A year ago, Kerby Rychel found himself in a brand new environment a few weeks after being drafted by the Blue Jackets. This time around, he feels more comfortable and is approaching what could be a huge training camp for him.
Rychel, the 19th overall selection in 2013, has a chance to make the Blue Jackets’ roster in just his second year with the organization after an outstanding season which saw him lead the Guelph Storm to an OHL title and Memorial Cup Finals appearance.
His approach to this week, however, is just like “any other camp,” as he wants to get better in all dimensions of his game and absorb the advice and experience that the coaches bring to the table.
“It’s a short summer. I only got to take a couple weeks off before I got back training,” Rychel said. “Obviously I want to be in the NHL, but that’s definitely a huge step from junior to the NHL. At the end of the day, I’m going to work as hard as I can this summer to be the best player that I can be in September.”
Focusing on getting better as a player and as a person will come easier to Rychel this time around, as he has already experienced development camp and can take a different approach to the beginning of the week.
“It’s different -- you definitely feel a lot more confortable coming to camp after being here for training camp last year for three weeks,” he said. “You know what the city is like, and you know what the room is like.”
Last season, Boone Jenner made the same step from junior hockey to the NHL when he made the opening night roster after a strong training camp and preseason.
“It’s a tough jump from junior to NHL, (Jenner and Ryan Murray) are two really special players who had great seasons,” Rychel said. “I’m just playing like it’s any other camp, just trying to do my best in everything, and take valuable advice. There’s a lot of good teachers here and a lot of good things you can learn.”
And though Jenner and Murray were standouts in their rookie seasons, the Blue Jackets aren't in a position to hand out roster spots to first-year players.
Everything has to be earned, and with a deep roster at the NHL level and several top, young prospects on the way, Rychel knows he'll have to be at his best (and probably then some) to be an NHL player this fall.
“If you’re good enough, they’ll make a spot for you,” Blue Jackets development coach Chris Clark said. “Some teams already have guys slotted in where they’re going to go, (but) we’re going to give guys a chance. It shows with guys coming in for their second year -- they know that there might be a spot for them. Starting now, they’ll be showing where they should be.”