Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kyle Bats With the Minnesota Twins

Kyle Okposo checked in with Islanders TV recently when they filmed a fun, short clip of him taking batting practice with the Minnesota Twins. Kyle, as most of you know, is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota and has told me many times that he is a big Twins fan.

The Twins, currently in first place in their division, let Kyle take some batting practice swings against manager Ron Gardenhire. The clip, which can be seen here, also shows Kyle meeting some of his hometown baseball heroes, such as Joe Mauer. It looks like it was a fun day for all involved.

As I am also a big baseball fan (the Twins being one of my favorite teams), it is only right that I offer an opinion on Kyle's baseball 'skills':

My crude MLB scouting report on Kyle Okposo (20-80 scale): Batting: 70, Throwing: 20. I think he'd better stick to hockey. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Will Travis Hamonic Make the Team?

"I definitely feel ready." - Travis Hamonic

With each passing day we get closer to September and training camp, and while most people are not yet thinking about hockey, I am. Though I love summer weather and all of the outdoor activities that come with it, I look forward to getting back ice-side and seeing young players compete for jobs with our Islanders.

And one positional battle that I'm especially looking forward to seeing involves young defenseman Travis Hamonic.

If you recall, Hamonic was drafted during the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry draft in Ottawa, Ontario. At draft time he measured in at 6'2" and 215 pounds, but told us this summer that he was specifically trying to bulk up.

"I’m going to continue to put on a couple more pounds of muscle mass and grow and get stronger and get fitter in the weight room," he said after his Long Island Blue vs. Orange scrimmage appearance. He mentioned that he would be spending time in Winnipeg this summer skating with pros in order to prepare himself for the coming preseason camp.

"It's going to be all mindset and physical set," Hamonic continued. "I've got to make sure that I come in knowing that I have an opportunity to make the team. The coaching staff is definitely going to do what they feel is right with me and I'm going to do it with a smile on my face."

Hamonic went on to further make his case by saying "I've had a lot of success in Juniors," but now that he's 20 years old "things have changed from last year" and it's time to "turn a page" into professional hockey.

Well, Hamonic did turn a page of sorts this spring when the Islanders inked him to a 3-year entry level pro contract. So the Islanders are obviously happy with his development to this point, but while the ink was drying on the paperwork they went out and radically reshaped their defense. So the question to be asked is not if Hamonic can make the team out of camp, but will he?

Most of the projections I have seen put Travis as an eventual top 4 defenseman. But with the signings of Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina, and the trade for James Wisniewski it seems as if Travis is bound to get squeezed down the depth chart, if not out of the picture for this season completely. With a healthy Radek Martinek back and Mark Streit going nowhere, I'm also wondering what will come of the Hillen/MacDonald/Gervais battle for the last spots on D.

So, is Hamonic destined for Bridgeport (AHL) this season? Well, if he looks as improved in camp as he did on both sides of the puck in the scrimmage, it will be tough to ship him out. If there are a flurry of early injuries at the NHL level then he'll definitely be in the mix. But I think even if he comes out and knocks everyone's socks off this preseason, the Islanders will still be hard pressed to move him ahead of their veterans. In a fact, a mandatory year of pro development at Bridgeport may already be the plan for the 20-year old, as far as we know. And this is why I love the preseason. Because the only way we're going to know is by letting it all shake out next month.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Let's Learn More About Brock Nelson

When we last saw Brock Nelson, he had taken part in the Islanders summer Orange-Blue scrimmage and was preparing for World Juniors evaluation camp. We had a chance to speak with Brock after his Long Island appearance and get his thoughts on a few things, and we have an update on his recent performance.

If you remember, the Islanders selected Nelson with the final pick (30th) in the first round back in June's entry draft. Admittedly, we didn't know much about the young centerman at the time.

Currently enrolled at the University of North Dakota and already taking summer classes, Brock first told us about his draft day experience. He mentioned that it was a bit of a surprise and an honor for the Isles to move up and snatch him in the first round. Nearing the end of Day 1, he and his family expected to hear Brock's name called on the second day of the draft, but felt elated when they heard the New York Islanders select him just before the end of the round.

It was equally thrilling for Brock to get the chance to play in an NHL arena (at the scrimmage) just weeks removed from high school, though he admitted that he didn't get to speak very much with the Islanders coaching staff or some of their young stars. He did speak a bit about his congratulatory phone call from Kyle Okposo, who just wished him the best and told Brock to have fun at this time in his life.

With regards to the scrimmage itself, we can happily report that Brock did not look out of place, but noted that the one area he wishes to improve is his overall strength. He knows that the NHL game is much faster than anything he has experienced to this point in his career. He was also sure to praise Long Island and its fans; always a good move in our book. He mentioned the prospect fishing trip and their Mets game as two of the week's highlights.

More recently Brock has shined at the World Junior development camp in an attempt to make that squad in December. His 2 goal, 1 assist (in 3 games) performance in Lake Placid apparently impressed both the USA coaching staff and that of the Islanders. The talk now is of how much an asset his large frame may be to the Isles in the future. He told us that he models his game after Anze Kopitar's; not a bad player to emulate.

As the summer drags on, we'll have a few more tidbits from other prospects who participated in the scrimmage. Come September and October Okposo Net expects to bring you greater and more frequent access to Islanders players and prospects unlike ever before. We are getting very excited about the coming season, and we hope you are too.