Both Greg Nemisz and Mitch Wahl experienced their first taste of life with the Calgary Flames this week.
Calgary’s top two picks from June’s National Hockey League Entry Draft were among 30 prospects taking part in the Flames annual summer development camp, which wraps up on Saturday at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“I’m looking forward to being part of the Calgary Flames organization,” said Nemisz, who Calgary picked in the first round (25th overall) last month in Ottawa.
The Flames then used their second round pick (48th overall) to select Wahl, who helped guide the Spokane Chiefs to a Memorial Cup championship in May.
“It’s been a good week so far … just kind of getting to know everyone and meeting the prospects and the staff,” said Wahl, who enjoyed suiting up for on-ice sessions in the comforts of the Flames dressing room at the ’Dome. “I was fortunate to be in here this year. I can see it first hand. It’s been really nice.”
After scoring 34 goals and adding 33 assists in 68 games for the Windsor Spitfires this past season, Nemisz has been working out in his hometown of Courtice, Ont., while skating once or twice a week.
“I train five times a week, get on the ice and work really hard in the off season,” said the 6-foot-3, 200-pound right winger, who admitted feeling a bit “rusty” at the development camp. “It’s definitely tough to get back into the swing of things. It’s a wake-up call when you come in. I thought I was in good shape and I’m not in the greatest shape. You’ve just got to keep getting better. It’s a learning experience everything you do.”
Since winning the Memorial Cup with the Chiefs, Wahl hasn’t had much time to relax. First, he had to prepare for the draft and then he had to train to get ready for the development camp.
“I’ve tried to work out the whole summer since I’ve been back,” said Wahl, who returned to his hometown of Seal Beach, California to work out with his personal trainer Scott Prohaska. “I’ve felt pretty strong. I’ve gained 10 pounds or so this summer. I’ve felt okay in the fitness training. I’ll just try to improve on that next year.”
While many of the other prospects have a bit of a break before training camps start up in late August or September, both Nemisz and Wahl will now turn their attentions towards cracking the lineups of their respective world junior squads.
Nemisz left on Friday for Ottawa for Canada’s National Junior Team development camp, which runs from July 26-29.
“I just want to go out there and make a good impression and try to make that team,” Nemisz said. “If you’re not going in there with that mindset, you’re going in there with the wrong mindset. You go in there, try to make the team, make a good impression and that’s all you can really do.”
Meanwhile Wahl will head to Lake Placid for the U.S. National Junior Team evaluation camp which runs from Aug. 1-9.
“It’d be nice to make the team,” said Wahl, who 20 goals and 53 assists in 67 regular season games with the Chiefs before scoring six more times and setting up eight others in 21 playoff games. “That’d be a great honour to represent the U.S.”
While both prospects have set their sights on competing at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa, they both know they have ways to go before they can play in the NHL.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Nemisz said, noting he has to work on “just everything, my speed and strength. I can always get better in everything.”
While Wahl is used to spending time surfing the waves in Southern California, he hasn’t had much time for one of his favourite pastimes this summer.
“I’ve only been out surfing once actually since I’ve been back,” said the 6-foot, 175-pound centreman, whose Sunday training regimen consists of running up and down sand dunes at the beach. “We pretty much just go down to the beach on Sundays and we run sand dunes. It’s a good power workout for the legs, so it’s pretty nice.”
Despite the considerable time they put into training in the summer, most prospects these days will tell you they’re happy to put in the effort.
“It’s fun, really fun,” Nemisz said. “I’m playing hockey, that’s what I like to do.”