Getting your name called at the NHL Draft is a goal all hockey players set out to accomplish, yet is a dream that rarely becomes a reality. But for 18-year-old Isaiah George, he got to live out that dream when the New York Islanders selected him in the fourth round (98th overall) at the 2022 NHL Draft up in Montreal.
Moments after being selected, Isaiah George faced the media for the first time, and the smile on his face was infectious to the point where it’s memberable months later.
In an exclusive interview with NYI Hockey Now, Isaiah George took us through his day, his return home, what he focused on this offseason as well as his thoughts on the first two days of development camp.
“It’s just like a lot of excitement being there in Montreal,” George said. “Just a surreal experience…”
Following his media availability, Isaiah George had more on his to-do list.
“Just a little bit of waiting and then we took pictures,” George said. “And then after that the pictures I went up to the box, the New York Islanders box, to watch the rest of the draft. Saw a couple of my buddies still waiting [to get drafted] and then after that went back to the hotel room and spent some time with my family and my other teammates that were down here [Montreal].”
Seeing his parents for the first time after being drafted was a moment Isaiah will never forget.
“Especially just all the sacrifices they made to help me get to this point, so…to reach that milestone and come that close to being in the NHL was great…just to see the excitement on their face.”
Just because Isaiah George had achieved a tremendous accomplishment did not mean it was time to relax. If anything, it pushed him to get to work immediately upon returning home to Oakville, Ontario.
“Yeah, it’s [being drafted] definitely like an extra push of motivation,” George said. “So I was just back in the gym the day after, the day after I got home, and then just continued what I was working on prior to the draft.”
At the draft, George said that he wanted to focus on being more of a complete player. What has stood out during his junior career with the London Knights was his impressive skating and his defensive game.
But he wants to focus on providing more offense.
In 67 games with the London Knights in 2021-22, George notched six goals with 17 assists (23 points).
“I think I really wanted to become a two-way defenseman,” George said at the NHL Draft. “I think my defensive game is definitely my strong point at this stage in my hockey career. I think the offense is continuing to grow and I think it’s gotten better even this season.”
George said on Friday that it is important to him that he becomes a player that can be relied upon in all situations.
Over the first two days at camp, Isaiah has really enjoyed himself.
“Yeah, it’s been great. It seems like a great city,” George shared. “And then obviously the facilities, the coaching staff and the players that are a part of the organization are awesome.”
“I think it’s a great team to be a part of.”
For a young player at his first development camp, nerves certainly play a part. But Isaiah shared that the way the Islanders have run development camp has helped settle those initial nerves.
“When I came here, it felt like I was a warm welcome,” George said. “So I definitely feel a lot more comfortable than the days leading up to it [camp] and then once I was out on the ice, it’s just hockey. So just being confident in my skills and abilities.”
Another New York Islanders 2022 draft pick, forward Matthew Maggio, weighed in on Isaiah George, as the two were rivals in the OHL, with Maggio, a member of the Windsor Spitfires.
“He actually hurt me midway through the year. He sprained my wrist,” shared Maggio. “It was a legal hit. It was my bad. Just on the follow-through, he clipped my wrist, but it’s funny to get to see him.”
Someone owes someone dinner.
But Maggio went onto praise George for the player he is.
“When I talked to teams during the [draft] interview processes, and they asked who was the hardest guy to play against, I said him a few times,” Maggio said. “So I think just his skating makes him such an elite defensive threat and trying to get around him was definitely was tough all year.”
Following development camp, Isaiah George is heading back to London, Ontario for his senior season with the Knights. After that, it’s likely onto Bridgeport.
From his maturity level and elite skills at such a young age, George could be a diamond in the rough for the New York Islanders down the road.