Scrolled across the back of the shirt worn by prospects during the first day of Anaheim’s conditioning camp was the message: “The Future is Here.”
A collection of the best young talent in the organization – 30 players in all aged between 18-24 – converged on the Ducks practice facility on Thursday looking to show the team’s coaching staff and executives just what may be upcoming on the roster for the team.
“They really want to implement the fact that we are on a pro schedule right now,” said Nicolas Kerdiles, Anaheim’s second round pick (36th overall) in last week’s NHL Draft. “They are trying to show us what it is to be in the pros. That is what we’re trying to take out of it the most and act as if we’re part of the actual Anaheim Ducks team right now and go through the systems. It’s a lot of pro style preparation.”
During the next six days, the players will work with the Ducks coaching staff both on and off the ice. Along with skating sessions, they will participate in strength and conditioning drills and receive a personally tailored nutritional recommendation.
For some, like Kerdiles and the other seven members of this year’s draft class, this is their first time experiencing what conditioning camp has to offer. Others are virtually grizzled veterans, albeit as close as you can get to having just celebrated your 20th birthday, like Devante Smith-Pelly. The forward is the most experienced of the young crop, having just completed his rookie season with the Ducks.
“It’s a little different having a full NHL year under my belt,” Smith-Pelly said. “I’m just coming in here and trying to lead by example and trying to have some fun too while I’m doing it.”
Smith-Pelly is a prime example that playing for the Ducks may not be in the so far away. A 2010 second round draft pick (42nd overall), he earned a spot on the club’s opening night roster in 2011-12. He finished the campaign with seven goals and six assists in 49 games played. He even saw some time toward the end of the year on the top forward line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
|“They really want to implement the fact that we are on a pro schedule right now,” said Kerdiles “They are trying to show us what it is to be in the pros. That is what we’re trying to take out of it the most and act as if we’re part of the actual Anaheim Ducks team right now.” |
“The year went great and I’m happy I got a chance to do that stuff,” Smith-Pelly said. “My focus is to not really be complacent with the fact that I did play last year. You see that sometimes. Guys will play when they’re young and then they just get complacent in the next year. I definitely don’t plan on doing that. I just plan on getting better every day and helping the team.”
Another player at conditioning camp who made his pro debut last season is Peter Holland. The center played in four games with the Ducks in 2011-12 and scored his first career goal in a home win on November 11. Most of his first full year in professional hockey was spent with the team’s then AHL affiliate in Syracuse, where he ranked second in points (60).
“To have a cup of coffee up here in Anaheim was a dream come true,” Holland said. “To score my first goal was awesome. I learned a lot playing in Syracuse this year. We had a great coaching staff. [Associate Head Coach] Trent Yawney came in and really helped me play a 200-foot game. I owe a lot of credit to him for developing me in the second half of the season and turning my into a player I hopefully can be the rest of my career.”
While those players have already seen what the biggest stage in hockey has to offer, much of the camp is still in anticipation of their big moment. The next six days will give them a glimpse into their childhood dreams, with the possibility of making it a reality being on the horizon.
“It’s just a lot of hard work and organized stuff,” said Kerdiles, who will play at the University of Wisconsin in the fall. “It’s been positive. It’s been everything I’ve dreamt. Being part of the Ducks is something that’s pretty special. I’m excited to see what I can do and hopefully crack the lineup eventually in the next few years. I’m really happy to be part of the Ducks organization.”