Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour had one basic directive for the team’s prospects at development camp this week.
When the prospects left, after four days around the coaches and staff, Brind’Amour wanted them to have an understanding, as he put it, “Of what it takes to be a pro and be a Hurricane.”
And what does “being a Hurricane” mean?
“The way he stated it to us in our meeting, it’s just competing,” said forward Ryan Suzuki, the Canes’ first-round draft pick this year. “It’s competing and working hard. That’s the only way you can get better. I think that’s what they want as a staple of the organization, being the hardest-working team all the time.”
Suzuki was winding down Friday after a strenuous on-ice practice session. Standing by his stall in the PNC Arena locker room, he glanced up at what’s written in big, bold letters: “Earn It Together.”
“That’s the biggest thing,” Suzuki said with a nod of the head. “When you step in here you can tell that the atmosphere here is hard work all the time.”
The Canes had missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for nine straight years until this past season, when Brind’Amour took over as coach and there was a mindset and attitude adjustment. More was expected from each player. Standards were raised.
The Hurricanes won, together. They worked, together. They didn’t just break through and reach the playoffs but reached the Eastern Conference finals, the NHL version of the final four.
The 26 players at the prospects camp were given black T-shirts with a silver outline of the Stanley Cup on the backs. On it: “Compete, Care, Consistent, Culture, Championship.”
Those are the tenets that Brind’Amour emphasizes, of what he will ask of anyone who wants to play for the Hurricanes -- now or in the future.
“When they leave here they have to have some sort of awareness of what we expect,” Brind’Amour said Friday. “It’s up to them. It’s not OK to just go out and score some goals and you’re a good player. There’s a certain type of player we want you to be.
“Obviously we want you to do all those things but there’s another element they have to bring in order to be successful. And not just here but in the NHL in general. There’s a whole ‘nother level you have to get to and that means committing to a lot of things, not just on the ice that everybody sees but how you prepare and the time you take to prepare.”
Brind’Amour wasn’t the only one talking to the prospects. Tim Gleason, who heads up the Canes’ defenseman development, also had a few impactful words to say to the group.
“He said what got him in the league was a little bit of skill but said what kept him in the league all those years was hard work,” Suzuki said. “I think that’s important. Every player in the league has skill. But what sets you apart is how hard you work and how well you compete. That’s what I’ll take back this summer.”
As Gleason said Saturday: “It’s a simple message, if you show up and work hard you’ll be successful.”
Jamieson Rees was taken in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Canes. A forward with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, he doesn’t have great size at 5-11 and 172 pounds but isn’t lacking in other areas.
Rees, a Hamilton, Ont., native, is fast on his skates and has a reputation for being tough and feisty. That gets him in trouble at times -- he had an eight-game suspension last season -- but it’s his style of play and what he believes the Canes want.
“I play with a very high compete,” Rees said Friday. “I like to play physical, like to make hits and bring a lot of energy to my team. I would say that’s how I play.”
Rees suffered a lacerated kidney last season after taking a crosscheck in the back, missing two months, but returned to the lineup for the Sting. Some of his best play came in April for Team Canada in the Under-18 World Championship in Sweden, where he had eight points in seven games -- and 18 penalty minutes -- on a team that included Suzuki.
The Canes’ development camp concluded Saturday with the Prospects Game at the annual Summerfest Celebration at PNC Arena, the players leaving Raleigh having gotten an indoctrination on what it “takes to be a Hurricane.”
“Their style of play is the way that I play,” Rees said. “I think it’s an amazing fit for me.”