Bradley Kennedy is stronger and faster this time around.
The Charlottetown Islanders second-year right-winger made both an emphasis of his off-season training. It is paying off during the first two weeks of training camp.
“It helps a lot on the ice. I can tell already how much easier the game feels now,” Kennedy said before Thursday’s practice.
He scored a dozen goals in his 65-game rookie season but knew improvement was needed during the summer.
“The team got a lot stronger, so you knew you had to be a lot better to play more this year.”
The Islanders’ brass is pleased with what they have seen.
“Expectations were pretty clear at our the exit meetings with the players. We wanted them to focus on their development in the off-season, and Brad, so far, has been a prime example of that,” coach Gordie Dwyer said. “He’s worked really hard in the summer and put himself in real good shape and we expect to see the results on the ice this year.”
General manager Grant Sonier said the biggest difference he’s noticed is Kennedy’s strength.
“This time last year he was getting knocked down almost every single battle drill. Now he is knocking people down.”
Kennedy started playing hockey in his hometown of Antigonish, N.S., when he was five years old. He continued through the Bulldogs program until joining the Cape Breton West Islanders for major midget in 2011-12.
He was passed over during his first chance to be drafted into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2012.
“I definitely wasn’t good enough but I knew I could have (been drafted) if I got in better shape and worked hard at it,” Kennedy said. “Luckily, I did and came to a good spot too, so it worked out.”
He was pleased to make the cut at last year’s camp, but admitted it was a big jump from major midget.
“Every game you learned something new,” Kennedy said. “After Christmas I got more comfortable and felt like I could be a good player in this league.”
Dwyer put Kennedy in a number of key situations, including shootouts, during the season. The coach said the rookie earned those opportunities.
“He has a great shot, he has real good hockey sense, poise with the puck and has the knack to find the back of the net,” he said.
The Islanders’ top pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft has landed in Charlottetown.
Filip Chlapik arrived in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
“The first words out of his mouth when he got here were, ‘When can I go to the rink?’” Sonier said. “He’s anxious to get going and we’re excited to see him.”
The 17-year-old centre had a goal and four assists in fives games earlier this month at the Ivan Hlinka memorial under-18 tournament.
Sonier said the six-foot-one, 173-pound Czech Republic native has good size, vision and skating.
“His hockey IQ is what really stood out for me,” he said. “We believe he has the talent and the hockey ability to have an impact on our hockey club.”
Chlapik will not play this weekend, but is scheduled to skate today between 11 a.m. and noon.
The battle to secure roster spots continues.
The Islanders have 30 players remaining in camp with a couple of exhibition games this weekend.
The team travels to northern New Brunswick tonight to play the Acadie-Bathurst Titan at 7:30 p.m. before hosting the Moncton Wildcats Sunday at 4 p.m. at the APM Centre in Cornwall.
“There’s a few guys still on the bubble here fighting for spots and we want to see how they play,” Dwyer said.
u Who – Second-year right-winger with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
u Hometown – Antigonish, N.S.
u Age – 18.
u Size – Six-foot-one, 192 pounds.
u Known to his teammates as – Boo.
u QMJHL Draft – Third-round pick (54th overall) by the Islanders in 2013.
u 2013-14 stats -
GP G A Pts
65 12 15 27
u Did you know? - Kennedy had a three-game point streak between Oct. 19 and 26.
u Quote – “His skill level has always been really good, but his speed has picked up, his strength has picked up and hopefully it leads to on-ice performance for him.” -
Coach Gordie Dwyer.