by Dana Soleski - August 31, 2005
It seems like just yesterday that Blake Comeau was making a good impression at his first Rockets’ training camp.
But three eventful WHL seasons have passed since then and now the New York Islanders’ burgeoning prospect represents a standard against which future hopefuls will be measured. With the Rockets’ main camp underway this week, there is no shortage of lofty expectations for the 6’1” 205 pound power forward.
“This should be a breakout year for Blake,” says Rockets’ President and General Manager, Bruce Hamilton. “We expect him to have an impact each and every game. This will be his fourth year in the league and it’s his time to take that responsibility. Consistency is the key for him – it’s something he’s lacked at times but something he’ll need to have if he wants to play in the NHL or in the World Juniors.”
Aside from his play, the high esteem that Comeau is held in the eyes of the NHL and Canada’s World Junior talent evaluators is a major reason for the enthusiasm and promise that engulfs the former second round WHL and NHL draft pick. In fact, a good portion of his summer has been spent under the watchful eyes of both.
After a short 7-day respite following the Memorial Cup, Blake journeyed to New York and a 2-week orientation camp along with 15 other top-end Islanders’ prospects. He then spent several days in August performing at Team Canada’s summer evaluation camp held in Whistler and Vancouver. Life on hockey’s frozen ‘river of dreams’ has made this offseason a blurr for Blake.
“The Islanders orientation camp was great,” he says. “There were 16 of us and we stayed in two mansions on Long Island. I stayed in a mansion that used to be owned by Billy Joel – it was featured in his ‘Glass Houses’ album. There were some WHL players (Steve Regier, Cody Blanshan, Jeremy Colliton) at the camp and also guys from the OHL, QMJHL and the AHL.”
“We skated and worked out each morning. We had lunch at the rink each day and then we’d spend the afternoon sight seeing and hanging out. Each evening, we got to go out for a big supper at a restaurant. There wasn’t much evaluation going on. The Islanders want us all to come to the camp for 3 or 4 years – to get to know guys who might be future teammates,” he continues. “We also met Mike Milbury and the Coaching Staff for the first time.”
And, like most first time visitors to North America’s largest city, Blake has an interesting New York ‘tale’ to tell.
“I landed at La Guardia Airport and a guy from the Islanders’ training staff was supposed to pick me up,” he explains. “Turns out I was waiting in the wrong spot – I sat outside for an hour before he finally found me! Coming from a small town of 5,000 people, it was quite a feeling seeing the city for the first time.”
Although the junior camp was in more familiar surroundings, it was no less eventful. Blake played on a line with Vancouver Giants’ star Gilbert Brule, who was his roommate in camp. The swanky Westin Resort Spa provided accommodations for the team in Whistler while a post-camp golf tournament united the junior hopefuls with Canada’s men’s Olympic team.
“I’m really pleased with how the camp went,” he says. “I worked out hard getting ready (with NHL’ers Dean McAmmond and David Oliver in Vernon) I wanted to get off to a good start and make a good impression. I scored 3 goals in 3 intrasquad games and I thought I left on a good note. Now it’s a matter of getting off to a good start here in Kelowna so that I have a chance to make the final roster.”
“As one of the older guys, I know I’m going to be counted on for big offensive numbers and leadership with the Rockets this year,” continues Blake who roomed with Shea Weber and Troy Bodie in Kelowna when he wasn’t cavorting around this summer. “I’m really excited about our team this year. We have lots of depth. It’s good seeing the guys again and we’re all looking forward to the season.”