Sound Tigers Focused on the present
BRIDGEPORT — He was an AHL all-star last season, shook off some early ups and downs to put together a solid rookie year on defense for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Now Mitch Vande Sompel wants to forget about all that.
“That’s in the past. The only thing that matters is the future, the present,” Vande Sompel said. “You want to come in, have a good start, control what you can control.”
One of a trio of rookie defensemen who played regularly for the Sound Tigers last season, Vande Sompel came out of junior hockey as a well-regarded prospect, a third-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2015.
“For me it was just a big learning experience, just learning every day I have to come in ready to work. It’s your job now,” Vande Sompel said. “That’s the biggest thing I took away, the preparation that goes into being a professional hockey player.”
Late in this year’s season-opening loss at Lehigh Valley on Saturday, Vande Sompel had a goal and an assist on the same shift. He got credit for an assist in front of the net in Bridgeport’s win at Hershey on Sunday.
“His shot, his confidence in shooting the puck, putting it to the net, he got rewarded with scoring a goal in Lehigh,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “He seems to be a bit more confident with the puck this year. I like the way he skates. His pace is good. He’s a strong kid.
“What’s going to separate him and make him a great defenseman is really being defensively solid. His offensive instincts will naturally take over, especially with his time on the power play.”
It’s not just Vande Sompel who’s working on his defense, Thompson stressed.
“Puck-skill drills, we do shooting drills, footwork drills, small-area footwork drills where we don’t want our D to have crossovers in those tight-area battles,” Thompson said. “Teaching kids how to use their stick in defensive situations.”
Thompson put Vande Sompel together with veteran Seth Helgeson in early November last season. They’ve stuck together ever since when Vande Sompel has been in the lineup, and they began the season together again.
“Big brother,” Vande Sompel said. “He’s awesome. I can’t say enough good things about him. I love playing with him, too.”
FRITZ BACK: The Islanders sent forward Tanner Fritz to Bridgeport on Thursday morning with Andrew Ladd nearing a return from injury. Fritz scored 38 points in 35 games for the Sound Tigers last season.
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