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Bolts prospects hit the ice to kick off 2012 Development Camp

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

There is no illusion regarding what the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2012 Development Camp is really about.

While each of the 30 prospects participating in this year’s camp hope to one day crack an NHL roster, the week-long showcase is not so much of an audition as it is an opportunity for the club’s young prospects and camp invitees to improve their skills and become more well-rounded players.

“As young prospects, there is a lot of excitement among the guys who are here,” said Steve Thomas, the Lightning’s player development consultant. “Each one of them hopes to make it to the NHL one day, but right now we want them to focus on working hard, improving their skills and getting a feel for what it’s like to be a pro.”

Right now we want them to focus on working hard, improving their skills and getting a feel for what it’s like to be a pro. - Steve Thomas, Lightning Player Development Consultant

Thomas, along with Syracuse Crunch head coach Jon Cooper and a handful of other assistants, will spearhead the effort throughout the entire camp, which concludes Saturday, July 7, at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon with a final 3-on-3 tournament that is anticipated to be the highlight of camp.

Attending the camp are a number of the organization’s most highly-touted prospects, including three former first-round picks, as well as a large number of invitees. In total, there are 15 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders in town this week to participate.

While the main initiative of the camp will be to gauge each player’s performance in a number of on-ice drills as well as a series of strength and conditioning workouts off the ice, the campers will also enjoy a wide variety of team-building activities that are intended to be both instrumental in building a rapport and having fun.

Vladislav Namestnikov and coach Jon Cooper look on during a practice drill during Day 1 of Development Camp.

Although the majority of the participants are attending camp with the Lightning for the very first time, several participants may be familiar with the day-to-day schedule, but all of them at camp this week can expect to take part in rigorous drills aimed at honing in on specific skill sets.

Thomas noted that among the on-ice sessions planned are speed and agility exercises facilitated by a professional power skating coach, drills in shot accuracy with a well-renowned shooting instructor, and team scrimmages, which are expected to delight Bolts fans in attendance in Brandon.

The camp possesses not only players who were acquired by various methods – all prospects were either drafted, signed as free agents or invited by the team to attend – but those who have displayed their skills on all different stages, including the AHL, ECHL, NCAA and the CHL. Of all the attendees, only JT Brown has NHL experience, appearing in five games with the Lightning this past season.

Despite the varying ages, skill levels and backgrounds of the players, general manager Steve Yzerman says the goal of the camp is the same for everyone.

“For these guys it’s an opportunity to get to know our staff and for our staff to know them,” Yzerman said. “It’s a chance for them to work on their skating and all the different aspects of their game, so that when we send them back home for the rest of the summer, they can build off the experience and continue to work and get better.”

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