WINNIPEG – When Michael Spacek finished off a 2-on-1 rush with teammate Brandon Denham to give Team Roy a 6-5 overtime win over Team Keane, the 2015 development camp came to a
Coordinator of Player Development (and winning head coach) Jimmy Roy said he couldn’t be happier with how the whole week progressed.
“I've learned a lot about some players, and I think they've learned a lot about our organization,” Roy said. “Especially with the new players coming in that we've just drafted. You get to know them, and get to know their personalities a little bit. What they like doing on the ice, off the ice, and what
they need improvement on.”
Improvement is the key word. Now the prospects go their separate ways to prepare for training camp in the fall. Andrew Copp played his first NHL game with the Winnipeg Jets in the 82nd game of the 2014-2015 regular season. Even though he’s only 20-years-old, he found himself in a different
role than he’s used to this week.
“With the connections at USA and Michigan, both Kyle (Connor) and Jack (Roslovic) both felt like I was pretty approachable,” said Copp. “Felt like I was almost one of the older guys trying to help guys along, which is a new thing for me.”
After missing development camp last year due to school commitments at the University of Michigan, Copp took every opportunity to meet as many prospects as he could.
“I got to know the prospects a lot better, the college free agents a lot better,” he said. “Obviously I was really comfortable with the equipment guys and trainers after my stint here at the end of the year. All in all, a pretty good camp for me.”
The kind of interaction Copp had with other prospects was something Roy liked to see.
“I did watch him throughout the year and I thought he had a great season. Now to see him interacting with other players, younger players, older players, and the maturity level. I was excited to see him,” Roy said. “He's a very eager kid. He works hard in the summer time, and he wants to be here playing for the Winnipeg Jets next year.
“It's not a matter of us initiating the conversation, it's a matter of him saying, and us talking and communicating throughout the summer time so when he comes back here, he's the best player
he can be in the fall.”
But it’s not only Copp who Roy and Player Development Assistant Mike Keane will talk with. Roy says they make a point of talking with every player before they leave Winnipeg.
“It's a confidence booster for some of them, but it's more educational to come in and say 'what have you been doing the last six or seven weeks? Ok, this is what you're doing. How can we help you moving forward?'” Roy said. “We try and educate them as much as we can with Craig
(Slaunwhite) our strength coach, and the coaching staff we have here.”
That kind of information is valuable to first round selections like Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers. The latter has put on some muscle since his season ended in April. His focus is making sure it doesn’t take away from one of the assets that make him dangerous on the ice: his speed.
“I'm not so worried about that… I felt ok out there,” Ehlers said after camp came to a close. “I have about two months to improve and get my chance to play next year.”
For Connor, this camp was his first taste of life as a professional. The leading scorer of the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms in 2014-2015, Connor is committed to the University of Michigan next
season. In his words, “the hard work begins now.
“I just wanted to focus on what I did well. For me, it's my skating ability. I just want to go out there and skate, and out compete the guy next to me,” he said. “Just the little details. Stretching out before, paying attention to that, making sure you get the lifts in that you need to. Even
practice, you have to go all out in practice, and it really makes a difference.”
Connor, like Ehlers, plans to work on getting stronger in preparation for next season. Those goals, combined with the off-season training it takes to achieve them, is why Roy doesn’t read too
much into on-ice performances this week.
“Everybody is at a different stage too with what they're doing for their off-ice training. What they're doing, how much time they're spending on-ice,” he said “In a camp like this, some guys don't really have access to ice before, but you really monitor what they're doing off the ice. They have tons of questions. They're into stuff like this. Hopefully they can take what they learn at this camp, and
Along with that new information gained from this week’s camp, Connor will remember one more thing about Winnipeg.
“It's great. The fans are really passionate here,” he said. “You can tell. 10:30 am and it's packed out there. It was great.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com