Making the transition from college to professional is slightly different for hockey players than it would be for basketball or football players. The biggest difference is the number of games played. Collegiate seasons are around 40 games long, compared to NHL (82 games) or American Hockey League seasons (80 games), which are twice as long.
For Blue Jackets prospects Cody Goloubef and Theo Ruth, both defensemen are looking to make that transition as smooth as possible.
Goloubef spent the past three seasons at Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers reach the National Championship game last season. Ruth spent the past three seasons at Notre Dame, where he helped the Fighting Irish reach the National Championship game in 2008. Both have represented their countries at the international level with Goloubef helping Canada win gold at the 2009 World Junior Championships.
Due to NHL rules, collegiate players cannot attend NHL Training Camps unless they pay their own way. Even if the player chose to do that, most would miss class time as NHL camps open in mid-September and would risk losing their eligibility. So after signing their entry-level NHL contracts this past summer, Goloubef and Ruth are making their first appearance at Blue Jackets Training Camp.
“The guys are faster, stronger, more skilled and more competitive,” Goloubef said. “You just have to come out every day with your work hat on and ready to battle. It’s been a little different, but at the same time a little of the same.”
The duo is only a few days into camp, but they are already noticing some differences.
“It’s definitely a different style of hockey,” Ruth said. “The pace is a lot faster. You have to think about where guys are going and figure out where guys are, so it’s a different transition, but I like it so far.”
Both have been involved in the Blue Jackets Development Camp that takes place every summer, but this Camp is a little different.
“At Development Camp the coaches are showing you what they are looking for and when you get here (to main camp), you see the big guys do it and you buy into the system,” Goloubef said. “You just see how hard those guys work and what it has taken for them to get there. You just want to sit there like a sponge and learn as much as you can.”
Both players have spent most of their careers playing against players who are in a similar age group. This training camp is much different. Players are older, bigger and faster, something both noted.
“I think it’s kind of funny (playing against the older players),” Goloubef said. “They are great players and you have to learn from guys like that.”
Ruth noted focusing on the little things.
“Here, you make one mistake and it’s in the back of your net,” Ruth said. “You really have to focus on all of the little things, bearing down and getting those things done.”
With it being their first main camp, it never hurts to seek the advice of the veterans.
“During games and practice, you go to one of the vets and ask them,” Goloubef said. “They real open minded, very nice and will give you as much information as they can. You just have to be like a sponge and learn.”
Ruth will look to get as much information as he can in the coming days.
“I haven’t talked to those guys yet, but it’s still early,” Ruth said. “I will definitely be looking to pick their brains a little bit.”
The best players to look to for advice would be Blue Jackets center Andrew Murray and defenseman Grant Clitsome. Murray spent four seasons at Bemidji State and two-plus seasons with Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch before making his debut in 2007-08. Clitsome had a similar path, attending Clarkson for four years and spending almost two full seasons in Syracuse before making his NHL debut towards the end of last season. Both had some advice to pass along.
“I think the biggest difference for me was that you have to focus on recovery and getting your rest and into proper nutritional habits,” Murray said. “It’s a little more rigorous with the travel and more games, so you have to take your time outside of the rink to relax and rest a little more.”
“The biggest adjustment for me was that you are playing against guys you have watched on TV,” Clitsome said. “You try to get rid of that awe factor and make the transition that you are now playing with them.” Goloubef and Ruth are fighting for a spot on the Blue Jackets roster. If they don’t make the big club, they will start the season with Columbus’ AHL affiliate, they Springfield Falcons. “I am here to make an impression,” Ruth said. “I am looking to do everything that I can right now.”
Back to the Classroom
Day 4 of Training Camp was spent with head coach Scott Arniel teaching and instructing his systems to the players. A lot of drills were focused around the style of play Arniel wants to see out of the team.
“I think they’re doing a real good job (of grasping the system),” Arniel said. “We’ve had lots of questions and we’ve had the opportunity – either individually or as a group – to explain certain areas to people.
“It seems to be coming, but I guarantee you we’re going to see some slip ups in the games. Guys will do things that they have been instinctually have been doing the past couple of years. It happens, but hopefully by the time we get to that San Jose game in Sweden, we have it all down.”
Arniel said that after the first two preseason games they will use the video to help players get the systems down better. “We’ll do some teaching with (the video from the first two games),” Arniel said. “We’re still evaluating and we have competition and guys fighting for jobs.”
Rosters Set for Tuesday’s Game at Atlanta
The playing rosters for both Columbus and Atlanta have been posted (with updated numbers for the Thrashers). Arniel is looking to see how much the players are able to adapt to his system, as well as what they can do individually.
"We have really installed some systems here in the first three days and I would like to see guys start to work at that,” Arniel said. “On the bench I am sure there will be a lot of teaching. I do want them to go out there and show us their abilities. I don't want them totally wrapped up in pleasing us just because of the systems. I want to see their skill set and see what they do best."
Tuesday night's contest marks the first of nine preseason games (including the exhibition game in Sweden) for the Jackets.
“The players just want to play the games,” Arniel said. “A lot of guys talk about the timing and getting into the pace of an NHL game and getting out in the exhibition is the only way to do that.”
Practice Groups and Times for Tuesday
Non-Playing Group 1 (8:45-10 a.m.) - Brassard, Boll, Clark, Filatov, Frischmon, Hejda, Johansen, Machesney, Mason, Mayorov, Moore, Nash, Pahlsson, Prout, Ruth, Savard, yutin, Voracek
Playing Group (10-11 a.m.) - Blunden, Calvert, Commodore, Dorsett, Fritsche, Gabriel, Garon, Goloubef, Guite, Guenin, Holden, LeNeveu, MacKenzie, Methot, Murray, Neuber, Ratchuk, Regner, Sestito, Sigalet, Smith, Wilson
Non-Playing Group 2 (11:15-12:30 p.m.) -Archibald, Clitsome, Francis, Gill, Huselius, Kana, Klesla, Kolarik, Kubalik, Madaisky, Moreau, Murovich, Straka, Stralman, Taylor, Vermette