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Competition at the forefront on Day 1 at camp

Stafford, Little, Ehlers excited to get started

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 /

WINNIPEG -- Day 1 of training camp may have only been skating tests, but the players know the competition for spots is only beginning.

"I think there is a little bit of a turnover with a lot of young guys, some new guys coming up that are going to have a great opportunity to make a difference in camp here to see where they might end up in the line-up," said veteran Drew Stafford. "It pushes guys to be their best. I think that's what we need to take a step forward as an organization."

Stafford is fresh off his fourth 20+ goal season of his career, and plans to show younger players trying to crack the line-up how to be a pro every day the only way he knows how: By example.

"Once we get on the ice in the practices, (it's) making sure we're having a high pace out there," said Stafford. "Making sure we're disciplined with our passes and the plays we're making, emphasizing speed. That competition has to be every day."

Video: CAMP | Drew Stafford on his role in training camp

Nikolaj Ehlers was one of those "young guys" last season. Though he's only one year removed from his rookie season, he says the lessons he learned stuck with him.

"A lot of small things, like keep working," Ehlers said. "You can't stop working for a minute, otherwise everybody else is going to be one step ahead of you. Just be prepared, have fun out there."

Video: CAMP | Nikolaj Ehlers on his rookie season

A big reason why Ehlers was able to put up 15 goals and 38 assists in his rookie season was the speed he brings to the ice every night. Bryan Little says that speed is something he sees in a number of the young prospects in the organization.

"The one impression I got in the pre-camp skates is just how fast some of the kids are. It seems like all of them can skate and they've all got some skill," said Little. "It should be an exciting camp."

That excitement will take place between MTS Iceplex and MTS Centre over the next sixteen days of camp. But Stafford cautions young players against waiting for preseason game action to show what they've got.

"As a young guy, this is your chance, right now," said Stafford. "It's not one of those things where you go through this camp and say 'I didn't get my chance.' This is your chance.

"I'm excited to see what they've got."

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