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Rookies Take The Ice

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

 
CORAL SPRINGS - Panthers rookie and first-round draft pick Dmitry Kulikov described the first day of rookie camp here Monday at incredible ICE in one word.
 
Intense.
 
“A pretty hard practice,” echoed rookie forward Michal Repik.
 
Signaling the start of rookie camp at 9:28 Monday morning with the wave of his stick, Panthers coach Peter DeBoer put 20 rookies through a 2 hour on-ice session mixed with a little scrimmaging, drills, and lots of skating.
 
“The young guys came here in pretty good shape,” DeBoer said. “I think they hung in there pretty good for the first day. It’s always a learning process for young players to get up the speed and the tempo and the condition you have to be in. As hard as they worked all summer, or feel they worked, they realize during the first practice how tough it is. You can see some of them starting to fade a little bit, but it’s a great education.”
 
Kulikov, who had 62 points in 57 games in his first year with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and was Rookie of the Year, traveled 20 hours to South Florida after his trip originated in Russia with stops in New York and Hartford. Despite having not skated in a week and battling a cold, the Panthers first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft was fairly impressive.
 
“The first practice was pretty intense,” said the big defenseman. “Even though I’ve been sick, I think I did pretty good. Obviously, I’m feeling my way. But I hope to show them the rest of (camp) what I can do.”
 
DeBoer said Kulikov looked like a “real talented guy.”
 
“You can see his skill level,” he added. “He’s a good-sized guy with great skill level and he’s a competitive player. You could see in drills he was battling and playing with a little bit of an edge, which was nice to see.”
 
DeBoer said he was pleased with players “on the bubble this year pushing for job.”
 
“I thought (center Shawn) Matthias was in great shape and looked leaner and faster,” DeBoer said. “I thought (defenseman Keaton) Ellerby and (defenseman Jason) Garrison looked like they were in good shape and ready to grab a job.”
 
Garrison, who had 35 points in 75 games last year for the Panthers American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., had been working out since the middle of June in preparation for camp.
 
“I really started hitting hard the middle of July,” Garrison said. “Obviously, it was a tough practice but it’s good to get in there and get a feel for everything. You couldn’t ask for anything different. We have a hard-working coach and he expects a lot out of you.”
 
Repik, who led Rochester in goals (19) last season and scored two with the Panthers, said; “We know how hard we practice from last year. We know what Pete wants from us so we expect it to be hard and we expect the hard drills.”
 
DeBoer hopes this week will be an education for the rookies as well as an opportunity for some to make the NHL team out of training camp.
 
“We need another Michael Frolik, which we got last year; a guy who comes to camp with not a lot of expectations and surprises you and become a regular contributor,” he said. “I think that’s going to be critical this year.”
 
NOTES
 
Repik said he spent the summer working out and skating in his native Czech Republic with a number of current and former NHL players including Jaromir Jagr...The Panthers veterans continued working out Monday in preparation for Saturday’s official start of training camp. Spending their first day of the ice in South Florida Monday were Keith Ballard, Rostislav Olesz and Frolik. Nick Tarnasky pulled into town last week…
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