HAZELWOOD, MO – Achieving a childhood dream of making it to the NHL isn’t easy, and there are plenty of Blues prospects that can verify that claim.
In fact, 22 players are participating in this year’s Blues Development Camp, which is being held July7-9 at the team’s official practice facility at St. Louis Outlet Mall.
Each morning, the players are spending time in the gym with Strength & Conditioning Coach Nelson Ayotte. In the afternoon, they’re on the ice with Blues Video Coach Sean Ferrell, Goalie Development Coach Ty Conklin, Director of Player Development Tim Taylor and Chicago Wolves Skating & Skills Coach Kenny McCudden.
“(Development Camp) is for all our young prospects, the guys drafted over the last three years. It’s a good baseline of where they are physically,” said Taylor. “Obviously to get to the pro level, they have to get bigger, stronger and mentally tougher. We bring them in and try to evaluate them and learn what they’ve done throughout the year and what they need to do in the coming years before they turn pro.”
This year’s camp features nine of the Blues’ 10 draft picks in 2014. It also includes 2012 first-round pick Jordan Schmaltz and 2013 second-round pick Thomas Vannelli.
In addition to the off-ice and on-ice workouts, the prospects will be attending Monday’s baseball game at Busch Stadium and touring various sites around St. Louis throughout the week.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Robby Fabbri, the Blues’ first-round pick in 2014. “Seeing the city and meeting all the new guys and meeting the staff and working out…it’s coming together here with my first Development Camp. It’s my first time putting on all the (Blues) gear. It feels great. It’s such a great organization to be a part of.”
All of the on-ice sessions are free and open to the public.
“Right from the beginning, we were told that we’re going to be climatized with the St. Louis Blues and get a tour around the facilities,” said Jake Walman, a defenseman drafted in the third round in 2014. “I think of St. Louis as my second home now, and just being here kind of solidifies that.
“I’m looking to take away some tips. I know this is the highest level you can get in hockey, and obviously these guys are here for a reason. Learning off of Alex Pietrangelo would be something that would greatly benefit me, especially moving forward.”
Throughout the week, the prospects will also get lessons on proper nutrition and hear from former Blue Rob Ramage and Head Coach Ken Hitchcock.
“With the new CBA and the new rules and how you have to build your organization, you need your young guys to develop quicker and make more of an impact on your team,” Taylor said. “We want that baseline of where players are at, where they can get to and to give them an education about what they need to do to get to the next level. But at the same time, (we want them to) enjoy the city and be really enthusiastic about being an NHL player, and a player that plays for the Blues.”
Added Fabbri: "The first time I stepped on the ice seeing all those fans...I don't think I've seen that many fans at a practice before. It goes to show the passion they have for the game is almost as much as we have to play it."