Parker Wotherspoon’s stay at the New York Islanders main camp may have seemed a bit short to the young defenseman, but he said he was able to take away good advice that will help him this season with the Tri-City Americans.
“It was a lot of fun. They told me to practice hard, take it seriously and never take a shift off,” said Wotherspoon, a 2015 fourth-round draft pick of the Islanders. “I never thought I was a slacker, but I found out I was a little bit. I’ve got it now.”
Wotherspoon is one of five Americans players who were extended invites to NHL rookies camps, with four being held over for main camp. Defenseman Brandon Carlo still is with the Boston Bruins, while the rest have returned to the Tri-Cities.
At 6-foot, 171 pounds, the Islanders indicated they would like to see Wotherspoon play a more physical game.
“They told me to be more aggressive, tougher to beat and to pass the puck harder,” Wotherspoon said. “They surround you with high caliber people. They pair younger guys with older guys and they show you a lot.”
Just 18, Wotherspoon isn’t old enough to play in the American Hockey League, though he would have been able to play for the Islanders had they opted to keep him.
“It would be a tough step up to the NHL, as much as I would have loved to be there,” Wotherspoon said. “They have some of the top defensemen in the league. You are going up against 30 year olds with families. I doubt they want to lose their spot to an 18 year old.”
Austyn Playfair and Max James were a day late getting back to the Tri-Cities because of flight delays, but nothing could put a damper on the adventure the two forwards encountered.
After completing rookie camp with the Coyotes, the pair was held over for main camp for a few days, and got to meet former Tri-City star Brendan Shinnimin, who plays in the Coyotes’ system for the Portland Pirates.
“It was a blast,” the 6-5, 216-pound Playfair said. “It was a learning experience. I was nervous at first — not so much of the skill of the other guys, but wow, we are here.”
“We had a great adventure,” added James. “It was an eye-opening experience. I learned a lot. We are far away, but closer than we think.”
Playfair and James were in the Los Angeles airport when they were invited to stay for main camp. Their smiles lasted all the way back to Arizona.
“After I met with the coach, I had the biggest smile on my face,” Playfair said.
“We knew we were going home at some point, but it was nice to stay a little longer and skate with the NHL guys,” James said.
Even after losing three teeth the first day of main camp.
James was battling for a puck with Nicklas Grossman when all of the sudden his stick flew out of his hands and Grossman’s stick was in his face.
“I shattered one tooth and the other two were split in half,” said James, who had root canals for all three. “My face is good now. It’s good to be back.”
And he came back with a wealth of knowledge and an assessment from the Coyotes.
“For my size (6-3, 200), they said I was a good skater and they liked how physical I was,” James said. “They want me to evolve my game and make it more complete so I can play at a higher level.”
Playfair also got a report card — one that says he overthinks the game.
“They sat down with me and told me I was a good skater, I had a quick shot and good hands,” Playfair said. “They said I was hesitant at times and I think too much. They just want me to go out and play. I’m excited to dumb down my game.”
Unlike James, Playfair came back with all of his teeth, but the trip wasn’t without an adventure off the ice.
After getting reassigned back to Tri-City, Playfair spent Sunday night at his parents house in Arizona, where a two-inch scorpion found its way into Playfair’s bed and stung his leg.
“I’ve had broken bones, but that was the most painful experience of my life,” he said. “My leg was numb for a day. I guess I did come back with a battle wound.”
Forward Ty Comrie was extended an invitation to the Kings rookie camp, and older brother Eric, a goaltender in the Winnipeg Jets system, was able to offer a little advice before he left.
“Right when I got invited, he told me what to expect,” Comrie said, “That helped a lot. It was a good experience. I had a good time. When you get that kind of opportunity, you take advantage of it and bring it back home.”
After a few days on the ice, the Kings brass gave the 6-0, 170-pound Comrie positive feedback.
“In my exit meeting, they said a lot of good things,” Comrie said. “They said they want to keep an eye on me. They said they would like to see me get a little bigger and stronger, and for me to pay attention to the details.”