"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.