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SKILLS AND THRILLS

Today is Part 1 of our look ahead to next week's Flames prospect development camp. We talk to team brass about the goals of the camp, what they hope to accomplish and what purpose it serves

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Today is Part 1 of our look ahead to next week's Flames prospect development camp. We talk to team brass about the goals of the camp, what they hope to accomplish and what purpose it serves.

In Part 2 tomorrow, we break down the off-ice component and how this has become a critical tool for the Flames' development staff.

It has a way of whetting the appetite.

Every dish, dangle, and bar-down bullet a glimpse into the future and a sign - surely - of things to come.

"Can't lie," assistant general manager Brad Pascall said with a sly raise of the brow. "Those are the moments that make you smile and say, 'Wow.'

"We like it when guys flash their potential like that and really show what they're made of.

"But we also have to remember that from an organizational standpoint, that's only one piece of the puzzle.

When it comes to the Flames' annual prospect development camp, improvement - not appraisal - trumps all.

"It's really tough to 'evaluate' players in the middle of the summer, so we try not to," Pascall said of the camp, which runs July 3-7 at WinSport.

"The on-ice stuff is important in the way of systems, checking in on their individual progress and developing a set of goals for the rest of the summer - but we don't spend our time worrying about how they stack up against each other and establishing a ranking.

"This is an opportunity for them to shine, for them to show what they've improved on and where they're headed, so that when they come back in the fall, they're in the best possible position to succeed.

"As players, and as people."

The camp will feature 39 players, from four of the Flames' five recent 2019 draft picks to a collection of invitees the organization wants to get a closer look at.

Cail MacLean - head coach of the Flames' AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat - will be running things during the on-ice portion of the camp, with Flames boss Bill Peters keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings and offering feedback to the prospects afterward. 

 

 

The format of the camp has transformed drastically over the years, beginning with two-a-day ice times during a weeklong slog that resembled something of a punishment back in the day.

Now?

The on-ice component accounts for only half of the fun-filled, four-day orientation, while travel and team-building activities, along with everyone's favourite - medical and fitness testing - make up the rest.

The goal isn't to grind the players into the ground, but to get a better picture of how their individual development is coming along at the unofficial midpoint of the off-season.

"Most of them have started their training sessions, but hardly any of them have been on the ice and done any significant training yet this off-season," said Ray Edwards, the Flames' director of player development, who will enter his fourth season in that role this fall. "We certainly don't want to put them in a situation where they're getting injured or having to step back from their regular training program.

"We really focus more on skill work and different areas that we've identified. You'll see the sessions are about 70 minutes or so, and most of them are broken down into small areas of skill development."

While they won't dive too deep into the playbook and load 'the system' onto an already full plate, situational tactics will be presented.

Things like board play, entries, low-to-high and east-west o-zone scenarios are all crucial and will give the prospects a base for how the Flames like to do things.

It's all centred on the structure the organization employs at all levels - be it with the Flames or Stockton Heat - so everything is in sync, all across the board.

 

 

"There's a video component that goes with on the on-ice work as well," said Edwards, who knows a thing or two about the teaching aspect, having spent six years as a head coach with the San Antonio Rampage and Portland Pirates prior to joining the Flames in
2016.

"You see how the game is played nowadays, and the smallest of details can make all the difference.

"That's what we're doing here, and (Peters) is leading the charge.

"What we've tried to do is identify four to six different skills that everybody on the coaching and management staff agree are key to our players' development as pros, and as Flames."

Not everyone will make it.

Most won't.

But the foundation gives everyone the best chance possible.

"It's about getting the players ready for training camp in September," Pascall said. "That's we hope they're taking out of it, too.

"And for the players that are trying out or are going to college in the fall, it's about them leaving here with a positive experience, them wanting one day to be a Calgary Flame.

"From there, if we feel the same, we'll keep an eye on them and ensure they're not being forgotten about.

"We want the players to leave here next week feeling good about their experience, good about the organization, and most of all, excited about the possibilities."

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