Matt Martin knows his new Entry Level contract means he can start his pro career in the AHL instead of playing an over-qualified, overage year back in Sarnia. But that’s not his goal when training camp opens in Saskatoon over the weekend. The tough 6-2 forward is looking to win a job in the NHL.
“I have to approach it that way, aim as high as I can,” Martin said when I called to congratulate him on his first NHL deal. “I’m going in with every intention of battling for a spot on the Islanders.”
Martin, the 2008th fifth round pick who has emerged as a strong prospect with Nystrom-Scatchard intangibles to go along with decent skill, followed the Islanders every day while with Sarnia of the Ontario League. Confident in himself without being cocky or delusional, he believes there is an opening.
“I’ve noticed we didn’t add a lot of size guys or power forwards over the offseason,” Martin said. “Maybe management did it because they like the guys they already had on the roster. I’d like to think I’m part of that mix. Now it’s up to me to actually prove it on the ice.”
He despised talking abut his protracted negotiations with the Islanders over the last year. From his friendly refusal to discuss them after a deal was finalized, it was clear 1. The process was an at times painful learning experience, 2. He didn’t get close to everything he asked for (hey, that’s business) and 3. He’s moving forward. “It’s nothing personal with me and the team,” he said. “Now the focus is completely on hockey.”
The contract was finalized because Martin was not going to enter camp with business hanging over his head. He completed the Sarnia trio over the weekend, joining Sting teammates and Islanders prospects Justin DiBenedetto and Mark Katic on the Island for workouts. “I’ll live with my friends and get a good week of skating in with all the guys before we leave for camp,” he said. “I’ll be ready.”