On the heels of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, the Carolina Hurricanes' annual Prospects Development Camp got underway on Wednesday.
This year's camp features a group of 29 prospects, including all eight players selected in the 2017 NHL Draft and five camp invitees. After flying in to Raleigh on Tuesday and gathering as a group for the first time at a team dinner, camp shifted to on- and off-ice instruction on Wednesday.
Here are some notes and observations from the first day of camp.
→ It was an early morning for the prospects, who began medicals and strength testing at 7:00 a.m.
Video: Hurricanes prospects begin testing prior to camp
From there, the day's schedule shifted to PNC Arena, where the prospects grabbed lunch before receiving hands-on nutrition and cooking prep instruction.
And, oh yeah, headshots!
→ The prospects hit the frozen sheet promptly at 5:30 pm. for their first on-ice session of camp.
"For us, it's getting to know them," assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "A lot of them are new faces and we don't know much about them. It's a little easy day to feel things out."
"It's a great organization, and I'm glad to be here. I'm enjoying every single day," said 12th overall draft pick Martin Necas. "Now I'm here at camp. First day on the ice, it was good."
Video: Prospects hit the ice for the first time this week
→ Not only is Necas big - he's officially listed at 6-foot-1, but he's definitely got a few more inches on him - but he's also quick. Today was a limited look at what he's capable of, but it was fun to watch him zip up and down the ice. He's got a good-looking shot, too. It will be fun to track him all week and see what he can do this upcoming season.
"I want to enjoy every single day and every training on the ice. That's important. Hockey is fun," Necas said. "It's great to be here, be on the ice and be in this locker room."
"We like him. He's a good player, and I think he's going to be a great player for us whenever they decide he's ready," Brind'Amour said. "I like the fact that he's a playmaker. He sees the ice. When certain players get the puck, you can just see what they're thinking. They're thinking ahead of the game. It's just a matter of him getting that strength and the speed at this level, and then the sky's the limit for a kid like that."
Video: Martin Necas: "It was a special moment"
→ Morgan Geekie had a nice sequence early on, as he scored on a backhand shot at one end and then raced down to the other end to break up an odd-man rush.
"You always want to go out there and be noticed," he said. "Everyone is a good player here. Everybody knows that. We're here for a reason. It's just kind of going out and doing your own thing. That's the biggest key."
Geekie was a third-round selection of the Canes in this year's draft, the big center's second time through after going undrafted a year ago.
"It was a special time for sure," he said of learning he had been drafted by the Canes. "I was at home when it happened, and it was really nice to spend it with my family and friends. It was a special time for all of us."
Brendan De Jong, the Canes' sixth-round selection from this year, was also an overage prospect. After not hearing his name called last year, De Jong focused on bettering himself on and off the ice heading into this summer.
"It's a long process, and it's going to be a long career," he said. "You can't focus on the short-term like that. You've just got to focus on the long-term."
At 6-foot-5 and 192 pounds, De Jong is an imposing presence on the ice.
"There are a lot of strong prospects coming in," he said. "You can tell from the practice out there. It was high-paced. There are a lot of good players here."
→ Julien Gauthier, among others, returns for his second year of development camp. And the second year? It's a bit different from being the new guy in the room.
"The first year you're nervous and don't know what to expect," he said. "This year I know what's going on, try to enjoy the experience and work hard."
As a returning prospect, Gauthier can offer Necas and the other camp rookies some tips on what to expect this week.
"I told them just to not be nervous," he said. "It's always nerve-racking because you don't know what to expect, but we're not here for a long time, so try to make the most out of it."
→ Coaches on the ice today included Brind'Amour, who led instruction, Glen Wesley, Mike Vellucci and Sergei Samsonov.
Video: Rod Brind'Amour: "It's promising"
"You take it for granted that some of these guys are just 17 or 18 and they come into a locker room like this," Brind'Amour said. "I think it's special. I enjoy working with them."
This week marks an important tent-pole in the offseason for these young prospects, who will continue to train on various parts of the globe before some return for training camp in the fall.
"It's good preparation," Gauthier said. "You can see the pace of practices are pretty high. You know what to expect at main camp because it's going to be even harder with better players, so just work hard and focus."
Thursday's schedule features another split slate of off-ice lectures followed by on-ice activity. The evening practice, which again begins at 5:30 p.m., is open to the public.
A full schedule and additional information regarding Prospects Development Camp and Summerfest can be found here.