A year ago, defensemen Philip Samuelsson and Patrick Wey made the journey to Lake Placid, N.Y., to compete for spots on the 2010 U.S. World Junior Championship team.
They came up short in their quest, and instead watched from afar as the players they competed with memorably won gold in Saskatoon.
This August, the pair was back again and had a far better showing, surviving the first round of cuts.
"I already made it a little farther than I did last year, so that's a good step," Wey told NHL.com.
Wey, a 6-foot-3, 203-pounder taken by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round of the 2009 Entry Draft, arrived in Lake Placid a few months after scoring 34 points in 58 games for Waterloo of the USHL. He admits now he was not prepared for the level of play at the camp.
"Last year was a big eye opener for me," Wey said. "I had had a pretty good year in Waterloo and I was pretty excited about going to Boston College, and then coming in here and seeing the speed and the talent was a really big eye opener."
Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 second-round pick, also was overwhelmed by the speed of the players assembled last year.
"Coming in here last year I was little bit over my head with the competition that was here at the camp," he told NHL.com. "It was a good pace of hockey and there were a lot of talented players out there. For me, it was tough to adjust to the pace of the game. That was something I struggled with last year."
He had scored 22 points in 54 games for Fargo of the USHL, but he could accept he just wasn't good enough -- then.
Rather than sulk, both players moved on to Boston College and raised their individual levels of play, as well as their team's. Samuelsson had 14 points in 42 games to help BC win Beanpot, Hockey East and NCAA titles.
"Winning the national championship and the Beanpot and Hockey East was great success and hopefully something we can try to do this year again," Samuelsson said. "Personally I think I had a great year. I didn't know what to expect coming in and I stepped in and played every night. I was able to fight for my ice time and prove I could play at that level of hockey."
Wey had a bit of a harder time, as a number of injuries -- including a broken wrist, a concussion and a bout with mononucleosis diagnosed the week the NCAA Tournament started -- limited him to just 5 points in 27 games.
However, both players feel they grew from their college experience and it benefitted them at this year's national junior evaluation camp.
"I think I've definitely progressed in all aspects of the game," Samuelsson said. "My skating definitely has improved. Coming in here last year I was little bit over my head with the competition that was here at the camp. This year I was a bit more prepared and knew what to expect coming in. It's a great experience for me so far to be here."
Samuelsson didn't have any points in the two international exhibition games he played, but those watching noticed marked improvement.
"Against the Swedes there the first couple shifts he didn't look like he was quite ready for the pace and he adjusted; last year I'm not sure he would have been able to adjust on the fly," Penguins Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Randy Sexton told NHL.com. "Two shifts and he made an adjustment and I thought he had a really steady game against a good Swedish team. Part of it is maturity, part of it is experience. He's stronger physically but the level of mental preparation is better."
Wey also feels better about his chances looking forward to Buffalo and the 2011 U.S. WJC team thanks in part to his performance at the Capitals' prospect camp earlier this summer.
"I felt like I had more confidence and was just more comfortable with the process," Wey said. "It wasn't someplace where I was completely in awe of the players. … I think they (coaches) helped me focus on what my role should be moving forward, and developing that as a defensive defenseman."
Capitals coaches also are happy with Wey's development.
"He looks so much more comfortable out there," Washington assistant coach Bob Woods told CSNWashington.com. "I think that first year is always the unexpected and you can tell guys are nervous. Now he's been here and he knows our system and has been through it before. Everything is coming a little more natural and he can just play. He is showing that, and you can tell he is developing and maturing as a young guy. I think he's only going to get better."
Like last year, Samuelsson and Wey plan on using the Lake Placid summer camp as a springboard to their season at BC. This year, however, they plan on making a 10-day stopover in Buffalo.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org