An hour northwest of Toronto – in the middle of mill ruins, horse farms and 150 acres of Caledon Countryside – the Panthers will bring together their top prospects from Russia to Rimouski to show what it takes to play in the NHL.
Under the direction of Duane Sutter, director of player development and a four-time Stanley Cup winner, the Panthers will hold their 2007 Development Camp between June 3-10 in Orangeville, Ontario.
The purpose of the camp, Sutter said, “Is to educate the kids on the commitment it takes to be a professional hockey player.” The camp takes place at Teen Ranch, a sports camp with an Olympic size arena. Sutter will be joined by Panther consultant Joe Nieuwendyk, strength and conditioning coach Andy O’Brien, goaltending coach Phil Myre, video coach Pierre Groulx and sports psychologist David Scott.
Two dozen players will attend the camp including former first-round draft picks Michael Frolik (2006) and Kendall McArdle (2005), forwards David Booth and Drew Larman, defensemen Martin Lojek
and Derrick LaPoint, and goalies Tyler Plante, Brian Foster
and David Shantz.
The Panthers were one of a handful of teams along with San Jose and Calgary to begin such camps several years ago for their prospects.
“Player camps like this were probably overlooked in the past by a lot of NHL teams,” Sutter said. “I think it’s kind of like baseball. They have development leagues and instructional leagues and minor leagues. I think it’s important to develop from within.
“You can really find out a lot about kids when you’re with them for seven days in that kind of environment. You can tell about their character, whether they’re self-motivated or whether they need a kick in the (butt) every day.”
When players arrive at Development Camp, they’ll be given a fitness test and begin training sessions on and off the ice.
“They’ll be split into two groups the first five days, defense and offense, and then the remaining two days they’ll be brought together for competitive games,” Sutter said. “All of the on-ice programs will be skill enhancement.”
O’Brien will review the players summer fitness programs and he’ll offer fitness and nutrition seminars in the evening. Nieuwendyk and Tomas Pacina, skills coach for women’s hockey star Haley Wickenheiser, will work on skills with the prospects while Myre will work with the goalies.
“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.”
It won’t be all work. Sutter said one evening the players will attend a Toronto Blue Jays game. They’ll also be taken on a horse ride.
“The good thing is this is the sixth summer camp we’ve organized and we’re starting to see the kids who came through, kids like Bouwmeester and Weiss and Horton, playing with the Panthers,” Sutter said. “It’s a good feeling to walk through the locker room and be able to see eight or nine kids who have made it.”