By Daniel Friedman
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At the NHL Entry Draft in June, the New York Islanders selected two players from the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks — goaltender Eamon McAdam (third round, 70th overall) and forward Taylor Cammarata (third round, 76th overall).
Just ask Trent Klatt, the Isles’ head amateur scout: “We certainly like that team; there’s no doubt.”
This is not something we haven’t seen from the Islanders in the past.
In 2011, they took a pair from the Niagara Ice Dogs (Ryan Strome, Mitchell Theoret) and, five years ago, both of Steven Stamkos’ linemates from the Sarnia Sting (Matt Martin, Justin, DiBenedetto) were chosen by the Isles.
As for this year’s draft duo, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from them to this point.
I watched McAdam for three days at prospect camp in July. The one thing I noticed immediately was his quick lateral movement. He might as well be teleporting from one side of the crease to the other.
Cammarata wasn’t at the camp, but he did suit up for the Blue and Orange Scrimmage. He admitted that he was a bit rusty and definitely looked the part on the ice. That said, he did make some nice plays and was noticeably sharper as the game wore on.
Both McAdam (Penn State) and Cammarata (University of Minnesota) will compete against each other in the NCAA Big Ten Conference this year.
To get a better perspective, I caught up with the man who coached them in Waterloo: P.K. O’Handley:
DF: Let’s start with Cammarata. Give me your two cents on him, on his game.
PK: He’s a talented kid. His offensive instincts are terrific.
DF: If there’s an NHL player you’d compare Cammarata to, who would it be? What kind of role do you see him playing on the professional stage?
PK: He’s small in stature. Extremely smart. I’m not sure I can compare him to anyone, but if he makes it his game, he will be offensive.
DF: He’s shown a knack for producing, despite his size. How does he do it? Does he have a specific “it” factor?
PK: If there is an “it” factor offensively he has something along those lines. He has a sense. He has no fear in trying things offensively. He’s very talented in that part of his game.
DF: No player is perfect or has nothing to work on — which areas of Cammarata‘s game need improvement if he’s going to take that next step?
PK: As with any young player, he needs to enhance his work ethic in all aspects of the game. He needs to establish a level of “hard” so that his offense can continue to evolve.
DF: Do you feel that he was drafted later than he should’ve been?
PK: I’m not sure I’m in a position to say where he should have been drafted or not. I’m just happy for Cammarata and the opportunity that he has in front of him.
DF: I got to watch McAdam play for just a couple of days at Islanders rookie camp. I was impressed, but having had the benefit of seeing him play a lot longer than I have, can you give me your assessment?
PK: McAdam is a big goalie. He moves well and is not afraid to take risks.READ MORE: Children Embrace The Lessons Of Dr. Martin Luther King: 'A Very Special Man Who Wanted To Change The World'
DF: You had two quality goaltenders on the roster this year. How did McAdam stack up and were there certain situations where you felt like he was the better option?
PK: McAdam was the veteran. It was a unique situation with two draft-eligible goalies. I thought McAdam was good and was rewarded by being drafted.
DF: Do you see McAdam as a future NHL goaltender? If so, what type of role could you envision him playing?
PK: McAdam has the tools to get there. I believe there is a process to becoming an NHL goalie. If he continues to work and perfect his craft, the sky is the limit.
DF: Is there an NHL goaltender you’d compare him to?
PK: He’s a big mobile goalie. I think you could make a comparison to quite a few.
DF: If there’s one particular skill or characteristic of McAdam that stands out to you, what is it?
PK: McAdam has a lot of size and he challenges the opposition. I think that will continue to serve him on his path.
DF: What does McAdam need to do in order to take that next step?
PK: Like any young goalie, he needs to fine-tune his game. He has to be able to determine for himself when to be aggressive and when patience is needed. He needs to put the Penn State team on his back. McAdam has the ability to be a real good college goalie. If he does all that, he’ll continue to move up the ladder.
DF: Leading up to the draft, did you get the sense that the Islanders were going to pick multiple players from your team?
PK: I really never had a lot of contact with the Islanders. They were in early and talked to a number of our guys.
DF: Do you think the Isles are a good fit for Cammarata and McAdam? How so?
PK: I can’t speak for the Islanders. That said, McAdam and Cammarata are good kids with very bright futures so, from my standpoint, I think they can continue to develop and hopefully make the Islanders down the line.
DF: Including Cammarata and McAdam, the Islanders have drafted four players from the USHL in the last three drafts — taking Scott Mayfield and Robbie Russo in 2011. Having faced them when they were in the league, can you give me your take on those two guys? Give me the view from the opposing bench.
PK: Both are good players with big upsides. I think the USHL as a whole does a tremendous job in preparing kids for higher levels and the league does a great job in helping elite players lay a strong foundation for success.
P.K. O’Handley has been the head coach of the Waterloo Black Hawks since the 2002-2003 season. He is also the team’s general manager and interim president.
Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter @DFriedmanWFAN.
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