The NCAA has become a popular destination for young hockey players to develop their skills, prepare for the pros and get noticed by NHL teams.
At the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp, experience in college hockey can be an asset for certain players.
Twelve players at development camp are either current or former NCAA players, and the uniqueness of the NCAA level may help some camp invitees earn their way into the professional ranks.
"I think college helps a lot because the guys are really strong and fast, so the pace is pretty quick," said Michael Kim, a defenseman from Boston College. "So, obviously, that's the same thing that's going to happen at the next level, it's only going to get faster. I just think playing against big, strong, skilled guys all year round helps translate here."
On a simple level, NCAA players are big and are all usually at least 18 years old. So, on top of the pace and speed of the college game, NCAA hockey is bigger and leaner.
"I think just maturity level," said Grant Hutton, a defenseman from Miami (OH) University. "The coaching staffs all over the country for the NCAA, are great. But, I think just size, putting on mass, getting bigger, stronger, faster."
"It sounds cliché, but it's really important when you move up to the next level, so I think it prepares you in a lot of ways. But, definitely it's great to be bigger, stronger and faster and utilize the weight rooms and facilities that college has to offer."
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As much as these players learn at the NCAA level, they are honing their skill even more learning from Golden Knights coaches at development camp.
"I think there's a ton of good players here and it's good to be on the ice with them, and just work on some skills that you usually wouldn't get to work on during the year with some of the staff they've got here," Kim said. "I think it's been going well so far."