Drayson Bowman, eager to get started, made the 28-hour drive from Denver early last week.
For Zac Dalpe, it was a shorter haul. His drive from Paris, Ontario, took about 13 hours.
Bowman and Dalpe were among the Carolina Hurricanes players who arrived in Raleigh for the beginning of the informal workouts that lead up to the Canes' preseason training camp. The past week was filled with strenuous off-ice workouts orchestrated by head trainer Pete Friesen at the Athletic Performance Center, then skating sessions at Raleigh Center Ice.
"It shows a lot that we're here, that we're willing to come in early and cut our summer short," Dalpe said. "I think this time of year is important for everybody, especially the young guys."
Bowman, 22, and Dalpe, 21, are aware the Hurricanes -- barring a late trade or free-agent acquisition -- should have an opening among the top nine forwards. It could fuel an interesting training camp competition, bringing Jiri Tlusty, Zach Boychuk, Pat Dwyer, Jon Matsumoto and others into the mix.
"This is a critical year for me," Bowman said. "I'm going to be as ready as I can be. I don't think you can do what you do here by yourself at home."
Bowman and Dalpe made the Canes' roster for the season-opening trip to Finland last year but spent most of the year playing for the Charlotte Checkers, Carolina's American Hockey League affiliate. Boychuk, the Canes' first-round draft pick in 2008, began the season in Charlotte.
Boychuk, 21, did not get to Raleigh until just before training camp began last year and later said a delayed arrival may have hurt his chances of making the team. He plans to join Friesen's workouts this week.
Friesen, an energetic type, has not gone easy on the players, at APC or Raleigh Center Ice. On Friday, there was a 75-minute off-ice workout before the 45-minute skate.
"The cardio kicks in now. You might work on your cardio during the summer, but it's not Pete Friesen cardio," Dalpe said, smiling.
Forward Chad LaRose, goaltender Cam Ward and defenseman Bryan Allen were among the players directing the workouts last week. Most of the Canes' veteran players have not returned.
"It's all about coming in and getting comfortable and getting situated," Dalpe said. Matsumoto, 24, stayed in Raleigh this summer and worked out at the APC in North Raleigh daily. But it was a little different last week when Friesen took over and the skates began.
"The workouts I can handle fine, but then you throw a skate on right after it ... That's a little bit more intense, a little tougher on the hips, the calves and the legs," he said.
Dalpe, who can be used at center or wing, played 15 games with the Canes last season but the last was in mid-February. He had a productive season in Charlotte and a strong showing in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Bowman played 23 games for the Canes -- eight at the start of the regular season and then 15 at the end. The left wing dressed for several games with strong postseason implications, although the Hurricanes came up one victory short of reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bowman then rejoined the Checkers for the AHL playoffs. Again, it was a valuable experience.
But Bowman doesn't want more AHL experience. He wants to stick in the NHL.
"I cannot express in words how much I don't want to go back there," Bowman said of the AHL. "But I think that's everybody's goal. Everybody wants to be here.
"Having gone through the playoff push (with the Canes) last year, I gained quite a bit of ice time, and I think I'm ready to make the next step where I'm not just being a defensive, responsible kind of guy but hopefully contribute to the offense a little bit and start to be an all-around player. I think I'm at that point and hopefully I can show that in training camp."
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