There’s very little difference if it’s a Summer Development Camp or a Prospects tournament, the goal from the organization is to get a solid look at each and every player, while the players themselves are taking every opportunity to be at their best and overshadow their teammates to get that leg up on the competition. It’s that strange dichotomy that is playing itself out here in Penticton for the Canucks Prospects Tournament this weekend.
As much as the group here is forming a bond, learning about each other and the organization, while setting the base for a continued brotherhood throughout their time as Canucks, there is always the back of the mind thought of trying to be better than those same guys. It is a tricky balance. Add in the factor that every eyeball from the big team’s coaching staff and management are here to watch their every move, and one can understand the pressure these kids are under.
Guess what, welcome to pro hockey!
The two things above all else the Canucks brass are looking for here at this camp are intensity and consistency. Forget individual skill, flashes of speed, or one nice play. The question is, what are you going to do next shift to follow it up? And the shift after that? Most of these games are akin to a CHL playoff game. The problem facing these particular players here is that the intensity and consistency of the next wave of players, the real pro’s, picks up if they are invited to main camp. After that, there’s another step up when the NHL exhibition games start. Typically the first game or two is sprinkled in with the necessary veteran NHL player quotient, and the rest made up of guys who have survived cuts so far. As the exhibition season rolls on, more vets are inserted, and the intensity and consistency of play picks up more.
It’s at exactly this point where the young players coming from junior hockey start to get left behind. The real pro’s kick it up another notch and the rookies are amazed at where the speed and physical play has come from. To use a Western Canadian farming term (with the Canucks coaching staff and management in mind), it’s at that time where they separate the wheat from the chaff. The consistency and intensity of play gets overwhelming and the coaches elect to go with the veteran over the rookie when it comes to that final roster spot to make the team.
At the risk of getting ahead of myself by talking about opening night’s roster and how it was formed I’ll go back to where I started, and that’s here in Penticton, where the young players have to figure out in a hurry that being a pro means bringing intensity and consistency to their game, every practice, every shift, every game, every night.
If that is on display and shown by more than one of the big name players in the Canucks line-up here at the Prospect’s camp, then the group as a whole will have success and win the remaining games. It was lacking in their first match, and as outlined above, things will only get tougher as the days go by, things ramp up, and everything moves at a quicker pace.