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Rookie Camp Roundup, Analysis & Observations

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New York Islanders, Islanders Prospects

Tuesday, Sept. 20, marked the conclusion of New York Islanders rookie camp. Over the course of the last week, 22 New York Islanders skaters, along with three goaltenders, hit the ice to showcase their skill sets. The prospects, over the first three days, worked with skating coach Diane Ness and skills coach Troy Stevens.

On the fourth day, Bridgeport Islanders head coach Brent Thompson led the practices, which raised the intensity level. He led practices, along with his staff, for the last three days. Those three days mimicked what an actual practice would be like, which gave us a better look at certain players.

With the abundance of players on the ice, plus the smallest of numbers on the back of the helmets, watching and analyzing everyone was no easy task. Here is a list of the players who stood out to me at the 2022 New York Islanders rookie camp:

READ MORE: Zdeno Chara Calls it a Career, Future Hall of Famer Went Out in Style

Aatu Räty, C: The 2021 second-round selection (52nd) took part in his second New York Islanders development camp. He showed off his wheels and skating, but also his ability to use his size and stature to protect the puck. His shot is one that can be described as lethal, as we saw during his time with the Bridgeport Islanders last season as well as during the 2022 IIHF World Championships, representing Team Finland.  His shot is consistent, hitting the net from all angles, from the slot or from the end boards. He has great hockey sense and vision and while he is unlikely to make the New York Islanders out of camp, he will have the chance to play top minutes for Bridgeport, also serving as the first or second call-up if a forward goes down. Despite being a center by trade, a left-handed center, he has the ability to play the wing if need be, with the Islanders a bit slim on the flanks. He is expected to stick around for New York Islanders training camp, but Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello does not believe he ready just yet.

Quote: “From first training camp to where he came with us in the playoffs last year and to now, just confidence…I think he’s at that point where he’s comfortable. He’s confident. He understands what he’s supposed to do and you look at the kid, he works extremely hard. He goes to the net and he has good details in his game, and that’s something that we always like.”–Brent Thompson

William Dufour, RW: Despite being drafted in 2020, the fifth-round selection (152nd) took part in his first development camp after a career, historic season with the St. John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). Not only did he win the Memorial Cup, Memorial Cup MVP, but he also won gold at the 2022 IIHF World Championships with Team Canada. There is no question that the right-handed winger has an NHL-caliber, something that prospect Matthew Maggio shared after Day 3 of skating. The main thing that Dufour needs to work on is his skating. Once he gets speed, he is off to the races, but turning on the jets is the issue. He is rather heavy on his skates and despite having soft hands and a lethal shot, his ability to break away from coverage, as seen on 1-on-1 drills, limits his ability to be effective. Despite being 6’2, 205, he needs to learn how to use his body, as at times he is bounced off the puck a bit too easily. He does excel along the boards, and his defensive game stood out, something that we saw this summer. Skating will be a focal point as he gears up for his first season in the AHL. He is expected to remain with the Islanders throughout training camp, but per New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, he is not quite ready yet.

Quote: “Great release, heavy. There’s a lot of positives with the kid. Strength on the puck, puck protection. And I think that William definitely is taking steps in the right direction right now.”–Brent Thompson

Simon Holmstrom, RW: After a career season in Bridgeport, Simon Holmstrom did not stand out at development camp. The 2019 first-round pick (23) is probably the readiest of the prospects and could be that first call-up this season and is coming off a career year in Bridgeport. One thing about Holmstrom is that he skates with confidence but needs to do a stronger job at hitting the net when given the opportunities. Especially on the final day of rookie camp, a lot of his shots were sailing high and wide. He did show off the creativity, on a 1-on-1 drill against forward Kyle MacLean (undrafted), which you can watch HERE. Holsmtrom is expected to remain with the Islanders throughout training camp. 

Quote: “My strongest game is puckhandling & game sense to know where everyone is & find the tape. I always put in hard work & always do my best. I need to shoot more & be a little more aggressive & a bit more feisty.”–Simon Holmstrom (h/t Joe Pantorno, of amNY)

Ruslan Iskhakov, C: You want to talk about fast, this 2018 second-round pick (43rd) can absolutely fly on the ice. And when I say fly, I’m talking like a cannonball after being shot off, particularly on the rush. During the 1-on-1 portion, Iskhakov was past the defenseman with ease. Besides the wheels, he has an incredible set of hands, which makes him a tough player to defend. The 22-year-old is only 5’9 which does make it tough for him against bigger opponents. That being said, staying healthy will be the biggest thing for him, already having a major head injury, which he sustained back in 2018 as a member of the University of Connecticut. Given his time at UConn, Iskhakov may not need too much time to readjust to North American hockey after two seasons in Europe. He will be playing for Bridgeport this upcoming season. 

Quote: “Hands down, the best hands I have ever seen in my entire life…you could not get the puck from him…this kid is a specimen. He was unbelievable. Hardest working kid.”–UConn teammate Kale Howarth (h/t College Hockey Talk)

Matthew Maggio, RW: The 2022 fifth-round pick really stood out at development camp due to his all-around strong play. First off, he has a strong shot and rarely missed the net when given a shooting lane. Not a big player, just 5’11, 185, but that did not stop him from protecting the puck along the boards. His passes were crisp and on point, and something that really stood out was that he kept his head up, which allowed him to make the more intelligent plays. He could be heard communicating with his linemates during drills, as he is very vocal. This was not his first taste of development, having been invited to Washington Capitals camp after going undrafted in 2021. He told me that his goal was to play for Bridgeport this season. 

Quote: “He’s super skilled. I think when he has the puck on his stick, he’s always making the right reads. And he’s always like one step ahead. He always just finds the soft spots, the good areas in the slot, up-high for scoring opportunities.”–Isaiah George

Isaiah George, LD : One of my favorite players to watch at development camp, the 2022 fourth-round pick (98th) is ultra-talented. Unfortunately, he was injured on Monday, forcing him to watch the last day of camp from the bleachers. The 18-year-old defenseman has all the tools to be successful down the road at the NHL level. His vision, mixed with his edge work and overall elite skating, makes him a difficult player to read and defend. Maggio shared that he was the hardest player to play against in the OHL. Despite being 6’0, 195 lbs, he does not let anyone push him around on the ice. Isaiah George and Aatu Räty went at it during a five-on-five drill Monday, a physical battle, that George won. Not only did he stop Räty from getting the puck but even after taking cross-checks and slashes, he did not waiver, boxing him out of the front of the net as well. George will be heading back to the OHL, where he will play his senior year for the London Knights. 

Quote: “The first thing I noticed was his mobility, the skating. I thought he was an outstanding skater, willing to learn, you know, good with the puck. There’s a lot of positives.”–Brent Thompson

Grant Hutton, RD: Despite being 27 years old with NHL experience, Grant Hutton was the leader at development camp. As we saw at the NHL level in 2021-22 as well as in Bridgeport, Hutton is a very stable defenseman. That is something that will give him a leg up, with two defensive positions up for grabs at the NHL level. He was a player that prospects could go up to and ask questions and one that always spoke highly of the prospects after each skate. It would not shock me if he did win the sixth spot, despite being a right-hander and playing his off-side. 

Quote: “Hockey IQ. I think he’s a smart guy, good stick, moves very well. And that’s something that people don’t realize. He’s a big man that moves extremely well.” –Brent Thompson

*This analysis does not include goaltending, as that will be its own separate piece out later this week. 

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