CENTENNIAL, Colo.--For nearly 12 hours a day, it's all about hockey and picking up the skills to help make it to the NHL. That is what the first few days have been like for Colorado Avalanche prospects at the team's annual development camp.
"Take it hour by hour here. They're long days, so you got to survive each hour and stick together and have some fun," said forward Travis Barron, a veteran in his third development camp. "We're going to have lunch and then I think go to a spin class."
The Avs prospects wrapped up the second day of on-ice work early Saturday afternoon at Family Sports Center with much of the same stuff they did the previous day in the A.M. session: an hour and a half on the ice doing skill work and power skating. They also had a gym workout and a nutrition class.
After having three on-ice sessions in a matter of 36 hours, the players received a bit of a reprieve from the cold air of the rink later in the day on Saturday. They had a spinning class in the afternoon to learn about different heart rate levels--and get another workout in.
All three afternoon sessions are a bit different during the three days of on-ice activities. Friday featured a practice that was directed by Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar and assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Nolan Pratt, and Sunday will include a 3-on-3 game in Fort Collins.
Through it all, the message to the players has been clear and consistent. The Colorado staff wants them to work hard and get ready to play fast.
"It's been really up tempo and more about getting things quick," said Josh Dickinson, who signed with the Avs as a college free agent on April 5. "Moving your feet quick and getting the puck out quick. Just the determination to win. Making it a winning culture, and that is what I've noticed the first couple of days."
Not every player at development camp is in the same spot with their offseason training. Some of them last played games in March or April, while others' seasons just wrapped up.
In Barron's case, he was playing competitive hockey three weeks ago with the Colorado Eagles, helping the team to back-to-back ECHL Kelly Cup titles.
"For myself, it's a quick turnaround. I got home 10 days ago, and now I'm flying back here," said Barron, who is from Brampton, Ontario, and had played for the Ottawa 67's before turning pro. "I'm sort of still in game shape, but not really. I'm here to be a leader and work hard. The other guys here are working hard. We're having fun. That is what it's all about here, having fun and learning."
Video: Barron on being at development camp
The Avs have four goaltenders at the summer camp, and none of them are from North America. Newly-drafted keeper Justus Annunen guarded pipes in Finland's junior leagues, Petr Kvaca was in the second-tier pro circuit in the Czech Republic, Adam Werner was the No. 1 for Bjorkloven in the Swedish Allsvenskan and recently-signed Pavel Francouz was one of the best goalies in Russia's KHL while also competing at the Olympics and World Championship for the Czechs.
With this year's goalie crop so spread out across the Atlantic in Europe, the June camp is a great time for them to reconnect on the ice with Avalanche goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila and AHL goalie coach Jean-Ian Filiatrault.
"It's great. It's the small things we work out," Werner said. "I was over here and played some games in the AHL at the end of the season. We have a few things to work with, so it's perfect."
After playing in 47 regular-season games and five postseason contests with Bjorkloven, Werner traveled to the United States following his Swedish campaign to get his first taste of pro hockey on this side of the pond. He appeared in four contests with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League, posting a 2-1-0 record.
"It's a smaller rink, so it's so much faster. You need to make a great save every time," said Werner, who plays on ice sheets 15 feet wider in Sweden. "If you leave a bad rebound, they score. All around, rebounds and tips and stuff like that. It's so much fun here."
Like Barron, Werner's stint of pro hockey was to show him first-hand what it takes to be successful in the North American leagues.
That is really what development camp is all about: helping the players get to the next level. No matter what level that is.