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Colin McDonald and Jon Landry: A Tale of Two Paths to the NHL

Colin McDonald and Jon Landry have been fighting for a decade to reach the NHL, but they followed very different paths in getting to Islanders training camp.

Bruce Bennett

It's easy to look at the Islanders roster year after year and pick out a few names and say "These guys stink" or "Snow couldn't get anyone better than that?" And nobody would blame you, because well...we are Islanders fans.

But it's easy to overlook the story behind some of these players. We look past how they might be feeling, or what it took for them to get to this point in the hockey world.

Two of those guys, who keep inching closer and closer to getting a legitimate chance in the NHL, are forward Colin McDonald and defenseman Jon Landry. Both are in their late 20's, and neither have had a real shot at sticking with an NHL club, until now.

But while they may be at the same point in their hockey careers, both players took much different paths to get here.

Colin McDonald: Adapting his game

McDonald, 28, was a sought after junior player from Connecticut. He was drafted in the second round in 2003 by the Edmonton Oilers, ahead of future NHL All-Stars David Backes and Jimmy Howard. After four good, but not spectacular, years at Providence College, McDonald turned pro in 2007.

McDonald had three mediocre years in the AHL, where he transitioned from a goal scorer, as he was in juniors and college, to more of a grinder. He did get a cup of coffee with the Edmonton Oilers in 2009-10, even scoring a goal against Roberto Luongo, but he didn't stick and found himself back in the AHL.

In 2010-11, McDonald saw a more prominent role in the AHL and ended up winning the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL's top goal scorer, with 42. But the Oilers never came a knockin', and McDonald found himself in the Penguins organization the following year.

He couldn't regain the goal scoring magic, and after a decent season in Wilkes-Barre and five scoreless games with the Penguins as an injury replacement, McDonald moved on to his third organization in three years with the Islanders.

McDonald brought solid play and a veteran presence to the Sound Tigers during the lockout, while being the team's second leading scorer, and was rewarded by being named captain of Bridgeport. But with an invite to Islanders training camp this week, he will being looking for the ultimate reward in a regular role at the NHL level.

Jon Landry: To Scotland and Back

Jon Landry took a much different, and longer route to Islanders training camp. The 29-year-old started out as a forward, playing Division III hockey at Bowdoin College in Maine. After going undrafted by the NHL, Landry got a late season PTO with Portland of the AHL, but failed to stick with the club.

After another failed PTO in the ECHL, Landry played four productive seasons with the Arizona Sundogs of the CHL, switching to defense in the process. But when playing in the CHL didn't lead to better opportunities in North America, Landry accepted an opportunity to play in the German Elite League.

After one season in Germany, Landry moved on to Scotland to play hockey while furthering his education. He completed his master's degree and made the Scottish All-Star team, the latter gaining him an opportunity to return to the United States to play for the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL.

Landry was loaned to the Sound Tigers mid-season in 2011-12, and after he played well for five weeks, Bridgeport signed him to a contract for the remainder of the season.

Landry impressed the Islanders organization enough to land his first NHL contract in July, a one year, two-way deal. During the lockout, Landry led all Sound Tigers defenseman in scoring and earned himself an invitation to Islanders training camp.

It's been a long road for both McDonald and Landry, and while their paths were much different, their ultimate goals remain the same. They both find themselves just days away from possibly making their first NHL Opening Day roster.

There may be better players out there that can fill their spots, but it's hard not to root for guys like McDonald and Landry. And the next time you see guys like these on your team's roster, instead of writing them off as stinking, you might just want to be happy for them and see what they have to offer instead.