Isles’ first-round pick signs three-year pact
Swedish forward Holmstrom eager to grow in New York’s system.
Less than a month past his 18th birthday on the night he was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, New York Islanders forward Simon Holmstrom readily admitted he has a lot of growing up to do.
“I think I need to work a lot in gym,” the lithe, but ultra-talented 6-foot-1 forward readily admitted after being taken in the opening round of last month’s draft in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“They are men and I’m still just a little boy,” Holmstrom added. “Hopefully, I’ll be a man soon and hopefully have more strength in my legs and in my skating.”
Islanders Team President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello revealed that Holmstrom had been a “unanimous” pick by New York’s brain trust on draft night.
“Our scouts were extremely high on him, where we had him rated,” Lamoriello said of Holmstrom, who has averaged just over a point per game in Sweden’ SuperElit League over the past two seasons.
“It was unanimous with them, that if he was going to be there at that point, we were going to take him,” added Lamoriello, who inked the rookie to a three-year, reported $2.25 million pact Monday in the hopes of bolstering New York’s offense for years to come.
Holmstrom showed plenty of progress and learned a bit more about how much further he needs to build on his game and body during the Islanders’ developmental camp earlier this month, his first taste of life in the NHL.
“The game here is a little bit different than Sweden. I think I have to play more north-south game, drive to the net harder and play a bit tougher,” said Holmstrom, who is coming off a season in which he amassed 20 points in 21 games for his HV71’s J20 team in Sweden’s SuperElit League.
“I think I matched up pretty good [against prospects at development camp]. I know I have a lot more in me to give. I know I can match better. I think it was an okay camp. I have more to give. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Holmstrom, who will also attend the Isles’ training camp in advance of the 2019-20 campaign, hopes to eventually help boost the league’s 22nd-ranked offense from a season ago.
But after competing with other prospects and a few of the team’s regulars during rookie camp, Holmstrom knows another season in Sweden is likely in his future, whether he flourishes in training camp in two months or not.
“It has been awesome,” Holmstrom said. “I’m really looking forward to this season and trying to keep things going and trying to develop as much as I can as a player. Hopefully, I will be a pro as soon as possible.”
He has already shown an ability to thrive under pressure, as evidenced by his performance on the international stage.
Holmstrom scored three goals and added three assists in seven games during Sweden’s run to the 2018 Under-18 World Junior Championships gold medal.
He’ll get to skate alongside one of his favorite players, Isles center Mathew Barzal, and the rest of the team that compiled 103 points and won a playoff series this past season when the Brooklyn/Long Island-based franchise opens camp in September.
“I’m very grateful to be here,” Holmstrom noted. “I’m just trying to look and learn as much as I can, try to take in as much as I can. Take from the guys who have been here for a long time. Listen to the coaches.”
The Nets, who have stolen all the headlines this summer with the free-agent acquisitions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, continued to build the rest of their roster in less-dynamic fashion with the re-signing of Theo Pinson this week.
The 23-year-old small forward/guard inked a two-year deal to remain in Brooklyn after spending most of last season splitting time with the franchise’s G-League affiliate on Long Island and here at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
In 18 games with Brooklyn last season, Pinson averaged 4.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists off the bench, but had a breakout 19-point effort in a 109-99 victory over the East River rival Knicks on Jan. 25.
“When my number’s been called, we’ve got great players, we all know that,” said Pinson, who went undrafted out of the University of North Carolina before the Nets took a chance on him by adding him to their Summer League roster last year.
“First thing is to gain the trust from those guys and for them to want me to be on the court also and then [head coach] Kenny (Atkinson) will want me on the court, then [general manager] Sean [Marks] will be comfortable with me on the court so when I get in the game just do my job and do my part.”
Pinson was a part of Brooklyn’s Summer League squad again this month, averaging 10.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists before the Nets were eliminated from the annual tournament in the semifinal round Sunday night.
Both he and this year’s second-round pick, Nic Claxton, were inked to NBA deals immediately following the event.
“My thing is, if I’m not going to be on the court, I’m going to be involved,” noted Pinson.
“This year, hopefully I can get on the court and contribute on the court also and be vocal. I can’t wait.”
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