The Colorado Avalanche officially wrapped up its week-long development camp today, as 29 players headed back to their respective clubs to prepare for the upcoming season.
This year’s camp boasted a record number of participants, from both player and staff standpoints, and included on-ice elements such as power-skating and skill instruction while also providing lessons on nutrition, conditioning and professionalism.
“We’ve got a great staff and the resources we’re providing for our kids to develop under are first class,” said Avalanche Vice President of Hockey Operations Craig Billington
. “We want to make sure we do everything possible to give them that environment, resources and support, and do it in a non-pressure environment. This isn’t a tryout time. This is about education and information.”
That last sentiment is something Billington hammered home all week. The former NHL netminder stresses that, although the players are evaluated 365 days a year, Colorado’s development camp is about as “stress-free” an environment as they will encounter in their hockey careers.
The goal of the camp is not to make a roster. The goal is to help the young prospects improve upon their current skill sets while also giving them an avenue for future success.
Looking at the roster for this year’s camp, it’s evident that the players who took part are at vastly diverse stages in their respective developmental curves. Players such as David Jones
and T.J. Hensick, who both spent significant time at the NHL level with the Avalanche this past season, are understandably at different points in their career than some of the 18-year-old players who were selected last month at the NHL draft.
Regardless, Billington has found ways to make the camp relevant to each and every athlete.
“I think what we’ve done is combine group lecture structure with individual meeting time and then specifically diagnosing them both on and off the ice,” said Billington. “By the time they leave here they know themselves very well and we know them very well, and we get them onto a road map to help them succeed.”
Billington also manages to keep things at the camp fresh, so even the “savvy development camp veterans,” including Jones and Hensick (both in their third go-round), can take something new out of each appearance at the event.
“I think most importantly it’s good to get on the ice with these new guys. A lot of guys take some time off in the summer so it’s good to get back on the ice and get the rust off,” said Jones. “I’ve seen some of the stuff here at camp before, but you can always pick up new things.”
Some of the most important – and often overlooked – aspects of an athlete’s level of success involve taking care of themselves correctly off the ice. Learning how to properly train your body, in-season and out of season, requires a combination of training techniques and nutritional knowledge. Netminder Kent Patterson
, who was attending his first camp, was quick to praise the organization’s commitment to teaching those lessons.
It’s a great opportunity to get a bunch of feedback you don’t normally get on an every day basis.” - Kent Patterson
“On the second day we had a physiology of exercise presentation and we learned a whole lot about how you should workout throughout the year and how to take care of your body,” said Patterson. “We’ve also learned a lot about nutrition in our fitness meetings, so I know what I need to improve there. It’s a great opportunity to get a bunch of feedback you don’t normally get on an every day basis.”
Defenseman Nigel Williams echoed Patterson’s thoughts, expressing how he was both surprised and impressed with the variety and wealth of information provided this week.
“We learned a lot of stuff you wouldn’t expect. We learned a bunch about nutrition and how to improve our summer training,” said Williams. “On the ice, we picked up a few skills in power-skating; different ways to use our edges and ways to control our bodies. Everything they taught us can only help make us better players.”