Logan Stanley knew the pace at his first NHL training camp would be an adjustment. But that's not what sticks out to him most about skating with the Winnipeg Jets for the first time.
"The first practice was just packed - both sides of the rink," Stanley said from Windsor, ON. "It's a pretty special hockey environment there."
It's an environment that Stanley, Winnipeg's 18th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft can't wait to be a part of. He got a taste of it in July at development camp, then again just prior to departing for September's Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC.
But before Stanley can be in that environment full-time, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice says defencemen of Stanley's size - 6'7 and 228 pounds - have to learn to play the position a certain way at the NHL level.
"It's going to take some years before he's an NHL defensemen," said Maurice after Stanley was re-assigned to the OHL's Windsor Spitfires Oct. 4.
"Learning all the small things about how to position your body, how to roll off a hit, how to extend your stick, all those things - those training camp conversations are very important."
Luckily for Stanley, a guy he's looked up to (figuratively) for a while happens to already be in the organization: Tyler Myers.
"Tyler Myers is a guy that I've liked to watch for a few years now. Being able to talk to him a few times during the camp was pretty cool," said Stanley, who also spent time chatting with alternate captain Dustin Byfuglien.
"We just talked about the game of hockey, where the game is going and just hockey in general. Then they talked about things off the ice with me - how I train, and how they train."
A conversation with a former Calder Trophy winner in Myers, or a four-time NHL All-Star like Byfuglien, revealed something that Stanley will take with him.
"I think I see that and I learn what it takes to be there, and what it takes to stick around in the NHL," said Stanley. "Once you make it, the hard work doesn't stop. I think just seeing how hard they work all the time, I'm going to bring that back to junior."
The fact that the 18-year-old Stanley felt comfortable enough to talk with established veterans like Myers and Byfuglien was music to Maurice's ears.
"We wanted to have as much of that interaction as he could," said Maurice. "Playing defence as much as anything, who you're talking to on the line and what your partner is telling you has a really big impact."
Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his team had Stanley's name circled on their list heading into the NHL Draft in Buffalo, NY this past June.
"Just from the character and the compete standpoint, he's someone that we really believe is just scratching the surface of where he can go," said Cheveldayoff. "Getting a defenseman, left shot, certainly does help. When all those things collide, you just don't let those things slip through your fingers."
Now Stanley is committed to helping the Windsor Spitfires get back into the OHL postseason. He's also looking to build on a successful draft year in 2015-2016 when he posted 17 points in 64 games, represented Canada at the IIHF World Under-18 tournament, and skated in the CHL Top Prospects Game.
But Stanley does admit, it's a bit of an adjustment getting used to the OHL again.
"It's been going alright," said Stanley after putting up two assists in his first five games. "I think the first few games, it was a little bit different being used to the speed of NHL players and coming back, and you have to get used to the speed here, and it's a little bit slower."
Even if the OHL game is a bit slower than what he saw in late September and early October at MTS Iceplex, Stanley doesn't want to get complacent. Improving his foot speed has been a goal of his for a couple seasons, and he wants that progress to continue, now that he sees how much it will help at the NHL level.
In Windsor, he's back with the coaching staff that helped him get quicker last season: Rocky Thompson, Trevor Letowski, and Jerrod Smith.
"We did a lot of video, (they) broke down the game for me," said Stanley. "They helped me a lot this (past) year, and kind of explained the game and made things easier.
"You always want to keep getting better and keep improving. I just have to go home and keep working on my skating and my foot speed, and come back ready to go."
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