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Prospects Create, Strengthen Bonds at Development Camp

by Michael Schwartz / Columbus Blue Jackets

As the week-long development camp concluded on Saturday (June 30), Blue Jackets' prospects left more conditioned and with a better understanding of how Head Coach Ken Hitchcock and his staff run their team.

Though many may think those are the most important components of the camp, players walked away with some intangible products as well, goods that cannot be attained during drills.

"You build friendships here. I think that's why these camps are so good," said defenseman Kris Russell, a third-round pick in the 2005 draft. "This is the future of the Columbus Blue Jackets and we see each other two to three times a year. You're going to bond with each other and get closer - it's fun to see these guys again."

While some prospects only see each other during the annual camps, Russell and some others have a slight advantage. Playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League last season, he had the opportunity to play alongside forwards Derek Dorsett and Matt Marquardt. Russell feels the relationships with his yearlong teammates give him a comfort zone come time for camp.

"Knowing guys, it's always a little easier," said Russell. "If you're more comfortable with the surroundings, you’re going to feel more comfortable on the ice and in the workout gym. I think we know a lot of these guys, and if you don't, you get introduced to them pretty quick."

Jared Boll finds himself in a similar situation as Russell. Now in his third camp with the Jackets, he has been able to develop strong connections with the many of the prospects, especially Tom Sestito, his teammate from Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League.

"I've been here the past three years, so I've gotten to know some of the guys pretty closely," Jared Boll said. "Tommy (Sestito) is a great guy, great player, and it's good to have him here. We were with each other all year so it is like the season never ended. It's a lot of fun."

Of course, not all prospects are fortunate enough to come with a teammate. For those players, including last weekend's second-round choice Will Weber, the camp provides an opportunity to meet future teammates – not just for Columbus. Weber developed an instant bond with Trent Vogelhuber, the Blue Jackets' seventh-round pick in this year's draft. Both will attend the University of Miami of Ohio.

"All of the guys are really nice," said Weber. "Trent is going to Miami too, so we've connected. He's a great kid and it's a lot of fun to hang out with all of them."

Some prospects happen to be enemies during the season – kind of. Forward Kirill Starkov played for Red Deer of the WHL last season, making him a division rival of three Columbus teammates from Medicine Hat. Dorsett understands that he cannot let friendships interfere during the game.

"Starkov played in our division and was one of our rivals," said Dorsett. "Once we hit the ice, its all business, we put friendships aside. Once we're off the ice, if we see each other after the game, we'll say hello and we'll have a little talk."

With the end of camp, players take separate paths, some will return to play with same people on their junior clubs while others may lose contact until next year.

Either way, it is the hope that all of them continue their friendships while achieving one common goal: a roster spot on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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