This is Bob Nystrom. A strong, violent winger in the Western League, he didn’t have NHL speed but the Islanders took him anyway. After a cup of coffee at the end of his rookie pro season, Nystrom found himself taking an unusual step on his journey to the National Hockey League.
To quote famous powerskater Laura Stamm: "Just before the summer of 1973 Bill Torrey, the New York Islanders GM, phoned me. He asked if I could teach a promising rookie by the name of Bob Nystrom. Bob had a lot of promise, but his only hope to make the Islanders roster was to improve his speed. After watching him I felt that by improving his skating technique he could be faster. In those days professional hockey players did not have female instructors. To spare Bob any embarrassment, we kept our training sessions to ourselves. We worked from 6 – 7am, five days a week, for eight weeks. Bob didn’t miss a day."
There are all kinds of stories involving the Islanders of that era and their pursuit of hockey players. The club traded for Bob Bourne 6 weeks after not getting him in the draft, sending away two NHL calibre defensemen because they felt he could play.
Last fall, Pat Quinn married qualified "pairs" with hopefuls and also-rans in an effort to improve the overall depth. That’s why JF Jacques ended up with Horcoff and Hemsky, and why Brule and Penner ended up together last fall (an astute move that appears to be taking hold again this fall).
Jason Gregor mentioned in the article below that he feels the top 3 lines might break down thusly come opening night:
I agree with Jason, this might be the rotation opening night. There’s no "tough minutes" line in that group and it is a very unusual use of the top 3 players on the roster (Penner, Hemsky, Horcoff), but it makes sense in one important way: the men and boys Renney is adding to the top 9 are just like Bob Nystrom and Bob Bourne 35 years ago: they’re good bets to become NHL players.
I think Renney sees a future 2-way winger in Eberle, and placing him with Horcoff could be a year long tutorial. He also sees some chemistry between MPS and Hemsky, with Gagner the best option at C for what will be a high octane offensive line. The Penner-Brule pairing repeats itself here and gives Cogliano a real shot at playing with skill.
Lets not kid ourselves. They are going to be many nights when these lines spend long minutes without the puck and bottled up in their own end. Having said that, these are the 9 best forwards (and 9 best futures) available on the roster at this time and we shouldn’t be surprised that they end up playing together. Colin Fraser, Ryan Jones, Zack Stortini, Liam Reddox and others remain to fill out the 10-14F spots in the next 10 days.
Now, if they can get Teemu Hartikainen to Laura Stamm next summer, maybe there’ll be a few more options available to the coach for 11-12.