For the prospects at the Carolina Hurricanes’ development camp, the first day is as much as about endurance as hockey skills.
The prospects rose Wednesday at 6 a.m. They went through medical testing, then intense fitness testing. The camp newbies took a trip to the grocery store for tips on selecting the most nutritional foods. Some of it later was cooked by the “veteran” players who have been at camp before — defenseman Haydn Fleury, for example, who is at his third development camp.
Finally, the prospects took the ice late in the afternoon at PNC Arena for some fast-paced drills supervised by Canes coach Bill Peters and his staff along witha couple of new hires: Charlotte Checkers head coach Ulf Samuelsson and goaltending consultant Curtis Joseph.
“It was a long day but very educational and very good,” goalie Alex Nedeljkovic said. “It was a good way to start the week.”
It was the first time on the PNC Arena ice for defenseman Jake Bean, the 13th overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by Carolina, and for forward Julien Gauthier, taken 21st in the first round by the Canes.
First impressions? While Bean likely will need to add size to his 6-foot-1, 173-pound frame to play at the NHL level, Gauthier likely will not. He’s listed at 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, and has a strong, sturdy build.
“Size, skill, strength, and fitness testing off the charts,” Canes coach Bill Peters said of Gauthier, who scored 41 goals last year for Val-d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “Now it’s a matter of continuing to grow.”
That’s the case for the 27 prospects in camp. The Canes want each to learn something that will help them, things they can continue to work on in the summer, but also to get a good feel for the “culture” surrounding the Hurricanes franchise and organization and what’s to be expected of them as part of it.
“We want to make sure they have the imprint of the DNA of the Carolina Hurricanes when they leave here,” Peters said.
Peters smiled and shook his head when asked if anyone caught his eye Wednesday, saying, “They were flying past me so quick it was hard telling who is who.”
But Peters knows No. 4, Fleury. He was the seventh pick of the 2014 draft and would like to parlay another strong development camp into a good showing at the 2016 Traverse City (Mich.) rookie tournament in September, then in the Canes’ preseason training camp.
“It’s a process,” Fleury said. “Some guys can be hard on themselves. I just want to work hard and try to get better each day.”
Fleury, after a productive year at Red Deer in the Western Hockey League, would like to earn a spot on the Canes roster this season, joining Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, a defensive threesome who all played well as NHL rookies last season.
Fleury’s maturity showed during Wednesday’s drills as he looked both more mature and smoother in handling the drills, which caused confusion for some of the first-timers. And Peters probably blew the whistle to end the workout at the right time, as the players were beginning to show fatigue.
“I was really impressed with the overall quickness, size and the hockey sense of that group,” Peters said. “It was very good.”