After a week of spirited practices and workouts, Florida Panthers Development Camp has come to a close. The players have returned home with plenty of lessons learned and plenty to work on as they continue to pursue their NHL dreams. Here are ten takeaways from last week’s camp.
1.Giants on the Blue Line
Consider this: there were ten defensemen at development camp. Every single one was at least 6’0”. Six of the ten were 6’3” or taller. What was more impressive than just the sheer size was the skating ability of the mammoth blue liners. General Manager Dale Tallon has made it a point to load the system with big, strong defensemen and if last week’s camp was any indication, that plan is going just fine.
2.Let’s go to the Beach
What happens when you send a bunch of young hockey players on a scavenger hunt by the beach? Well, you get a video of a construction crew doing the YMCA, you get selfies with joggers and you get players helping strangers do handstands.
Everybody had fun on Wednesday when the players hit the beach for the aforementioned scavenger hunt, some beach volleyball, and a tug-of-war. The workout allowed the players to enjoy one of the benefits of playing hockey in South Florida, the beach.
3.2014 Draft Class Impresses
All six of the Panthers 2014 draft selections were at camp last week and while much of the focus was on first overall pick, Aaron Ekblad, the entire class impressed. Whether it was second rounder, Jayce Hawryluk throwing the body around in practice, Hugo Fagerblom and his 6’6” frame emerging as an intimidating presence in net or Aaron Ekblad, Miguel Fidler and Juho Lammikko scoring three straight goals in Friday’s scrimmage, the 2014 Panthers draft class had a very strong camp.
This year was different for Rocco Grimaldi. The 5’6” firecracker of a forward has attended development camp before but this was his first camp since signing an entry-level contract with the organization. In the past, Grimaldi would come to camp, make a stunning impact, and then return to the freezing climes of the University of North Dakota. This season, Grimaldi will be playing somewhere in the Panthers organization and his excellent performance at development camp was just an appetizer for what lies ahead. The anticipation was palpable at development camp and it will only continue to grow as we approach training camp.
What lies ahead is still unknown for F Cody Payne and D Colin Suellentrop but regardless of what happens next, their performance at Florida’s development camp will be viewed as a success. Payne, from Weston, and Suellentrop, from Plantation, were two non-roster camp invitees with Florida roots. The duo grew up playing in South Florida and represented themselves well all week at camp. Both Payne and Suellentrop found the back of the net in Friday’s scrimmage, a fitting way to wrap-up camp for the local skaters.
6.Barkov’s got moves
Okay, so this is not a new revelation but in case anyone forgot, Aleksander Barkov emphatically reminded everyone in attendance at Tuesday’s practice session that he is a special player. Tuesday’s practice wrapped up with some shootout practice and after clinically finishing his first attempt, Barkov busted out this beautiful move that resulted in a stunning one-handed finish.
7. Yaroslav Kosov
Yaroslav Kosov came into camp as a bit of an unknown entity, but he did not leave as one. Selected by the Panthers in the fifth round (124th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Kosov has spent the last three years playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the KHL. Last season, the 21-year-old Kosov was a part of the Metallurg team that won the 2014 Gagarin Cup, the KHL’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup.
Playing against mostly junior and collegiate players in camp, Kosov’s professional experience was evident as he brought a very polished game that featured a nice mix of physicality and skill. If Kosov wasn’t on fans’ radars before camp, he certainly is now.
8.Let’s Get Cookin’
Before camp began, we asked the attendees their favorite meals to cook. Steak seemed to be the most common favorite while chicken and pasta were close behind. Kyle Rau and Ed Wittchow branched out by selecting tacos as their favorite meal while Rocco Grimaldi went the less-culinary route sticking with the classic, peanut butter and jelly. The young prospects got to expand their cooking horizons with a trip to Whole Foods on Tuesday afternoon. While at Whole Foods, the players learned about the importance of healthy eating habits and hopefully picked up a tip or two in the process.
We also asked the players to name the top-three people they would invite to dinner, a perfect opportunity to bust out all those new cooking moves. There was a wide range of dinner guest’s named ranging from Mom and Dad, to Steve Jobs and Vanessa Hudgens. The most popular dinner guest selections? That honor is shared by Barack Obama and Kevin Hart, obviously. Coming in behind Obama and Hart was Nicklas Lidstrom and JFK.
10.Ek’s got skills
A week of development camp can start to blend together. There are only so many backwards skating and circle passing drills you can watch before you start to lose track of what happened when. There are however, spectacular moments that stand out and become etched in your memory. Aaron Ekblad was responsible for one of these noteworthy events that leave a lasting impression.
It was towards the end of Tuesday’s practice when the players participated in some 3-on-3 drills. Ekblad dispossessed his opponent and carried the puck towards the opposing net. After some nifty stickhandling, the defenseman unleashed an absolute laser of a wrist shot top shelf. While it was just one play in practice, it was a perfect embodiment of what Ekblad brings to the table. Solid defense, and the skills to translate that D into offense at the other end.
With development camp in the rear-view mirror, the 2014-15 season is fast approaching. Stay tuned, because in a blink it will be time for ‘Ten Things to Watch for Training Camp!”