The Tampa Bay Lightning want to waste no time getting their prospects into training and on the ice. Starting Monday, 30 players between the ages of 18 and 25 will begin a week-long teaching camp in Victoria, British Columbia, based at the Bear Mountain Resort. The Lightning own the rights to more than half the players participating, and have also invited a few undrafted players that have caught the eyes of the scouting staff.
"It's part of our macro plan for player development," vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. "We want to start to develop more of our own players."
The camp, beginning July 28 and running through August 1, will feature off-ice training and practices each day, as well as two scrimmages. The rookies will be divided into two teams to face off at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at Juan de Fuca Arena at the Bear Mountain Arena sports complex. All scrimmages and practices are free and open to the public, at owner Len Barrie's suggestion. Barrie also owns Bear Mountain Resort.
"Len obviously feels very strongly about the local people there and he wanted them all to know that it will be open and they should come down and experience it," Lawton said. "He wanted the people to be a part of it and to share in it."
Along with on-ice instruction, the camp will also feature off-ice elements. Players will work with a strength coach as well as talk about nutrition and how to better take care of their bodies. Members of the Lightning coaching staff, including head coach Barry Melrose and assistant coaches Rick Tocchet, Wes Walz and Cap Raeder will be on hand, observing the young players both on and off the ice.
"They'll be there, observing the prospects and getting to know them, spending some time with the kids and getting a feel for who they are as people as much as hockey players.," Lawton said.
Highlighting the list of participants is center Steven Stamkos
, the Lightning's first overall pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Also coming to camp is 20-year-old Finnish goaltender Riku Helenius
, Tampa Bay's first-round draft choice in 2006. Defenseman Ty Wishart, recently acquired by the Lightning from San Jose, is also attending.
Lawton is confident the prospect's camp will be a positive thing, not only for the players, but for the organization as a whole. He said the key is working with young players early to show them what it takes to succeed in the game and make it to the NHL level.
"It's part of the long-range plan to give the kids as much guidance as possible at an earlier age," he said. "It's a slow boat, so to speak, but if you do things right over time, then down the road hopefully we'll see the next Paul Ranger or someone similar coming up through the system."