MONTREAL – During his third stint running the Canadiens’ annual Development Camp, Martin Lapointe caught a glimpse of many good things to come for the bleu-blanc-rouge.
Since beginning his tenure in June 2012, Lapointe made certain to make his presence felt in the lives of youngsters drafted by the Canadiens by traveling to visit them as often as possible in their respective cities. This past week, however, prospects and invitees came to him, as 50 players hit the ice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard where Lapointe & Co. were eagerly awaiting their arrival.
“I’m very satisfied with what I saw from the guys over the course of the last few days. They showed up in great shape,” offered the Canadiens’ director of player development. “It’s not always easy for them to come out here the first week of July. They haven’t necessarily jumped on the ice in a while. A few of them might have, but only two or three times. But, in general, I’m very satisfied with them.”
At the conclusion of the six-day camp, players won’t have had much time to rest or enjoy summertime in Montreal. They had jam-packed schedules every day with a variety of on and off-ice activities on tap. Every aspect of their itinerary was meticulously prepared in order to help in their preparation and guide them through the pro hockey experience, something many of those in attendance hadn’t yet tasted over the course of their careers.
That’s one of the things Lapointe sought to incorporate in the Blackhawks’ culture during his time in Chicago alongside current Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin. Both Lapointe and Bergevin wanted to better surround young players by offering them a variety of tools that could prove helpful in their development. A little bit like students who take day courses at night, the Habs hopefuls will head back to their hockey homes with a full backpack.
“We definitely took some of the things we learned in Chicago, but we adjusted it in our own way because we wanted to touch on more things than the Blackhawks did. For example, they didn’t have any seminars on nutrition or psychology,” explained the 14-year NHL veteran. “When I got here, we got together and I explained the vision that I had and the plan that I wanted to execute. It’s a big challenge to coordinate all of these things at the same time. But, we get better at it every year. This year’s camp is probably the best one we’ve organized to date.
“There are a lot of things that we want them to understand, but there are kids here that are in their second or third camps with us. There are things that repeat themselves a bit and that they’ve already heard,” continued Lapointe. “When they leave camp, they’ll remember it more. There’s no denying that for those players coming to camp for the first time, it’s a lot to absorb at one time. But, from a hockey standpoint, we kept things very simple on the ice. We didn’t talk about systems. I wanted to organize a camp that really focused on fundamentals. Whether you like it or not, it all comes back to basics.”
As Lapointe mentioned, those players that had previous development camp experience were generally the standouts during the week. Still, one player who hit the ice for the first time in North America opened the most eyes among the group.
“There are those that stood out more so than others. Jiri Sekac is the guy who impressed me the most. I didn’t know him before camp,” admitted Lapointe on the subject of the 22-year-old Czech who signed a free-agent contract on July 1st. “Mark MacMillan also looked good. He’s a lot more confident with the puck. Charles Hudon, too. He’s a dynamic player who sees the play really well, and makes nice plays, too. Jacob De La Rose and Michael McCarron also looked good. Michael knows he has to become more solid on his skates and more explosive. He’s headed in the right direction.”
The majority of the youngsters on site this week will be back in Brossard at the start of September for Rookie Camp. Until then, Lapointe and his assistants will provide them with a series of steps to follow for the rest of the summer in order to ensure that they’re in fine form upon their return. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be left to their own devices in the meantime. The Ville Saint-Pierre native will remain in constant contact, and he’ll be available to them, if necessary.
“Before they leave, we’ll meet with them one by one. I’ll stay in touch with them over the summer,” concluded Lapointe, who will head back home to Chicago at the end of camp. “I won’t call them every day, but I’ll check in with them from time to time to see how their training is going and see if they need anything. That’s my job.”
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.