The New York Islanders’ Blue and White Scrimmage is more than just a chance to get a hockey-fix during the off-season. It’s more than a distraction from the free agent drama that unfolds every year — this year around Anders Lee and Robin Lehner. It’s a chance for fans to glimpse the future of the organization they love.
Last year, Oliver Wahlstrom broke the mold and dazzled fans with his skill. In the 2018 Blue and White Scrimmage, the 2018 11th overall pick scored three goals as he danced his way around the ice. He didn’t disappoint this year either. Finding a perfect teammate in Bode Wilde, Wahlstrom strutted his stuff once again with several beautiful give-and-go and tap-in plays.
It was Long Island-native Sam Sternschein, however, who broke through at this year’s event on Thursday, June 27 with four goals — a record for the Islanders’ prospect development camp scrimmage. The 21-year-old from Syosset plays left wing and spent the last two years on Penn State’s NCAA team. In the 2018-19 season, he played 39 games and accumulated 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists). Growing up, he played for the Long Island Gulls and the New York Jr. Islanders. When he received the invite to this year’s development camp, Sternschein made sure to put the work in and prove how excited he was to be on the organization’s radar.
“Growing up here, I’ve seen games at the Coliseum. I’ve seen how loud it is. So, to have those fans here, it was really special to play in front of all of them,” he said.
Throughout his performance in the four-on-four three-game round-robin scrimmage, Sternschein displayed his skilled hands and skating abilities. After the mini-tournament, he said he aim to be a power forward and wants to incorporate more scoring in his overall game as he did on Thursday.
Other newcomers who found a spotlight included Zach Jordan of Ohio State and Liam Folkes of Penn State. Both were invitees like Sternschein, and both finished plays and scored goals off assists from current Bridgeport Sound Tigers defensemen, Noah Dobson and Scott Eansor respectively. Dobson himself, already a fan favorite within the Islanders’ organization, continued to shine with a sniper top-shelf goal and the Jordan assist. As well, Felix Bibeau, drafted in the 2019 6th round, had a goal and an assist.
Finally, goaltender Linus Soderstrom had a fantastic night, too, even if he was filled with nerves at the start. He missed the last 18 months (the entire 2018-19 season) with a lower-body injury but was sharp for the Blue/White Team, allowing only one goal in his 20-minute game. His performance included a sliding save on a play across the crease from Kieffer Bellows to Mason Jobst.
The talent pool at the Blue and White Scrimmage seems to get better every year. From Wahlstrom and Dobson, who have a chance at making the NHL roster this year or next, to young newcomers like Sternschien and Bibeau, the Islanders’ organization is full of rich prospects to fill out the team year after year.
Featured Image: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke