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Vancouver Canucks development camp took to the ice on Monday with all 28 skaters together at UBC.

Newly appointed Abbotsford Canucks Head Coach Manny Malhotra led the group in the day’s skate with flow drills and he is enjoying his first development camp as Abby’s new bench boss. 

“It was a lot of fun today. Obviously, the guys are a little bit nervous getting out there for the first time – [they’ve got] new gear, ice gets chopped up real quick – so there's a little bit of nerves out there, but for the most part, they had some really good pace to the practice and the execution was good,” Malhotra said.

For the newly drafted players, the last 72 hours have been a whirlwind, and these teenagers have experienced so many firsts over the last few days. Malhotra remembers his first development camp as a player and he and the rest of the coaching staff can lean into that to help players throughout the week.

“Having that experience and along with the rest of the staff, Hank and Danny, Komo [Mike Komisarek], Sammy [Mikael Samulesson] and Kroger [Jason Krog] knowing what it takes to be out there and knowing what they may be going through, I think allows us to relate a little bit more to them and help them through the process,” Malhotra said.

There’s a learning curve for the players, and the coaching staff encourages the players to soak up as much information as possible.

One player who’s back for his second development camp is 2023 sixth-round pick Aiden Celebrini. The 19-year-old came away with a lot of knowledge from his first camp last year and is hungry to learn more.

“I grew so much at last dev camp. I came out of it feeling like an evolved player. Over the year, I've tried to take those principles and those things I've learned from camp and get better. Being back in here, where everything's about details and everything's kind of under the microscope, it's awesome because it really benefits you in the long run,” Celebrini said.

On Sunday, Celebrini had the same feeling walking into Rogers Arena as he did last year for his first development camp. He says there’s something special about donning the Canucks jersey.

“Every time you put on the jersey it's an honour and I’m just really excited to take whatever I can learn from dev camp and use it in the season and just keep developing, keep working on my game and hopefully earn a full-time spot [in the NHL],” he said.

With a modified structure of the camp this year, Celebrini is enjoying the personalized approach to it.

“It's been awesome. It's given us a really great opportunity to connect with the coaches and learn on a more individual level. It’s really player specific, and honestly, one skate in and I've already learned so much. I really like how they did it this year,” Celebrini said.

One of the things the 19-year-old blueliner has been focusing on over the last couple of days is making every pass count. His mindset for camp is to take every opportunity to break down all the little details of his game to help him improve his game.

“There's significant jumps I want to make over the summer and going into next year. It's about the constant improvement. I’m never satisfied, and I think I'm far from where I want to be, the player that I see myself becoming, and who I want to become. I'm just taking every opportunity, whether it's camp or whether it's in season two, just take the opportunities to take that next step.”

His staple is his defensive game, and he wants to be a defenceman who is hard to play against while he continues to work on his offensive game to have as much of an impact on the game as possible.

He’s also looking forward to improving his time Grouse Grind time from last year’s development camp. The Vancouver native has been practicing the Grind since he got back home from Boston University for the summer.

“It's so nostalgic for me at this point that it's awesome because it's just pure work. You start your work, and you eventually end and the harder you work, the quicker you end. I just love the symbolism of it. I love that we do it every year,” he shared.

Insider Extra

Canucks’ 93rd pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, Melvin Fernström, said he hasn’t had much time to think about being drafted and that it will probably sink in a bit more in a few weeks.

His first time walking into Rogers Arena was a great experience and one of those things he’ll never forget.

"Very cool to see all the stuff, and all the staff around and see how many people that work for the organization and how good it is,” Fernström said.

Fernström says he’s already learned so much at development camp and he’s trying to learn as much as he can throughout the week.

Tom Willander, the 11th pick in the 2023 Draft, is back for his second development camp and said he’s dialed in on picking up as much information as he can.

“I just think as usual, be a sponge. Try to just get as much information from the coaches as possible. Just try to replicate stuff I see [and] stuff I hear,” Willander said.

One of the big takeaways for him thus far in dev camp is the level of attention to detail with everything they do.

“What we touched on a lot here is just the focus on everything we do. Something we talk about a lot here, and the coaches talk a lot about, is just how focused you have to be as professionals and I think that's why the dev camp is a good bridge from the guys playing college and the guys playing the Junior League to actually going pro,” he said.

He joked about being a veteran at development camp and he’s open about wanting to help the other players with any questions they might have, but he says no one has asked him anything yet. 

We’ll have to check in with him at the end of the week.