Ruchika Sharma covers the Florida Panthers for Teenlink.
Ahh. The smell of the rink. A smell I had truly missed since late April.
Yours truly was up and at it early this morning at the recently renamed JetBlue Training Facility located in the Saveology.com Iceplex for the Florida Panthers Development Camp. 36 players were invited to camp (24 forwards, eight defensemen and four goalies. A complete roster can be found here).
Camp officially started on July 2nd, and will run through Friday with the exception of the Fourth of July. (LW) Quinton Howden and (D) Erik Gudbranson were the two players not in attendance as they are both suffering from infections and are unable to fly.
The rink was filled with fans, young and old alike, taking in the sights of the future of the Florida Panthers. Kevin Dineen was in attendance, evaluating who would be able to make the jump to the pros next season.
Prospects were divided into two squads: White and Red. The White Squad was on the ice first; skating through drills run by Chuck Weber (Head coach of the Panthers AHL farm team, the San Antonio Rampage), Brian Skrudland (Director of Player Development) and Robb Tallas (Goaltending Coach) working with the goalies. A notable member of the White Squad: (D) Mike Matheson, a 2012 draft pick (23rd overall).
They finished up at around 10 AM, and that's when the Red Squad took the ice. Running through the exact same drills, the coaches had all the fans laughing at the 'one-legged' and 'skiing' laps they had the squads skating through. A notable member of the Red Squad: (C) Jonathan Huberdeau, a 2011 draft pick (3rd overall).
Although trade rumors were running rampant (which prospects would be traded for the return of Roberto Luongo?), the prospects were working their hearts out, all having something to prove.
After today's on-ice session, I was able to catch up with (D) Mike Matheson and (C) Jonathan Huberdeau.
(D) Mike Matheson
- (Talking about adjusting to camp) "I worked a lot on skating, for sure, and working on the edges of and things like that. I'm definitely working on those areas of my game and just getting used to the speed and quickness of the advanced level."
- (About improvement) "I think that everybody, no matter what their best asset is, there's still work to be done in that area; including me and skating. I'm being able to work on that area and hopefully become even better in my skating; it will help me along the way too."
- (On what he's here to do) "I'm hoping to put a good impression on the organization and Mr. Tallon and just try to come in here and work hard and show them that I'm really dedicated to improving my game. And that I can show them some of the things I can bring to the team in the future."
- (What it is that makes him different) "I don't know. I guess that my skating helps me in my play and helps me do things that maybe some guys would struggle in, so I'd say that kind of separates me from others. And I'd say off the ice, my dedication to get better is an area I pride myself on."
- (On what he thinks he brings to the team) "Looking at a guy like Brian Campbell, obviously he's really good and he's established himself in the NHL and this organization. I just like to model my game after him. I'm not saying that I'm anywhere near as good as him. I just say that I'd be able to bring some of the things hopefully that he's able to do."
(C) Jonathan Huberdeau
- (About his summer) "It was a great summer. Got a long season, I took some vacation and now I'm ready to work."
- (Comparing his preparation for this year's camp to last year's) "I mean, for sure it was a great time last year. We learned a lot of things and this year is the same. You come here your second year; you get to meet the new guys and I think it's just great to see the guys that you met last year."
- (Talking about his goals for this year) "For sure my goal is to play for the Panthers. I'm going to do everything to do it and I'm going to work hard through the summer to get stronger and come here [for Rookie] camp and be ready".
- (On how he's going to lock up a roster spot) "Just work hard and do what it takes to make the team. I [have] got to play my game and that's why they drafted me. So I just need to play the way I play and hopefully I can make the team".
- (What makes him different) "There are a lot of kinds of players here. There's differences, but I'm just a skilled player who tries to work hard two-way and I think both sides of the ice. I think everybody's different; you [have] just got to play your game like you do".
Thursday's session will consist of more drills and a scrimmage. Friday's session will be a full-on scrimmage: a true test of chemistry. On-ice sessions for Thursday and Friday both begin at 9 AM and end at 11 AM.
Be sure to catch the Panthers prospects in action at the JetBlue Training Facility located inside Saveology.com Iceplex!