Day four of New York Islanders’ development had a different feel than the previous three days. Bridgeport Islanders head coach Brent Thompson, who had been watching from above over the course of the week, was on the ice for the first time.
With Brent Thompson on the ice, the intensity level skyrocketed.
There were no more basic skating drills, basic passing, and shooting. Thompson ran it like a legitimate practice, with complex drills and physicality.
The hour and forty-five-minute practice felt like a tryout, as most guys had their first chance to make that first impression with Thomspon.
I asked Thompson what the message was to the players before they hit the ice Sunday morning.
“We’re all here to make an impression,” Thompson told the players. “You know, the same message that Lou [Lamoriello] and the organization preach all the time, Lane [Lambert]. They all want to make sure they’re intense and are ready, and the compete’s there and go from there.”
The physicality is what stood out today. Not so much as hitting and crushing people against the boards (a few solid hits) but more so playing the body on the puck.
George and Räty exchanged cross-checks, slashes while they battled during a two-on-two drill. It was evident that Räty, 6’2, 174 lbs, was getting very frustrated with his inability to break free of 6’1, 194 lb George.
I asked George about the battle with Räty and how the skate went for him.
“We both want to win. He wants to score. I want to stop him, so it’s just being competitive,” George shared.
As for the skate, George’s first legitimate practice with the New York Islanders, he had a ton of fun.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Isaiah George said. “There’s a big compete [level] and just super fast pace.”
When asked if it was a wake-up call, George shared that it was.
“Yeah, for sure. Like just seeing how fast-paced the game is. And I think it’s just like an adjustment,” George said. “Obviously, it’s my first camp. So, it’s something I haven’t seen before.”
“So I’m just learning on the fly.”
Right before the media was allowed in the locker room, 2022 fifth-round pick (142) Matthew Maggio said a few of them talked about the intensity of Sunday’s skate.
“We were saying that this was definitely the hardest day, and obviously, coming from junior hockey, where you’re kind of the top dog out there, and you’re kind of running around, and then coming out here, and everyone’s so good, and their sticks are so good, and you don’t really have the time and space that you kind of would have back in junior hockey, I think it’s definitely a little bit of an adjustment period.”
The intensity of the skate also allowed Maggio and many other players to reflect on what part of their game they need to work on to get their game to that next level.
“And I know for myself, I know there’s things that I need to clean up and kind of make a little bit simpler,” Maggio said. “But yeah, it’s definitely a little bit of a wake-up call, just realizing how good everyone is at this level and, and different things that I can do that will work out here.
“It was definitely helpful today for me.”
2020 fifth-round selection (152nd) William Dufour weighed in.
“To battle against pros…there’s some guys here that played a couple of games in the NHL, two for sure…it was nice to battle against them and just see what pros are like. Like adults, like 27, 28, 29 years old guys, so it was nice to compete against those guys for sure.”
With Thompson expected to be back on the ice on Monday and Tuesday, the last two days of development camp, the intensity level will continue to rise as prospects try to showcase their skills as much as possible before returning to their respective clubs.
For some, the next two days are a deciding factor regarding invitations to training camp, which begins Thursday, Sept. 21.