During development camp week, young players went head to head against one another, trying to prove to Bridgeport Islanders head coach Brent Thompson that they had what it took to play at a high level. But it is a whole new ball game when you are going up against the regulars the New York Islanders have to offer with head coach Lane Lambert on the ice.
“It’s quite the experience,” 2022 fifth-round pick Matthew Maggio shared after two days of skating with the big guys. “[I’m] getting more comfortable out there now with them. But just again, adjusting to that pace, I mean, coming into development camp, from the OHL level to the pro level and then once again with the NHL level.”
Maggio has been skating with the group consisting of NHLers like Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Kyle Palmieri, Noah Dobson, and Alexander Romanov, to name a few. On Friday, he was paired with Nelson for a few drills.
“It’s definitely cool getting out there with guys that you grow up watching, idolized, and stuff like that. And I think they’ve been great so far, given tips and tricks, and they’ve been really welcoming, including you, and it feels good out there.”
As for what Maggio has learned so far, it’s the little things that many do not get to see when watching games at full speed.
“It’s just the small things that they do so well, and you kind of pick up on the things that that you don’t see on TV,” Maggio said. “Trying to be a sponge and kind of watch them when I’m not going, and there’s definitely a lot of things that I’ve kind of picked up on, just how good they are on the wall and little stick things they do to kind of create turnovers and getting passing lanes and stuff like that.”
With New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert on the ice, it’s unique for the younger players who have not been around an NHL coach before.
“I think he’s been great so far. Obviously, he demands a lot, but he’s fair,” Maggio shared. “He’s definitely helped the guys out, giving great break times and I think he’s done a great job of being personable with everyone and kind of coming up and if he sees something that he wants you to do better, then he’ll tell you and if you’re doing a good job at something he’ll tell you.”
“So I think he’s done a great job so far, kind of balancing it and drills obviously, it’s been high intensity out there, and it feels like a real NHL practice.”
2020 fifth-round pick William Dufour, who is at Islanders training camp for the first time, is going through a new experience with Lane Lambert.
“This is probably the first time I’m practicing or just playing in front of an NHL coach on the ice. I think I’m practicing pretty well right now, so it’s nice for me.”
William Dufour has been skating in a group with names like Anders Lee, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Oliver Wahlstrom, Casey Cizikas, and Ross Johnston, to name a few.
He has been on a line with Johnston and Cizikas, as it appears a bottom-six role is where they see the 20-year-old fitting it right now, given his style of play.
Dufour, known for being a shooter, has a defensive element to his game that fits the mold of the New York Islanders.
“Just practice with the pros, like, they’re good hockey players, and just practicing beside them…it’s just nice also,” Dufour said. “I mean, just watching them play, watching them practicing good habits…just watching that, it’s just nice, and can just improve my game from that.”
That’s not to say his role has to be on the fourth line, given his offensive capabilities, but surely him being a big guy, 6’2, 215 lbs, he can learn a thing or two from a guy like Johnston from a physical standpoint and the grittiness fro ma guy like Cizikas.
2021 second-round pick Aatu Räty, who is attending his second training camp since being drafted, has enjoyed skating with the NHLers again.
“It’s great. Nice to be with great players and kind of learn from them and see what they do,” Räty shared. “They’re so solid out there, not making too many mistakes. Makes you realize it’s all about those little things, just being reliable and just kind of not making any mistakes, being solid.”
“Definitely got to be confident doing these drills, even though you miss a pass, or kind of a softee, you’re still gonna keep your head up and be ready for the next thing.”