What Are The Islanders Up To This Off-Season?
After the Islanders selected Ryan Strome with the fifth overall pick at this year's draft, the media was treated to a little catch-up session with a handful of Islander fan-favorites including John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Trevor Gillies, Kevin Poulin, Micheal Haley, Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic. They all had plenty to say about the newest addition to the Islanders prospect pool as well as how their off-season has been going thus far.
Matt Moulson had ties to John Tavares when he was picked by the Islanders since they grew up together back home in Canada. But Strome is another prospect that Moulson previously knew before their paths would cross before reaching the Island together.
"Happy," was Moulson's response to seeing Strome in an Islanders uniform. "I tweeted before because Stromer's the only person I know in the draft so I thought it be good to draft him."
Moulson was seen wishing Strome luck through twitter before the draft had started.
"He's a great player, has great vision and I think that he's probably going to score a lot of goals. His vision on the ice, his hockey sense, he obviously has tremendous skill. He's a great pick for us."
It wasn't long ago that Moulson was seen as almost an older brother figure to John Tavares as they both adapted to life in the NHL together. But Moulson hopes that he can pass the torch along.
"It was pretty stressful taking one guy, I don't know, I have a child of my own so I don't know if I can take another John Tavares under my wing," joked Moulson. "Maybe Johnny can show him the ropes when he comes. I'd be happy to I guess mentor any player that I can. I'm sure he'll be just fine but if he needs any advice I'll be passing him along to Johnny."
Travis Hamonic was also very excited to see the type of player that the Islanders scouts had chosen fifth overall for the second year in a row.
"Obviously you watch the highlights right there after when they showed the video of him getting picked, obviously he has tremendous skill and he seems like the player that's going to fit right into our organization."
With Tavares, Bailey, Nielsen, Haley and now Strome in the mix, the Islanders have solidified a solid mix of centers going forward into next season.
"I think some of your best players have to be your centerman," said Hamonic. "Obviously with Johnny and Franzy and all the guys that we have playing center, obviously it's an asset to us. We've been building with a lot of good young players here. This is an organization that obviously the young guys really want to be a part of, we've really gotten an opportunity to play here and I can't say enough good things about this organization. So Strome's a really lucky kid to be part of this organization."
One of the young guys that Hamonic was referring to is defensive prospect Calvin de Haan who was chosen with the 12th overall pick in 2009, eleven slots after John Tavares. de Haan combined with Hamonic as the top-two defenseman for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships two years ago and will be fighting for a spot in the Islanders line-up at this year's training camp.
"Calvin and I are pretty good buddies and we've spoken here and there," said Hamonic. "He's a smart kid and he's played through two training camps so I'm not going to sit there and give him a handful of advice. He's a smart kid and he'll figure it out as he goes. He's a good young player, he has an opportunity here this year so we'll see what happens with Calvin but we got a lot of good young defenseman here, it's going to be an exciting training camp."
To the right of Hamonic was Micheal Haley who was just leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets enjoying some hockey talk with Ken Dick from Okposo Net and John Zadrozny from YES! Islanders.
"I've lost some bad weight, I know that," said Haley in response to Zadrozny's question as to whether or not he's bulked up in preparation for next season.
Trevor Gillies was just seen leaving the media room, a fourth line enforcer that had just recently signed another one-year, two-way deal for next season. I asked Haley what it meant to have a role player like Gillies coming back considering Haley plays a similar brand of hockey.
"Huge. This is going to be the third year in the organization for me and he's been one all year with me in Bridgeport. Especially for a guy like me, you're right. I'm pretty sure I can get under a few guys' skin so when the big guys come, I'd rather I don't have to (fight) if I don't have to, you know? And I know they don't want Trevor either so, it works out good. I'm not gonna fight you and he'd love to fight you type of thing. It's a good one-two punch."
I think most Islanders fans remember the way Haley handled himself in his first game of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Let's just say he was being modest.
Ken Dick followed up asking how Haley's off-season had been going and what his plans were for the summer.
"Kind of took a little bit there to relax. Going through a lot of weddings right now. I guess I'm at that age. I've got my own but I haven't even got to that part yet."
Blake Comeau, who was not in attendance for the Draft Party, is one of the current Islanders who recently told me in an interview that he is getting married this summer with about seven or eight guys from the team making the trip to attend. However, Haley is not one of them.
"No I'm actually in - I was going to - but I'm in another wedding. It's actually the week before and obviously he lives in B.C. so it's hard to get to. I think I've been in two, my fiance, she's going to be in three. It's been busy so far, I've done a lot of traveling."
But romance aside, Haley has been all business.
"As far as what I've done in the off-season, I've just been training and training and training. Me and Josh Bailey, we train together. He's from the town over that I'm from. We get to train everyday and push each other and it helps too knowing that someone is coming. You're on the same level. The worst feeling for me I've always felt when you're training is when you're training alone. You're always wondering what someone else is doing or if I'm working hard enough where when you're working together, you're pushing each other as hard as you can. You know that you're doing the best you can."
Zadrozny added that Bailey isn't really much of a scrapper, wondering if the two of them boxed in the off-season to prepare for the on-ice battles.
"I don't go home and practice. I'm a hockey player that just happens to fight sometimes."
The next Islanders event this summer will be the Blue vs. White prospect scrimmage on July 16th. Last year Nino Niederreiter and Kirill Kabanov were the headliners in what was an exciting event of fast-paced summer time hockey. Those two will probably be returning and will likely be accompanied by recent draft picks Ryan Strome and Scotty Mayfield.
And with free agency starting in just a few days, make sure you keep checking back here at The Checking Line for all of your latest Islanders news.
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