Both sheets of ice at the Lightning’s training facility, the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, were rocking all morning, as the four-day rookie camp kicked off on one side and the veterans scrimmaged for over an hour on their own on the other.
For the eager group of prospects, the morning was not unlike college freshman orientation, as they, split into two groups, showed anxiety and excitement as they tried to make a good, and hopefully lasting, impression.
Brian Lawton, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager, greeted the rookies the previous evening by explaining that there are open positions on this team and everyone had a shot.
“Now we start evaluating you,” was the message Lawton sent. “When you gathered in the summer, we were teaching. Now, we’re evaluating.”
After watching the first on-ice sessions, Lawton had early praise for 2009 Entry Draft first round picks Carter Ashton and Victor Hedman
and for second round selection forward Richard Panik
“Those are just visuals,” Lawton explained. “You watch how people move and some people look more like a player than other. Victor Hedman
looks like a player and Panik looks really fluid out there.”
After their ice time, each prospect eventually made his way to the mezzanine area of the rink which overlooks the second rink, where Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and the other veterans were rounding into training camp shape.
Meanwhile, Lawton expressed optimism about the year ahead for the Norfolk Admirals, the Lightning AHL affiliate.
“We’re trying to create a real strong off-ice work ethic there,” Lawton explained. “We’re putting a lot more time and energy into what we’re doing in Norfolk. We think we have some legitimate prospects that will be down there and now is the time to strengthen everything we do there. The schedule there is conducive to training. It’s a huge commitment for the players to make, but that’s what this organization expects of them.”
Overall, the watchword for this camp, and the upcoming training camp, is competition. And Lawton couldn’t be more pleased.
“I’m very excited for the start of camp,” Lawton said. “When you have real competition you can push the players. They realize that. They realize that everything has to be earned.”