Wednesday played host to the New York Islanders' Blue vs. White scrimmage. The game pitted top prospects from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Juniors call-ups against the Islanders' main roster players.
The scrimmage gave us the first real look at the top players in New York's system all on the ice at the same time, let alone providing us with the first time we've seen hockey in a long while.
So which players stood out?
Some worried that so much time off might prevent the 37-year-old Nabokov from having a good start to the season.
Nabby skated consistently at the San Jose practice facility during the lockout and kept in shape—and it showed.
After a slow first period, his positioning for the next two was crisp and on point. Nabokov showed textbook skill and little rust after the long layoff.
Look for Nabby to get the start on Saturday and carry the team through most of the season.
This one is pretty easy to sum up: John Tavares dominated, as his time in Switzerland showed, paying dividends in his conditioning and readiness.
Kyle Okposo looked a little rusty but looked in the right place.
Matt Moulson had himself a two-goal night and looked just as good as always, demonstrating good chemistry with Tavares
Mark Streit showed a marked improvement from his play at the beginning of last season and picked up right where he left off at the end of last year.
He is one of—if not the best—swing defensemen in the league and looked more confident than he did last year as well.
After a less than stellar rookie year, Nino Niederreiter has been dominating in the AHL all season, leading the team in points and ranking as one of the top scorers in the entire league
Surprisingly, Nino wasn't invited to camp and has remained in Bridgeport while youngsters such as Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart and other fellow Sound Tigers players were called up.
Even more surprisingly, Nino played better than some of the NHL players during the scrimmage. He potted a goal and looked to be in excellent form, much like the power forward he was drafted to be.
It won't be mind-blowing if one of the other call-ups is sent down in favor of Nino.
What can be said about DiPietro—well, in the first period, he played surprisingly well. He made some good saves, moved much better than we've seen in years and didn't leave ten minutes in with an injury.
Unfortunately, it all sort of fell apart in the second and third periods.
DiPietro's positioning was way off, as he often cheated too far and over-committed too aggressively outside the paint.
And it cost him. He gave up a few softies and was out of position quite a few times to the point where recovery was impossible, often leaving one side of the net wide open.
Like I said, DiPietro moved well and played much better than we've seen in a few years, but the rust definitely showed in his positioning.
If the scrimmage was to decide who made the final roster, I'd say Ryan Strome wasn't making the team. Thankfully it's not, and we haven't seen his performance in practice.
Strome was basically invisible, as he made very little impact. Although he was playing on the wing (he's a center), and it was just a scrimmage. We'll probably see him more in the five-game tour, and most likely, he will be sent back down to minors.
That being said, if Strome has an impact on the second line centering and scoring, we might see him for the whole year. It's hard to judge off just this scrimmage.
Reinhart notched himself a primary assist on a point-shot deflection. He was sound position-wise and didn't have any major lapses. I doubt he makes the team this year, though, especially with Visnovsky reporting in a few weeks and Radek Martinek being signed recently.
Speaking of Martinek, he played very well. He still has good movement and knows when to cheat in for a scoring opportunity. He looked healthy and had a good pep in his step.
Providing he isn't injured this season, he'll make a difference since he is so defensively sound.
Thomas Hickey, a recent waiver pickup, looked solid, played well defensively and created some very good offensive opportunities. Being buried in the L.A. Kings' deep defensive system, you can see why he warranted a good look from the Islanders.
Brad Boyes played on the power play and had some good chances as well, battling in the corners hard. We won't know until this season if he can regain his scoring touch, but until then, he looked solid for now.
David Ullstrom looked the part as well, showing off his skating skills. He will probably end up on the main roster.
Another surprise was Johan Sundstrom. He had a very good game and looks nearly ready to make the jump up to the NHL providing there is room for him on the roster.