Beyond the walls of PNC Arena, Raleigh is in the midst of what has been the hottest week of 2016 thus far. No better time, then, to cool off inside the arena next to a large, freshly painted slab of ice – the home of the Carolina Hurricanes’ annual Prospects Development Camp, which got underway on Wednesday.
After the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the group of 27 prospects, which includes all of the Hurricanes’ 2016 draft picks, made their way to Raleigh. They spent this morning and early afternoon away from the ice with fitness testing and nutritional instruction before hitting the ice for the first on-ice session of camp.
Here are some notes from the first full team skate.
-- The Hurricanes had two first-rounders hit the ice for the first time tonight in defenseman Jake Bean and forward Julien Gauthier. They headline the group of nine players drafted in Buffalo just a couple weeks back who are now all in Raleigh to get their first glimpse of the professional hockey experience.
“It’s all about development and being exposed to the Hurricanes values and what they think is important as a team,” Bean said. “I’ll try to get to know some of the prospects to learn from them. Some of them have been here before and have a lot more experience than me.”
“Of course there’s a little bit of pressure with the status of a first-rounder, but it doesn’t matter,” Gauthier said. “We all have a chance, and we’ll work hard to try to prove ourselves.”
-- Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters was on the ice with the group today – the only time that will happen this week, he said, so he can better assess the individual talent from the stands the rest of the week – and liked what he saw.
“I’m impressed with the overall quickness, size and hockey sense of that group. It’s very good,” he said. “I’m very impressed with the way they played tonight.”
“It’s tremendous,” Bean said of the on-ice talent around him. “The scouts have definitely done their homework. There are a lot of really talented players here. It’s pretty cool to be surrounded by such a great talent pool.”
As is his modus operandi, Peters ran an up-tempo, fast-paced skate with little time spent on instruction at the white board.
“He doesn’t waste any time out there,” said defenseman Haydn Fleury, a three-year veteran of development camp. “He keeps a high pace, and that’s what you like. You don’t want to sit around out there. You want to be moving and getting all sweaty.”
“I like the fact here tonight that everything we gave them to do they did. Every time we brought them in and talked about making an adjustment, they made an adjustment. That tells me they have a lot of hockey sense,” Peters said. “I like the size of our group. We’re getting bigger and bigger as we go and not sacrificing any skill as we do it.”
-- We knew this already from just looking at his measurements, but Julien Gauthier is a big man, a “man child,” as he describes himself on Twitter. He’s just 18 years old, but he’s already built really well for today’s NHL. This is, perhaps, due in large part to his body-building background. He was first in the gym at age nine, not doing any heavy lifting but establishing a routine and foundation for the years to come.
“Size, skill, strength. His fitness testing was off the charts,” Peters said. “Now it’s just a matter of continuing to grow.”
“I don’t train to look good without a shirt on,” he said. “I train to be powerful and strong.”
That shows in the way Gauthier plays hockey.
“I want to shoot the puck as much as I can. I’m a big guy, and I’m not afraid to drive hard [to the net],” he said in describing his game. “Driving the net, shooting the puck and using my speed. I don’t need to deviate from my game. I need to focus and stick to what I can do best.”
-- In town for his third development camp, Haydn Fleury is the wily veteran of the group.
“It flies by,” he 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.”
By now, Fleury has a good grasp on what’s expected this week. It’s another chance for him to prove himself and better his game as training camp approaches in September.
“I think my game is just better than it was last year, to be honest with you. I improved in areas that I needed to improve on, and I think my year went better this year,” said Fleury, who turns 20 years old on July 8. “I had a great opportunity in Red Deer being the 19-year-old defenseman on the team, playing on the power play and penalty kill. I played in some great tournaments this year with the Memorial Cup and World Juniors. 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.”
“He’s going to lead the way for these kids this week. He did a good job here today, and he’ll continue to do that the rest of the week,” Peters said of Fleury. “He’ll come back to camp and fight for a job on our team.”
-- The four goalies, including first-time camp attendee Alex Nedeljkovic, were on the ice early this evening with Canes goalie coach David Marcoux, Charlotte’s goaltending video assistant Derek Wilkinson and the newest member of the Hurricanes’ staff, Curtis Joseph, who was last week named the club’s goaltending consultant.
Charlotte Checkers head coach Ulf Samuelsson joined Hurricanes’ coaching staff on the ice for practice tonight, his first hands-on experience with the Canes’ top prospects and some faces he will likely see on his team this season.
“It’s all about getting on the same page and delivering the same message,” Peters said.
Thursday’s schedule features more on-ice activity, both in the morning and evening. The morning session, which begins at 10 a.m., will be streamed live on CarolinaHurricanes.com. The evening session, 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.
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email