Isles’ top picks making strong first impression
Highly-touted duo competing in World Junior Hockey Championships
Normally tight-lipped Lou Lamoriello couldn’t hold back his “delight” over the two young players the Islanders landed in the opening round of last month’s NHL Draft.
Right-wing Oliver Wahlstrom and versatile defenseman Noah Dobson were selected 11th and 12th overall, respectively, just over a week before the Islanders lost team captain John Tavares to Toronto in free agency.
Though Islander fans are still bemoaning the departure of their former two-time Hart Trophy finalist, Lamoriello has already begun reshaping the roster and looking ahead to the future in the hopes of returning the teetering franchise to the playoffs as well as championship-level form.
“These were two players we had [ranked] very high [on our draft board],” the Brooklyn-based franchise’s team president and general manager gushed upon making the picks back on June 22 in Dallas.
“The defenseman from Quebec, Dobson, has so much upside as far as skill and offense. I don’t think we could be more delighted.”
The two 18-year-olds, both of whom are currently skating at the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships in Kamloops, British Columbia, have already caught the eye of coaches at Islander mini-camp, based on their performances at those scrimmages toward the end of June.
“He’s a really heady defenseman,” Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson, who was running the daily skates, said of Dobson.
“He asks some really good questions out there and made good points. His feet are good, big body.”
Wahlstrom, who hails from Yarmouth, Maine, will be skating for Team USA at the WJHCs. He has also already decided not to attend Islander training camp later this summer, instead opting in to his freshman year at Boston College.
Dobson, who will man the blue line for his native Team Canada at the junior competition.is on board to attend and compete for a job at his first NHL training camp.
But neither of these players were expected to break camp with the team regardless of whether they participated.
Instead, they are being slotted as two key pieces of the team’s future, be it here in Downtown Brooklyn or in Elmont, N.Y., where the Isles are looking forward to building a new state-of-the-art arena adjacent to the legendary Belmont race track.
“There will be no training camp with the Islanders this year, so I’ll move into Boston College on Aug. 23 and I’m excited for that,” Wahlstrom told NHL.com this past weekend.
“It’s going to be a new adventure,” he added. “It’s a good place for me to develop before the NHL, so it’ll be fun.”
Dobson was well decorated before he even showed up in Dallas for the draft.
The 6-foot-3 back-liner captured a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship in early May and was an All-Star member of a Memorial Cup-winning junior squad two weeks later.
Getting picked by the Isles less than a month later capped a whirlwind experience for the budding defenseman, who will get to test his wares against the NHL’s best come September.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about how much I was able to go through and accomplish in a month,” Dobson noted during mini-camp.
“At the end of the day it’s what you dream of as a kid and any hockey player would love to be in my shoes, so I’m just trying to soak it all in and enjoy the experience.”
Though he won’t be with his fellow high draft pick, Wahlstrom picked up some valuable lessons during mini-camp that he hopes will carry over to his participation in the World Juniors, as well his first season at B.C. and beyond.
“I learned you just have to perform every day,” Wahlstrom said. “You’re going to have bad days, but you can’t take a day off and you have to take care of yourself, take care of your body.”
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In other local sports news, Brooklyn Cyclones fans will get another visit from a veteran big leaguer this week as rehabbing Mets third baseman Todd Frazier will join the Baby Bums’ lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday night at Coney Island’s MCU Park.
Frazier, who is trying to return from his second disabled list stint of the season due to a rib-cage injury, recently went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs during a two-game stint with the Mets’ Florida State League affiliate in St. Lucie last weekend.
But before he can rejoin his big-league teammates, “The Toddfather” will try to help Brooklyn continue its hot pursuit of a playoff spot in the New York-Penn League.
He is likely to man third base and perhaps even play the full nine innings when the Cyclones (23-20) resume their three-game series with visiting Tri-City Tuesday night and Wednesday.
“I think we want to make sure that he’s in a good spot to come back,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of Frazier, who is batting .217 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs over 61 games in his first season with the Mets.
“We’d like to get him out to nine innings and be ready to go nine innings when he gets back.”
Frazier follows Mets hurlers Noah Syndergaard and Jason Vargas to Brooklyn as both hurlers combined to make three rehab starts for the franchise’s Class A short-season affiliate.
See tomorrow’s Eagle for full coverage of Frazier’s Cyclones debut.
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