Two years ago Patrick Kaleta was asked by the coaching staff to stop hitting during training camp. They didn’t want him to hurt one of the veterans.
The impression was made, so Kaleta backed off. He understood when to pick his spots and when not to unleash his aggression.
So when the Sabres development camp opened on Wednesday, did Kaleta need another talking to?
“No, I already knew,” laughed the Angola, NY native, who appeared in 40 games for the Sabres last season. “No one had to say anything. I know what this [camp] is all about.”
What the camp is about is just what it’s titled, development, not destruction. It’s about possibly creating futures, not ending careers before they start.
So with the big picture in mind, Kaleta made the responsible choice. He’s worked on his own game while helping the younger players get comfortable.
“[Two years ago] I was a younger guy trying to make an impression and now I’m a veteran in this camp, believe it or not,” said Kaleta. “I just want [the prospects] to have the best time they can here.”
The Angola, NY native wasn’t a prospect that long ago, so he remembers the feeling well. He also remembers the important role a couple of key veterans – Andrew Peters to name one – played in his acclimation process.
It’s something that he wants to be a part of with this current group of potential NHLers.
“When you go in [the locker room], you’re basically [going] in your pants because you see all these guys that play in the NHL and that’s your dream,” laughed Kaleta. “You’re a little bit nervous and tight, so if you can get more comfortable and get to know a couple of guys, it makes the transition a whole lot easier.”
Kaleta hasn’t lost his edge, but he’s gained enough maturity and wisdom to take advantage of a situation.
Hitting is his natural passion and what he does best. But to have a viable NHL career, he needs to become a complete player. One trick ponies tend to fade quickly in professional sports.
“Obviously, I love to hit, that’s a big part of my game, but I have to realize that this is a perfect opportunity for me to work on my hands, my shot and the other parts of my game,” said Kaleta. “The hitting will come along in the near future I’m sure.
“My goal this summer was to work as hard as I possibly can because I want to make the team this year. That’s my goal and that’s my mindset. My goal for [the development camp] is to come in and get as much out of it as I can. Just work hard and skate everyday. Anything I can get positive out of this camp. Once this is over, I’m going to keep going hard as I possibly can to give myself the best shot I can to make the team this year.”
But don’t think Kaleta has stopped having fun. During final scrimmage on Thursday, he scored a nice goal with a quick wristshot into the top-left corner.
As Kaleta skated back to the benches, he yelled something that made Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff laugh.
When asked what he said, Kaleta chuckled and let on to the joke.
“I didn’t know if I should start counting them now.”