The Blue Jackets' 2015 training camp roster features a mix of young, talented prospects, recent NHL breakout players and seasoned veterans.
While their ages, skill levels and playing experiences all vary, every player at camp has one thing in common: they all want to play for the Blue Jackets on Oct. 9.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said that this year, more so than in previous years, the competition at camp is what he’s looking forward to the most.
“I think that’s the part that I wait for the most for this training camp is the competition,” Kekalainen said. “I think the competition’s going to be really hard. I think it’s great, and that’s what a good training camp’s all about: that everybody feels that they have to bring their best performance every day to compete for a job.”
Whether training at rinks near in respective hometowns with other hockey players or working out with personal trainers, all of the players have spent the last few months gearing up for camp in different ways.
John Davidson, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, said it doesn’t matter where the players skate during the offseason as long as they’re doing it properly, but believes those who stayed in Columbus had a distinct advantage.
“It’s nice to see players, especially young ones, come in and train together,” Davidson said. “You get to know each other and you're pushing each other, and then on top of it, they’re your teammates, the ones you’ll be in the fox holes with. To see them grow together in that respect is a good thing.”
“We have a great facility for the players to work out in and some players choose to do otherwise," Kekalainen added. "There’s no one real right answer – everybody can do whatever they want to do to best prepare to be on the next level of their profession.”
BLUE JACKETS TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
As the summer wore on, players slowly made their way back to Columbus and began training together in anticipation for camp. One of those players is Scott Hartnell, who will be going into his 15th NHL season and second with the Blue Jackets.
“It seems like the summer took forever to pass by, and especially being here for a few weeks, it seemed like forever that this day would come, but now it’s here,” Hartnell said.
Hartnell has been through his fair share of training camps, but said he still gets anxious for the first day back on the ice.
“I still get nervous,” Hartnell said. “I still get excited. I love this game.”
Being a veteran, Hartnell said he has changed his offseason training over the last summer and continued with that routine this summer.
“I feel healthier than I have probably the previous four or five years,” Hartnell said. “It’s all about making my body feel good and feel mobile. Instead of being the strongest guy at training camp, I want to be fast. It’s a fast game, you've got to be able to skate and keep up with these young guys, so it’s a lot about getting quicker and faster and just being able to skate.”
One of those young guys is Alexander Wennberg, a regular line mate last season (whom Hartnell jokingly referred to as one of his kids) who he kept in touch with over the summer though Snapchat and text messages.
There's a real competitive feel to this camp, and that's exactly how management and the coaching staff want it.
“When we’re talking about the winning culture, it’s a good thing to win and to win consistently in that (Traverse City) tournament against the best competition in that league," Kekalainen said. "More importantly, I think that we have some really good prospects coming here and pushing the veterans for the jobs, and I see it as a real exciting part of this process that those guys are getting better every day.”