BUFFALO NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Drayson Bowman #21 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck as Alex Biega #70 of the Buffalo Sabres gets set to block the shot during their pre-season NHL game at First Niagara Center September 19, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The Carolina Hurricanes assigned six players to Charlotte this afternoon and now are down to 43 players on their training camp roster. Brett Bellemore, Kyle Lawson, Chris Murray, Matt Pistilli, Justin Soryal, and John Muse will be heading south soon and will participate in the Checkers training camp which starts next Monday.
Camp here has yet to be open for a full week, but there have been several cuts already. The players realize this is do-or-die time and they are in full competition mode. Let's face it, how often do you get the opportunity to compete for an NHL job?
Several forwards still here, who are vying for just a couple of spots, are making good cases for themselves to make the team, although a couple of skaters probably want to step it up even more than they have. Are you wondering what they might be thinking about all of this?
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with a few of the players who are in the thick of things and I asked them a question or two about the experience, including how they prepared for camp. Let's see what they had to say.
First up is Drayson Bowman:
How was your first day of training camp out on the ice?
It was good. The intensity went up noticeably, as it should. I'm very pleased how I felt. Obviously, being here for four weeks previous is working out to this point. But now it's for real.
Would you share a bit about your offseason and how you prepared yourself for training camp?
I was back in Denver. I tried to stay there most of the time, I didn't go on any vacation or anything like that. I tried to take the same approach that I took last year. I came in ready, lean, and fast. Yeah, I pretty much stayed with the same approach, I didn't really feel the need to change anything. I lost 10 pounds and I feel really lean and quick.
Last year you finished up the final 23 games of the season with the Canes. Did the coaching staff give you any feedback about what you did right, and what you might need to improve upon for this coming year?
They said that they were comfortable with me and they liked the way I played last year. Obviously, those were important games, leading up to the playoffs and they threw me out there against some of the best players in the league. I tried to keep my confidence level up and show them that they could be comfortable with me in those situations. With that said, obviously I need to concentrate more on the offense that I am usually used to, or was used to in Junior. But I firmly believe that it will come. If they give me the chance, I'm just looking forward to proving that in this camp.
Speaking of the offense, how do you go about making that come? Do you approach things differently than what you did last season?
I think it just comes down to confidence and being able to do what you can with the puck when you have that chance. Being a little bit younger, obviously it doesn't come all that quick. Now I'm 22 years old and I'm getting more comfortable out there in practice. So when I get into a game it shouldn't be any different. It's just a matter of bearing down and making it happen.
Next, I spoke with Zach Boychuk:
How did it feel out there, how was your first day of training camp out on the ice?
It felt good. Of course it's nice to get the conditioning tests over with, but now the real work starts, the practices and scrimmages. It's time now to stay on your toes and be ready to learn. Training camp is pretty short. You have to be like a sponge, you have to absorb all the information and then put it into the game. We'll be playing a game tomorrow, (Sunday), so I'm looking forward to mixing in a couple of body checks and getting my legs under me.
As you say, training camp is pretty short and once you get here, you are thrown right into the scrimmages and preseason games. You really have to come here in shape. Could you tell me a bit about your summer and what you did to prepare for camp?
The summers are huge for everyone here. I think nowadays, if you aren't working out, you are really hurting yourself and hurting your chances. We went pretty far into the playoffs with Charlotte, so I had about three months at home. I got back at it as quick as I could. I worked hard with my trainer back in Calgary and came back (to Raleigh) much earlier this year than I did last year, just so I could get used the humidity and kind of mingle with the guys and get some team bonding going. There are some new faces here and I wanted to meet those guys and be prepared for camp. So hopefully this time around, coming in early will give me an edge and I'll be ready to make this team.
After last year's experience, does this year feel any different for you, do you feel more comfortable or confident going in?
Oh yeah, last year was a big year for me, having as much success as I did at the minor league level and that just adds more confidence. My first year was kind of average, I got a few more NHL games in, but my level of play was not as high. Then last year I learned a lot about my game and realized that I needed to get more involved and add a few elements to my game, such as hitting and skating harder. This year I feel like I'm ready to play. There are some guys who can jump right out of Junior and play, like the "Skinners" and guys like that, but there are other guys, smaller guys like me, who kind of need a couple of years to hone our skills and make the team and be a factor. So, hopefully this will be the year for me.
We'll finish this article up with Jiri Tlusty:
How was your summer, and what did you do to prepare for camp this year?
Well, I started the summer sticking around here for like a month after the season because of my shoulder surgery. So I kept rehabbing over here for the month. Then I went back home for more rehab, the same thing for like another month. Then I started working outside, working on my legs and stuff. Then after two months, I was ready to work out fully, with weights and everything else. I found that I could fully use my arms, so I started doing everything 100%. I have done the same ritual almost every year, a lot of bike, but I changed it this year. I didn't use any bike this year, no bike at all, I just ran. Sometimes you have to change it up a little bit, so that's what I did. So far it seems to be working pretty good. I feel good out there and during the testing I did well too, so hopefully I can also improve myself out on the ice.
So, you feel 100% right now with both your knee and your shoulder?
Yes, I feel 100% right now. It's been amazing how fast it's healed. At first they told me you will be able to work out again after three months, but after two months I was working out fully. So that gave me a lot of confidence in my shoulder and I started switching things up in my workouts.
You're in the middle of a tough competition here in camp. What are your feelings going into that?
I'm going to give everything I can during the preseason, then it will be on the coaches to make the decision. I'm just going to go out there and show them that I'm 100% healthy this year and that I'm ready to earn my spot on the team.