pick in 2006, Sims is headed for his fourth season at Ohio State. The official site describes him as a consistent player and a scholar athlete.
Assignment: Presumably, this is the last time he'll get to show himself among Isles draft picks before they have to decide on him next summer. There is a place for hockey smarts and consistency. Embody it. Also: Entertain Wang with the idea of how much money could be saved by converting "SIM 16" jerseys into "SIMS 16" jerseys. It's worth a shot.
Status: After getting past a scary trial thanks to an on-field incident that could have derailed his life last year, Cizikas rebounded with an excellent season and playoffs for Mississauga in the OHL.
Assignment: You know why the Islanders "took a chance" on you. Just keep displaying those skills and the future could be bright indeed.
Jason Clark, C/LW
Status: A June 3rd-round draftee straight out of famous Minnesota high school Shattuck-St. Mary's.
Assignment: This is a new level of competition for you, but don't be intimidated. Use this as a learning experience and "here's where junior players are at" gauge as you get ready for college hockey at Wisconsin.
Brian Day, RW
Status: Big junior season at Colgate. Sixth-rounder from 2006. Starting to bloom, or merely starting to feast now that he's hit age 22?
Assignment: Prove that the answer is the former.
Status: One of the Sarnia boys, he had a modest first pro season down in Bridgeport.
Assignment: As a 6th-round pick, you knew life as a pro wouldn't be easy. You also know hard work can pay off. So keep at it, and show 'em you handle yourself like a pro. Also: For fun, tell people "No I'm Bentivoglio. DiBenedetto's over there."
Robin Figren, LW
Status: Not his fault, but we can't help penciling him into the line of Nordic wingers like Sean Bergenheim and Jesse Joensuu who come over and get their feet wet at Bridgeport. He had an unremarkable season with the Sound Tigers, and now we're already casting our wishful eyes on other prospect wingers.
Assignment: Consider this the beginning of a new season, a fresh start. Also: Show these young pups what a real playoff beard looks like.
Kirill Kabanov, LW
Status: The enigma, the "would have been with Hall and Seguin BUT" prospect. The possible steal of the draft, if his head follows his hands.
Assignment: First, behave. Second, be a helper (sounds like he's already doing that as de facto Petrov interpreter). Third, don't say or do anything that makes people go, "Oh, here we go again." Fourth, go a week without taking calls from your agent. Fifth -- and this may be most important of all: Pin Petrov down and don't let him up until he promises to play in North America in 2010.
Status: Like Figren, another European who had an unremarkable season in Bridgeport. Another member of that 2006 draft class who may be replaced by younger talents in the sytem.
Assignment: The future is now. Use this week to identify what you need to do to use that big 6'4" frame of yours to excel and carve out a future job.
Matt Martin, LW
Status: A fan favorite even before he landed, he got a taste of the NHL while apprenticing most of the season with the Sound Tigers.
Assignment: Be a "glue" guy, keep flashing some hands, and your time will come. This week, keep everybody loose and convince them all how wonderful Bridgeport is as a ticket to the NHL. Note the number of new wingers in camp, and don't take anything for granted.
Brock Nelson, C
Status: Big body, skilled center, the Isles packaged their 2nd-round picks to move up and draft him at #30. He's headed to North Dakota in the fall.
Assignment: Soak it all in, get to know the program, get a feel for the elevated competition, and know that the fans on Saturday will be watching you with anticipation. No worries. Also: How are you with being called "The Reverend?"
Status: As the top Isles pick last month, he will get most of the attention and most of the speculation. Can he step right in? Does he need another year in juniors?
Assignment: Nothing can be decided this week -- you're just playing against the same competition, anyway. But you can put on a show and reinforce the whole "There's just something special about Nino" vibe that is dominating the atmosphere at the moment. Also: Convince Hamonic and De Haan that the Swiss don't have a vendetta or anything like that.
Kirill Petrov, RW
Status: The KHL-tied Petrov has made lots of waves (they're small waves, but they're there) about wanting to come to the NHL now. Of course, there are conditions, not the least of which is his existing KHL contract and his desire to get ice time wherever he plays. For the record, he told Botta today he's willing to play in Bridgeport.
Assignment: Well, your chief assignment was to say you're willing to do whatever's necessary (e.g. a stint in Bridgeport) to become a fully employed Islander. Having achieved that task, you may take the rest of the week off. Oh, but help Cairns keep Kabanov on the up and up, won't you?
Rhett Rakhshani, RW
Status: Resisting the Islanders' invitation to turn pro a year early, The Rakh played his senior year at Denver as captain, and did quite well. He got a taste of AHL life this past spring, and he'll get a bigger taste next winter as one of the more exciting prospects (and first call-ups?) on the farm.
Assignment: Sell all these others on what a wonderful place Bridgeport is. Tell Donovan that staying in college was nice, but you don't *have* to do all four years.
Tony Romano, C
Status: The Smithtown native and 2006 Devils draft pick has had some rough luck, including injuries last year that messed with his WHL season in Swift Current.
Assignment: Be healthy, good man! Maybe Bridgeport beckons.
David Toews, C
Status: As if being "the other Toews" wasn't hard enough, now his older brother has to go and captain a Stanley Cup winner? Toews started strong and finished poorly at North Dakota last year. Reports this past spring had him leaving college for the WHL, but the team holding his rights had multiple candidates for its overage slots.
Assignment: A downturn is not the end, by any means. Still plenty of time to restore your prospect credentials. It starts this week. Also: Inform, but don't tell Reverend Brock any scary stories about North Dakota.
Corey Trivino, C
Status: One of the suspended players (while already injured) at BU at the end of last season, unlike the others he wasn't kicked off the team.
Assignment: As with Toews, a few setbacks hardly set your destiny in stone. Absorb the lessons you can this week, and take them back to BU to have a kick-ass season.
David Ullstrom, LW
Status: Were we talking about Nordic wingers on their way to Bridgeport? Ullstrom is the latest, having signed an entry level deal after a championship season with HV71 in Sweden.
Assignment: You are big (6'3") and have some hands. Bergenheim, Joensuu and Figren have heard this before you, but those are two ingredients that can help put an NHL job in your future. The other ingredients are up to you.
Well, it should be one of those happy "all about the future" weeks. No doubt more shining tales will emerge, as everyone has a happy face from seeing the young talent in camp. For otherwise slow July days, we'll take it.