In his first camp as an NHL draftee, Ryan Collins doesn't have "too many expectations,” but he plans to keep developing and take what he learns in Columbus into his NCAA career at the University of Minnesota.
His approach at development camp? Soak everything in and learn what he can from the numerous mentors and coaches that he has access to all week.
“I’m just trying to be a sponge and take it all in,” Collins, the Jackets' second-round pick in 2014, said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of learning going on, even in the workouts and the skates, there’s something to learn in those. You see the veterans, the second or third year guys, kind of have a different goal, as I will next year.
"But, right now I’m just trying to take it all in and do as much as I can to apply it to my year this year at Minnesota.”
The on and off-ice workouts that are part of an NHL development camp aren't too unlike those he took part at the United States National Team Development Program; while in Ann Arbor, USA Hockey's top young players endure training programs geared to get them ready for the next levels of hockey - whether it's NCAA, major junior, or the NHL.
“I think the physical aspect, they kind of had it all covered at the (USNDTP) -- the endurance and the mental side of training," Collins said. "Being away and training a lot all season and getting used to that grind really helped me get ready for this camp. The camp is built around educating you around different parts of a pro career, and getting used to what it takes physically to make this team.”
Collins, along with Minnesota teammate and fellow Blue Jackets prospect Mike Reilly, arrived in Columbus a day late because of class commitments, but once they got in Monday night, it was a quick turnaround to get acclimated and ready to go for practice on Tuesday morning.
Both were already very familiar with Seth Ambroz, who will be their Gopher teammate this fall. And to add a little more continuity between the group and Collins, Sonny Milano was also a teammate of Collins before getting drafted as they competed in the USNDTP.
“It’s great to have them (here)," Collins said. "Mike had to stay back for class on Monday too, so I was skating with him on Monday morning talking about camp and he was kind of getting me oriented and letting me know what to expect. Having Sonny here is great, I spent two years with him and I’m very close with him, so it’ll be fun to continue that relationship.”
One of the first things people notice about Collins is his height; he's a towering 6-foot-5 (without skates) and still has some growing to do. Collins wants to add some weight in the next few years, but he also wants to make sure he does it the right way.
“Everyone says I keep getting bigger every time I see them, but I’m definitely slowing down (growing) a lot,” Collins said. “As far as weight goes, I’m at about 205 right now and in the long run I expect to see myself at 225. You don’t want to put on the wrong kind of weight; you want to make sure it’s weight that’s making you faster and quicker.”
Collins has an interesting scenario in front of him, as he will play for the Gophers in the Big Ten Conference, where he will certainly find himself facing the Buckeyes in Columbus at least twice a year.
“My experiences in Ann Arbor were really great. With it being a university town, I got to see the atmosphere and the football games — it’s pretty rowdy around there on football days, and I expect it to be the same around here,” Collins said. “Obviously Ohio State is big in their football, and it’ll be exciting to see that atmosphere, especially to come down and be close to Columbus when we play Ohio State in the Big Ten.”
Collins said that while he is preparing to start his collegiate hockey career and his path towards the NHL, he does have a few things to work on in addition to getting physically stronger.
“I tried to really define my game towards the end of the year last year, and I just want to keep improving on that. Skating and getting stronger is something that I personally really need to work on,” Collins said. “I expect that they want me to keep developing as a player, and focusing on fitting into a role and earning my ice time.
“I think I definitely want to try and improve offensively, but I like to say you work on your strengths maybe 75 percent of the time. (Being) a defensive defenseman is always going to be something that’s my priority. I do want to continue my offensive game and try to contribute to that part of the ice.”