HAZELWOOD, Mo. - A group of 26 players are getting a chance to showcase their skills at the Blues Prospect Camp this week. The camp began Monday and will continue through Thursday at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall.
For some, it’s a chance to improve upon last season and inch closer to reaching the NHL. For others, it offers a first taste of the big leagues.
Forward Robby Fabbri falls into the first group. The 2014 first-round pick made a good first impression in the preseason last year and is hoping he can do the same in September. Or better yet, maybe even make the club after training camp.
“I feel any time you’re on the ice or in the gym here (in St. Louis), it’s a good time to make a good impression. Having that mindset to anything you do is key,” Fabbri said. “I thought I did pretty well last year, but obviously not well enough to stay. That gives me something to work for.”
So off he goes, hoping to make a decision to send him back more difficult for General Manager Doug Armstrong this time around.
The players at this week’s camp will be participating in on-ice practices and scrimmages daily along with workout sessions with Blues Strength and Conditioning Coach Nelson Ayotte. On Monday, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock gave the players valuable information on how to stay ahead of the competition and get to the NHL faster. Later in the week, former Blue Chris Pronger will meet with them to discuss player safety.
“It’s all about being a pro and what it takes to get to that level,” said Tim Taylor, the Blues’ Director of Player Development. “There are a lot of great players that don’t make the NHL because they don’t have the work ethic and they don’t put the work in during the summers. We’re hoping we’re a step ahead of a lot of organizations to get kids in here in the summers, working out together and competing against each other, not just on the ice but off the ice as well.”
Other players participating in the camp include Blues first-round pick Jordan Schmaltz (2012) and second-round selections Ivan Barbashev (2014) and Thomas Vannelli (2013). Five of the six selections at the 2015 NHL Draft are participating, too.
St. Louis native Luke Opilka, who was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round last month, is getting his first look at the big leagues.
“It’s definitely a different feeling, but it feels good,” Opilka said. “I’m just trying to to soak up everything. Whatever information I can gather, whatever tips and tricks, whatever I can learn.”
Taylor said it was important to get the team’s prospects in town during the summer. Getting to know each other and building some camaraderie will be a big key to their development.
“I think it’s great for these kids to come here and acclimated to St. Louis,” Taylor said. “Hopefully they see their future in front of their eyes and it gives them that motivation to get to the next level.”