It’s called rookie camp and for the 42 young players wearing blue and white this week, it is part boot camp, part karmic retreat.
For the first time in years, the camp will feature training-camp style blue and white games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“The games give us a sense of where we are at,” said Jim Hughes, the Leafs director of player development. “We can see poise, we can see hockey sense, who protects the puck, who competes, how people see the game and how they think. “
“We can get a tremendous amount of information just by dropping the puck and seeing who can play. It’s letting (first round draft choice) Tyler Biggs
get exposed to bigger and stronger players so we can see where we are and use it as a gauge.”
The four day camp at the MasterCard Centre runs from Monday to Thursday. It includes session with a nutritionalist, a dinner with club president Brian Burke and seminars on everything from the risks of drugs and alcohol to warnings about careless use of social media.
For the Leafs staff, it’s the chance to get a baseline on fitness, strength, endurance and skating strength.
“Some continue to progress, some flatline and some have small decreases,” said Hughes. “It’s our jobs to keep telling the kids the truth, the good, bad and ugly and let them know where they are in their careers. “
The players come together from points of the globe. Greg McKegg
is a 49-goal scorer from St. Thomas who played with the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League. Defenceman Florian Kettemer scored one single goal in the German Elite League.
Forward Sondre Olden
is a Norweigan who played in Sweden. Goalie Mark Owuya
is a Swede whose parents were from Nigeria and Russia.
The program is so ambitious, having been here the previous year is a huge advantage, said McKegg.
“It’s my second year here. Hopefully I can have an improvement and soak up as much as I can. When you’ve done the drills and gotten through the fitness test once, you know what to expect.”
Most of the players on the ice this week will never play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hughes understands that but any kid can gain from the program, whether he plays for the Leafs or not.
“At the end of the day we never want them to say ‘no one told me that, ’ Hughes said.
“We told them that. It’s all out in the open so they can have all the information to be successful.”