Duane Sutter calls it an “education in the commitment it takes to be a professional hockey player.”
And that succinctly sums up the Panthers’ 2008 Development Camp, which begins this week on 150 acres in the Caledon Countryside in Orangeville, Ontario.
Sutter, the team’s director of player development and four-time Stanley Cup winner, will work this week with the Panthers top prospects on everything from life skills to hockey skills.
“We want to educate them on the ice and off the ice,” said Sutter, who will gather the team’s top prospects at Teen Ranch, a sports camp that includes an Olympic size arena.
And they will come from all over. Those attending the camp will include 2006 first-round pick Michael Frolik, 2007 first-round pick Keaton Ellerby
, 2005 first-round pick Kenndal McArdle, junior stars Shawn Matthias
and Mike Duco, Michal Repik
, Evgeni Dadonov and goalie Sergei Gayduchenko
, Tanner Glass and David Brine, and recently-signed college players Andrew Sweetland, Jason Garrison
and Luke Beaverson.
Name a prospect, and they’ll be at Teen Ranch.
“You can really find out a lot about kids when you’re with them for seven days in that kind of environment,” Sutter said. “You can tell about their character, whether they’re self-motivated or whether they need a kick in the (butt) every day.”
Players learn a lot about the Panthers during development camp, too. Sweetland recently said the time he spent at Teen Ranch last year influenced his decision to sign with the Panthers in May rather than San Jose and Calgary.
While players will spend a lot of time at Development Camp on the ice – 10 sessions in seven days since Sutter has added three afternoon sessions – they will also spend time off the ice acquiring the knowledge to become an NHL professional on and off the ice.
Andy O’Brien, the Panthers’ strength and conditioning coach, will give each player their off-ice summer program. They’ll be seminars with mental skills coach David Scott.
“There’s a lot of team bonding,” Sutter said. “It’s just a neat place to be. The ranch is pretty remote, it’s secluded, but there’s just enough to do off the ice. We’ll go trail riding, there’s canoes to take out on the ponds.
“There’s a lot of education in a short period of time,” Sutter said. “But most of these kids have been drafted and throughout their career they’ve been the best. Now is the challenge. Very few will become a Gretzky or a Crosby. They have to be ready to share the ice. They also have to be ready off the ice. There’s no more billets or parents and they have to live on their own and learn how to write a check.”
And, yes, skills on the ice. Sutter has invited assistant coaches Guy Charron and Mike Kitchen to Development Camp to “work more on skills and also positional play.”
Players who have attended Development Camp in the past have included Jay Bouwmeester, Stephen Weiss
and Nathan Horton.
Development Camp isn’t the only activity holding the Panthers attention this week. GM Jacques Martin will spend some time at Development Camp but will also attend the NHL Combines in Toronto during the week with scouting director Scott Luce.