After Breakout Year, Holmström Excited for Normal SeasonSep 19, 2022
By Cory Wright | @Wrightsway
Saturday morning was another routine rookie camp practice for Simon Holmström.
The Islanders 2019 first-round pick was on the ice at 8:30 a.m. skating with the rest of his campmates, taking pointers from skills coaches like Johnny Boychuk and skating coach Diane Craig. Afterwards, he took questions from the media around his locker stall at Northwell Health Ice Center, worked out and carried on with his day.
All in all, the first three days of rookie camp have been normal, but that's pretty refreshing after the past two-and-a-half years have been anything but.
"It's great. I don't think [the last two years] was what anyone expected," Holmström said. "I come in at 18 and have two or three years [affected by] COVID. It's good to have my first normal year."
To recap, Holmström arrived in Bridgeport as an 18-year-old for the 2019-20 season, making him one of the youngest players in the league. His rookie year was cut short due to the pandemic and his second American Hockey League season was an abbreviated 24-game campaign, though Swede played part of the year for HC Vita Hästen in Sweden's Allsvenskan league.
Last year was closer to normal, as Holmström and the Bridgeport Islanders played a full schedule with some COVID-19 precautions. The result was a breakout year, with Holmström recording 43 points (12G, 31A) in 68 games, nearly double the 22 points (12G, 10A) he had in 70 games over his first two seasons. The winger had 23 points (6G, 17A) in the final 24 games of the regular season and added four points (3G, 1A) in six playoff games.
"Mostly it's the confidence to believe in myself and what I can do out there," Holmström said. "And just getting stronger, more used to the North American way to play as well, which I think has been awesome for me. I showed that in the last half of the season as well."
Aatu Räty, the Islanders' 2021 second round pick, joined Bridgeport at the end of the season and playoff run. He had praise for Holmström's game after seeing it close up.
"Just an effortless skater who moves so well," Räty said. "Super skilled. He's big, I feel like he's getting stronger every day. He's going to be good in the corners this year. A good shot, he absolutely rips it. Really a complete player, he played PK in Bridgeport last year, so he's going to be good defensively too."
Holmström had to adjust to a more physical brand of hockey after coming to North America, as well as a smaller rink. He was one of the youngest players in the league when he arrived in 2019, so there was a learning curve off the ice as well, picking up regular life skills while living far away from home. While he had some veteran roommates – like Grant Hutton - help show him the ropes, Holmström is more comfortable than he's ever been entering his fourth year in North America,
"It's been a lot better," Holmström said. "Language, how to get around and what to do and all that it's been very enjoyable for me."
While Holmström skated at both the 2020 and 2021 training camps, a return to normalcy means having a dedicated rookie camp for the first time since 2019. Holmström has obviously come a long way since then and is looking to make an impression on Islanders’ brass when training camp opens next week.
"I just want to show everyone how much I've improved," Holmström said. "My goal is to take a spot in the NHL of course, that's what I'm here to do. I'm just here ready to go and hoping for the best."