The future of the Columbus Blue Jackets has been hard at work this week as the team conducts its annual development camp at the Dispatch Ice Haus.
The camp, which runs through Saturday, June 30th, consists of on-ice drills and off-ice workouts. For the 27 prospects attending, some of whom have not laced up the skates in over a month, the camp provides an opportunity to stay conditioned and gage the talent in the organization, including their own.
"It's a great time – a great camp to get to see where you're at and measure yourself on where you have to be and what you have to work on come training camp," said forward Jared Boll, a 2005 draft pick who played last season with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League. "There are great players out there too, so that always helps."
One familiar face on the ice is GILBERT BRULE, the first-round pick in 2005 who scored 19 points in 78 games for the Blue Jackets last season. Though he is the same age, or younger, than some of the prospects, he serves as a leader during the workouts as well as an example of how hard work pays off.
"It's nice that they want me to be in that role," Brule said. "I'm very privileged to have that (responsibility) from (Head Coach Ken) Hitchcock and the organization."
Hitchcock feels this is a good experience for Brule, who was the youngest player on the Columbus roster throughout last season.
"He's been able to do things with this group that he hasn't been able to do in the NHL, and it will be a long time before he's able to do those things," said Hitchcock about Brule's leadership position. "This is a really good opportunity for him."
While the players are aiming to impress, Hitchcock has his own agenda. Leading his first development camp with the team, Hitchcock's number one goal is to teach each player how to be a professional.
"It's all encompassing," said Hitchcock, who is entering his first full season behind the Blue Jackets' bench. "It's the way you train off the ice, the way you condition yourself off the ice. Then moving onto the ice, it's the way everybody works at practice, the structure and the discipline. Then, it's doing it on an every day basis.
“It’s also a test to see where all of our players are at. It’s a part orientation and it’s a part evaluation right now.”
Though the drills and workouts have been physically and mentally challenging, Brule knows it is the only way the players will reach their highest potential. “That’s what everyone needs,” Brule said. “You have to be tough on players, especially when you’re demanding so much at this level.”