Jaccob Slavin has had plenty of room to stretch out in the locker room at Raleigh Center Ice this month.
With several weeks left until the beginning of Carolina Hurricanes training camp, Slavin, teammate Cam Ward and prospect Trevor Carrick have spent August as the lone Hurricanes at the team’s practice facility.
On Wednesday, the trio and assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour had the entire facility to themselves as they worked almost exclusively on offensive (and, in Ward’s case, goaltending) drills. And it’s been this way for weeks.
“It’s definitely a big help,” Slavin said about the extra-early training. “I’m just getting back into the swing of things with a few guys.”
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Except for a six-week trip to visit family, Slavin has spent his offseason in Raleigh, working out with assistant strength and conditioning coach Bill Burniston and taking the ice several times a week with Ward and Carrick.
“I’ve put on a little bit more weight,” Slavin said, adding that it was just a few pounds. “Obviously I still want to stay quick and fast but just have a bigger body so I don’t get pushed around as much out there.”
The 22-year-old defenseman has already set a high bar with his 2015-16 rookie season. Slavin tallied 20 points, led the Canes in blocked shots per game and evolved from an AHL call-up in November into one of the team’s most reliable and trusted players in the spring.
But the presence of several prospect defensemen who will be vying for NHL spots of their own, including Carrick, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown, has prevented Slavin from becoming complacent.
“I’ve still got to go out there and prove that I deserve a spot on this team,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of talented guys on this team and each year you’ve got to earn your spot again, so that definitely motivates me.”
Considering his success as a rookie, however, Slavin knows he’ll be called on to offer advice to this year’s crop of first-year professionals at training camp next month.
In the meantime, he’s enjoyed getting to better know Carrick, whom he played alongside for 14 games in Charlotte last season.
“It’s fun working out with him, fun skating with him,” Slavin said. “He definitely brings a lot of character and happiness ... to the group so he’s definitely a fun guy to have around.”
The trio’s days of enjoying the empty rink at Raleigh Center Ice are numbered, though. Slavin expects the rest of the Canes to start pouring into Raleigh around Labor Day, with this year’s training camp — pushed back by the World Cup of Hockey — starting in mid-September.
That change will be much welcomed by the man itching to resume his rapidly ascending NHL career.
“Ward and I were talking today, we just can’t wait for hockey to get started again. We’re tired of working out all the time,” Slavin said, chuckling.