WINNIPEG - Every year, Jimmy Roy finds a way to tweak development camp. A few years ago, the changes were on the ice - with the focus shifting to a few core skills key to the pro game.
This year's camp featured a change off the ice.
"We had a mental awareness session. I think that's one thing that is really positive with young kids today and their openness and willingness to talk about mental awareness," said Roy, the director of player development for the Winnipeg Jets. "We wanted to show them that we support that in any way we can, we want to be proactive and we're here to help in any way we can.
"I think it was something that some of the kids took something out of this year and was a real positive step for us at our development camp."
Video: DEV CAMP | Jimmy Roy
It was also one of the ways that Roy saw the group of 41 prospects become closer as a group over the course of the week.
Take Mikhail Berdin, the Russian goaltender drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
During his first development camp, he was more reserved (as most first-time prospects are, says Roy). This year, after playing a combined 51 games between the Jaxonville IceMen and the Manitoba Moose, Berdin was a big part of the group dynamics.
"For a guy like Mikhail, the biggest difference for me is how much he's integrated into the group and how much his personality, how much the guys like him," Roy said. "The other day at breakfast, we're sitting there and he gets up and makes shakes for everybody. He's going around to every table and saying 'do you want some?' Those are the types of kids - the outgoing, the character, those kinds of things - you want from people and he has it."
Berdin's AHL season with the Moose saw him post a 0.927 save percentage in 23 games. A big part of Berdin's game is playing the puck, something that Moose coach Pascal Vincent loves.
That approval is music to Berdin's ears.
"When I played in Russia, the coaches didn't let me play the puck a lot. They wanted me to stay in the net - 'your job is to make the saves.' I talked with Pazzy and our goalie coach here and they want me to play the puck," Berdin said, adding his skills also help out the defencemen.
"I like to play the puck, but when the defence likes it too, it's really good."
Video: DEV CAMP | Mikhail Berdin
While Berdin has reached veteran status at development camp, defenceman Ville Heinola just put the finishing touches on his first camp after being drafted by the Jets 20th overall just a week ago.
"It's been a long time since I skated last. So it's good to get back on the ice," Heinola said.
"It went really well. I think I got pretty good tips from my off-ice trainer for the summer."
Video: DEV CAMP | Scrimmage Highlights
As much as the week was important for Heinola to get introduced to the organization, it was also important for Roy and his staff to learn about Heinola and the rest of the 2019 NHL Draft class.
"It's your first real initial contact with them. So to get them for a week in Winnipeg and see them on the ice and in the gym, away from the rink. The nights we go for supper and the personal settings, I think it was pretty successful," Roy said.
"It was just nice to talk to the kids and get to know them off the ice. Getting to see Henri Nikkanen on the ice and getting to see him - his skill, he's a big body, skates well, stuff like that, then talk to him off the ice and understand how good his English is, joke around, and have a bit of fun.
"All the players from Neaton, to Blaisdell, it was just good to be on the ice with them and be around them."
Video: DEV CAMP | Ville Heinola
If this week is any indication, the bond between the Finnish prospects is as strong as ever, as
Henri Nikkanen lurked just outside his fellow Finn, Heinola, wrapped up his media scrum.
It was an indication of the relationship these young players have already, especially for Nikkanen and Heinola, who both played in the Finnish Liiga (the country's top league) last season.
"That's the one thing that's interesting with some of the players that come from Europe that are younger, they've been in professional hockey for a year or two years over there," Roy said. "It's not the college lifestyle or the junior lifestyle. They have that pro mentality as far as what the daily routine is and practice habits. When you're playing at that level against men, it's just a different mentality. So they bring that, which is a good asset to have at a young age."
After participating in the camp all week, forward Kristian Vesalainen didn't skate in the scrimmage on Friday.
Roy said the move was just a precaution and that the 20-year-old is fine.