But that’s exactly what defenseman Haydn Fleury was when he attended his third Prospects Development Camp with the Carolina Hurricanes in early July.
“It flies by,” the camp’s wily veteran said with a smile. “I can still remember my first camp. It’s pretty cool to be the older guy here. I still remember when Trevor Carrick and Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe were the older guys my first year. It’s cool being that guy.”
Come October, Fleury wants to be that guy who cracks the Hurricanes’ lineup.
When the Canes bought out the last year of James Wisniewski’s contract at the end of June, a vacancy was created on the blue line. Fleury, who turns pro this year, will be smack dab in the running for that sixth slot – and so will Ryan Murphy, who recently re-upped on a two-year contract, Matt Tennyson, who was signed as a free agent, Roland McKeown, who will also turn pro this year, and Trevor Carrick, who made his NHL debut in 2015-16, among others.
Fleury’s eyes widened when asked about the opportunity in front of him.
“I’m going to work my hardest this summer to earn a spot on this team,” he said. “I’m going to come to camp here and work my hardest every day and make it hard for the coaches and management to send me down.”
A year ago, Fleury faced stiff odds to make the big club; as a junior player, he did not meet the age requirement to play in the American League. Still, he was among the final handful of players trimmed from the Canes’ training camp roster, and management sent him back to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League with a positive message.
“Keep improving in all areas and work hard every day. That was the biggest thing,” he said. “Don’t take your foot off the pedal. Keep improving and don’t plateau. I know being one of the older guys in the league (WHL), you can kind of take your foot off the pedal because the league might be a little easier for you, but I really think I worked hard every day and got better.”
A veteran in the WHL and a leader on his junior squad, Fleury made the most of his opportunity in the 2015-16 season.
“I think my game is just better than it was last year, to be honest with you,” Fleury said. “I improved in areas that I needed to improve on, and I think my year went better this year.”
Fleury posted 41 points (12g, 29a) in 56 games, and for the third consecutive season, he served as an alternate captain in Red Deer.
“Anytime you get more responsibilities put on your shoulders, it’s a learning experience at first but it helps you grow as a player and person,” Fleury said. “I got a grateful opportunity to wear a letter as a 17-year-old, and not many guys get to do that.”
Fleury competed for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship in Finland, tallying a point in five games.
“He was excellent at the World Junior Championship for Canada,” head coach Bill Peters said at the end of the season. “They were very pleased with him there.”
“You’d hear ‘Let’s go Canada!’ and all that kind of stuff. It’s cool. It’s the stuff you dream about as a kid,” Fleury said. “I’m very grateful for the experiences I had this year. They definitely made me a better player.”
Fleury helped lead Red Deer to the Conference Final of the WHL playoffs, where they fell to the eventual champion Brandon Wheat Kings. Red Deer then hosted the Memorial Cup and eliminated Brandon from the tournament with a 2-1 overtime victory.
“That was an unreal experience, especially having it in Red Deer with our fans in front of us. It was really awesome,” he said. “Anyone that’s been to the tournament has always said good things, and I think Red Deer ran a first-class tournament there. As a team, we played well. I think we played some of our best hockey, and for myself, I really ended it off on a strong note in Red Deer.”
In all, it was an impressive campaign for the Canes’ seventh overall draft pick from 2014.
“I really represented myself well, and I think all those experiences have just helped me round out my game and be more ready for this year,” Fleury said.
“He’s really, really come on,” Peters said. “The things that he’s needed to work on in his game he’s done. His maturity as a person has improved. He’s another 6-foot-3, 200-plus D-man who can skate. He’s going to fit in to how we play. I’m very, very impressed by the progress he’s made from the time we drafted him to now.”
Following his third appearance at Prospects Development Camp, Fleury will skate with the Hurricanes at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., for the third time. Then, training camp, a chance for Fleury to take the next step in his career.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I have a lot to work for and look towards every day. It’s been my motivation since the season’s been over. Get healthy, get some rest and get to work.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email