Brody Hoffman is no stranger to stiff competition.
Playing at the University of Vermont in Hockey East, one of the top college conferences in the country, Hoffman consistently faced high-end prospects and players who would go on to NHL careers.
As a goalie, facing quality opponents on a regular basis can be huge for development.
"It's always peace of mind to see guys come out of Hockey East and have success at this level," Hoffman said at Media Day on Thursday. "Obviously Hockey East is very competitive, but this is a big step, so it's going to take a lot of work."
For Hoffman, that step began at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and will carry into training camp where he'll get to be around NHL coaches and players.
"This is a time to improve, and get ready for the season," Hoffman said. "I'm just trying to be a sponge with the staff, and do whatever I'm told, and work hard every day."
Hoffman also said Traverse City offered him an opportunity to become more familiar with players he might share the ice with this season.
"It was fun to play against first rounders, and just getting used to some of the guys who are playing here," Hoffman said. "Communicating with the d-men, and kind of stuff like that we can carry into the year."
At Vermont, unlike when he played junior hockey, Hoffman said he had a goalie coach, who helped take his game to the next level.
"My footwork and positioning got a lot better at Vermont," said Hoffman, who worked with Terry Lovelette. "That was a big step for me, technically. Now it's just to keep building off of that at this level."
Hoffman said he's recently gotten the chance to be around some NHL players. He spoke with Montreal Canadiens forward Torrey Mitchell, who also played at the University of Vermont from 2004 through 2007, and a year later, played all 82 games for the San Jose Sharks.
Hoffman also worked out in Foxboro, Mass. this summer at Edge Performance Systems with a group of pros that included Charlie Coyle.
In training camp, Hoffman said he hopes to learn by watching the veteran goalies who have NHL experience.
"I'm probably not going to pick their brains too much, but just watch them, and pick up on little things they're doing," he said. "Kind of spitball with [Goaltending Development Coach Frederic Chabot], and [Goaltending Coach Bob Mason], and try to just pick up what they're doing, and try to incorporate it into my game."