With the annual Anaheim Ducks summer conditioning camp winding down Wednesday afternoon at Anaheim Ice, it was time to get some insight from those taking part and overseeing the event.
"I think we are very happy," said Chuck Fletcher, Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development for the Anaheim Ducks. "We had an extremely large group, 28 players by the end of the day. It's by far the biggest camp we've had in the four years we have been doing this. The players every year seem to be coming in, in better and better shape. They have a much better idea of the demands of pro hockey. They seem to prepare accordingly. The conditioning and strength levels of the players were impressive."
"We had some good on-ice workouts and good power skating sessions," says Fletcher. "All in all, it was a great week."
The Ducks farm team in Portland, Maine of the American Hockey League reached the semifinals this season. The Ducks affiliate in Cincinnati advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs the previous year. Anaheim has also won the last two rookie tournaments. A lot of the same players move from group to group. So, the Ducks are starting to see benefits from camps such as this summers conditioning camp.
"They start in the summer camp, then to rookie camp and they end up on the American League team together," added Fletcher. "What we have found is that the players have learned a lot about conditioning. We work with them on their power skating. But the biggest thing they take from this is a sense of team. There seems to be a tremendous chemistry amongst the guys that come to all these camps and rookie tournaments together. I think we are seeing the results now in the NHL with Penner and Getzlaf and Perry. All these kids came through the system, the development system that we put in place. It's just a very tight group of players."
In the new NHL, Is there changes in the conditioning programs for players trying to reach that level of competition?
"We really take a strong look at their body fat and their leg strength," added Fletcher. "Sean Skahan works very closely with the players after he tests them. He shows them the results and how they compare to the group. And the good thing is that we have a log. When they come back in September, we'll test them again to see their improvement. Over a course of two to three years, we can see their development. Where they don't develop properly, we have an opportunity to address that. Maybe change their workout program. Again, Sean Skahan stays on top of that and monitors their development very closely."
For forward Curtis Glencross, it's great to have an opportunity to participate in a summer conditioning camp.
"You have so many different guys in here and you know what you are up against," said Glencross, who appeared in 41 regular season games for Portland this past season. "Coming down and having Sean help you out with the things you have to key on in order to get to the next level is huge. It's awesome. You get to hang out with the guys and get to know them. Get a little team unity. It's a great time."
Every camp, a player learns something new about training habits.
"There is always something new coming out and that's what Sean is here for," mentioned Glencross. "He does his homework. There are new exercises, new stretches and new medicine ball things."
Goaltender David McKee looks ahead to rookie camp, which is about six weeks away.
"This is my first time coming here for this camp and I got to see what it's all about," says McKee. "I do a lot of leg strength things as a goaltender in addition to a lot of flexibility training. Sean is really good at what he does and knows what everybody needs to do on a specialized basis. This also gives me an opportunity to work with as much as possible."
Skahan, the Ducks Strength and Conditioning coach the past four seasons says this current group of young hockey players works very hard.
"Certain individuals have some things they need to work on, some weaknesses they need to address," says Skahan. "In terms of physical development, some of the older players are where they are going to be. Now, it's a matter of getting their skill to be NHL caliber."
"Some guys may need to work on lean body mass," added Skahan. "Some may need to lose some body fat. Some may need to improve their foot speed. Guys might have some injury areas they need to work on. All these different things we need to work on with each player, while also keeping up with the core of our program."
If there is one thing in particular that impressed Fletcher at this years conditioning camp, it was the how the depth of the organization's defense is increasing.
"We have many more quality defensemen here this year than we've ever had," mentioned Fletcher. "Several good puck-moving, good skating defensemen that seem to be the proto-type style of defensemen we'll see now in the NHL going forward. Very agile, smart players. I think the prospects on our blue line have never been better. I think that will bode well for the future. But to me, that was the biggest surprise."
"There's a lot of talent up front, obviously, and a lot of skill," says Fletcher. "But when you look at the blue line, that's one of the hardest commodities to get. And it looks like we are starting to stock up there well."