First-rounders end up on first team for '05
BY ALAN HAHN
October 1, 2005
The kids were all smiles during practice at Iceworks on Friday.
Robert Nilsson was horsing around with veteran Jason Blake well after
most players had left the ice. Petteri Nokelainen broke into a giddy
sprint from the locker room to the weight room. And Sean Bergenheim
played coy when he was offered congratulations for making the
"I don't know, did I?" he said.
He did, along with Nilsson and Nokelainen. The trio represents three
consecutive first-round picks from 2002-04. From the start of
training camp, they have been pulling for each other.
"I'm good friends with Sean Bergenheim," said Nilsson, the 15th
overall pick in '03. "I hope me, him and Nokie will play together
into the future."
The three, plus goalie Rick DiPietro (2000), bring to four the team's
total of former first-round picks who will be on the roster this
The Islanders made two final cuts - defenseman Bruno Gervais and
winger Justin Papineau were sent to Bridgeport (AHL) - to get to a 23-
man roster and in compliance with the $39-million salary cap.
Papineau, who was caught in a numbers crunch among skill players (and
overshadowed by Nilsson), surprisingly cleared waivers despite being
young (25) and cheap ($450,000).
Nilsson impressed coach Steve Stirling with his playmaking
brilliance, but, like most skilled rookies, needs to improve in other
areas without the puck. "He's got to learn how to forecheck,"
Nokelainen and Bergenheim play similar games - "North American game,
hard-nosed, two way," Stirling said - and will both work as fourth-
line grinders for now.
A fourth rookie on the roster is 21-year-old defenseman Chris
Campoli, whom Stirling called "no surprise." The smart, offensively
talented Campoli was a seventh-round pick in 2004.
Notes & quotes: Arron Asham (rib strain) will resume skating this
weekend ... Defenseman Brad Lukowich didn't practice because of back