Each year the New York Islanders hold a mid-summer prospect camp on Long Island. The format consists of a week's worth of drills and instruction from the top team's coaches, all while bringing the young men to the Island to become familiar with the area, the facilities, and their fellow prospects.
There is also some fun downtime for the guys as well, as the team usually makes at least one excursion to a local Major League Baseball game or goes on a fishing trip.
The week's events are capped off by the annual prospect scrimmage and skills competition, which takes place at Nassau Coliseum and is open to Islanders fans. Many attend as a respite from the heat and a chance to think about ice hockey on a July evening.
On Thursday night (7/11), the media and fans got to see a a fun and family friendly event featuring many of the team's recent draft picks. Many of the younger fans went home with player autographs as well.
Most people on hand agreed that top prospect Ryan Strome had the best night. He's playing on a different level than many of his camp mates, and he celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring a goal and two assists.
Many other players looked good as well, some who, like Strome, have a chance to make the Islanders roster this autumn, including Brock Nelson and Griffin Reinhart.
After the game I had a chance to chat with one of the lesser known standouts, newly drafted forward Viktor Crus Rydberg.
The Växjö, Sweden native, who is one day away from being exactly 20 years my junior (oh, joy), was drafted by the Isles in the 5th round (pick 136) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
He spoke of how he was not in attendance when his name was announced inside New Jersey's Prudential Center (he was flying home from Minnesota at the time), but he was thrilled to learn he had been selected.
"I stopped looking at the draft when it was number 135, and then the Islanders drafted me at number 136," he said with a laugh. He said upon hearing the news in transit in Amsterdam, he felt great.
Viktor knows he has a very long road ahead of him if he plans on playing in the NHL. He said he has at least two seasons forthcoming in Plymouth (OHL), but on this night he dazzled the 5,000 or so Coliseum fans with a superb shootout move during the skills competition.
He said he has practiced the move since age 15, though he hadn't been afforded many opportunities to showcase it.
"This time was the best."
In order to move forward as a prospect, he said he "need[s] to play physically hard. I need to be better for every game. I need to be better and better every day." He mentioned focusing on his skating and explosiveness.
Asked about what he thought about his first visit to Long Island, he said very simply, "I think it's awesome. It's just great."