IS THIS HEAVEN? NO, IT’S HOCKEY PARADISE…
The Tampa Bay Lightning kicked off its annual Development Camp today in Brandon at the Ice Sports Forum, where a total of 30 hopefuls comprising of prospects, invitees, and free-agent signees gathered to improve their skills and better themselves as potential future NHL players.
Of the 30 campers, three are former first-round draft picks (Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrey Vasilevskiy and Slater Koekkoek), while 20 are attending camp with the Bolts for the very first time. JT Brown, meanwhile, is the only prospect of all the attendees with NHL experience.
Despite many of the new faces hitting the ice with each other for the first time, general manager Steve Yzerman said he expects several of the campers to be a bit reserved, but assured those in attendance, including several members of the media, that the goal of this week’s camp was not to try out, but rather to improve.
“It’s not an audition at all. We get a chance to see the kids on the ice, off the ice, what kind of shape they’re in, and what they need to work on,” Yzerman said. “It’s an opportunity for them to get to know our staff, for our staff to know them, and help them out with whatever they need to do to become pros.”
There was somewhat of a comical moment following the on-ice practice today when during an interview, Vladislav Namestnikov said he would like to be more of a leader at development camp this year, being that he is one of the few attendees returning from last summer.
Not sure exactly what he had in mind, but just minutes later, he was standing alongside fellow Russian Andrey Vasilevskiy in front of the goaltender’s locker stall, translating questions and answers from English to Russian and vice versa for a group of reporters.
When asked if he had any idea that he would be doubling as a translator this week in addition to playing hockey, Namestnikov replied, “I knew what I signed up for.”
DID YOU SEE THAT?...
Russian goaltending prospect Andrey Vasilevskiy, selected with the 19th overall pick at last month’s June, didn’t need to understand English on Tuesday to know that several fans in attendance were simply in awe of a series of acrobatic saves he made during a 2-on-0 drill.
During a media scrum, general manager Steve Yzerman pointed out just how agile and athletic the 17-year-old netminder was, especially for possessing such a large frame, while on the ice, Vasilevskiy made the Bolts GM look like a genius, much to the delight of the raucously-applauding fans in the seats.
Shortly after, Vasilevskiy said through his translator, Namestnikov, “I was just playing around, but some were lucky.”