Junior camps and tournaments mark the start of a new season.
It’s an exciting time for the NHL franchises this week as all 32 teams welcome their prospects at the start of the 2022-23 season.
In the NHL today, turnover occurs frequently at the main training site. Whenever a change occurs, it puts a group of players in the know that the new system will mean new expectations when it comes to preparation.
Recently, Philadelphia’s new bench chief, John Tortorella, made a record indicating he had major concerns about the Flyers “room.” He basically invited the culture and let it know that things are going to change in Philly.
Beginner camps set the tone for the boot camp journey. Senior management, NHL coaches, minor league coaches, and player development staff have set goals for the training camp.
The most prepared potential clients will earn invitations to the NHL team’s “main camp” along with the rest of the professional roster. Others will gain valuable experience and then return to their small, sometimes European teams.
Trip to NHL Camps
Each player has gone through a different journey to this point in their career.
Juraj Slafkovsky, for example, was the latest overall pick in the draft in Montreal.
A player like Jordan Harris (3rd place in the MTL, 2018) completed his college career at Northeastern last spring and immediately jumped to the NHL roster with the Canadiens for a 10-game test.
Tyler Boucher, the Ottawa Senators’ first-round pick for 2021, started last season at Boston University before moving to the Ottawa 67th in the Ontario Hockey League. Boucher will skate at his first official pro camp of the season.
It’s not uncommon to see a player who has passed the draft or who has not qualified with an offer from the team that originally drafted it, attend a training camp on a trial. These prospects range in ages from 18 to 24 and come from all regions of the hockey world (juniors, college and Europe).
Buffalo Sabers rookie challenge preview
I’ll be attending the Buffalo Beginner’s Challenge this week, in which little sabers, Canadians, Senators, Penguins, Bruins and Devils will face each other starting Thursday, September 15th and ending on Monday, September 19th.
Here are some of the possibilities I’m eager to showcase at this event:
Juraj Slafkovsky, RW, Montreal Canadiens: First overall pick in 2022
When his name was called out in the draft in Montreal, half of the building was panting while the other half gasped wildly. Soon, all lovers of lock-up embraced the choice and Slavkovsky was paraded around the place like a rock star. He embraced the moment and by all accounts hit the ground running at Canadians Development Camp.
It’s time to get to work. All eyes will be on Slafkovsky as he begins his NHL journey. It will be interesting to see how this week he adapts to playing on the smaller ice surface. I expect his strong game and skills to be fully displayed.
Jake Sanderson, Democrat, Ottawa Senators: Fifth overall pick in 2021
Sanderson is an elite talent who must pay for a spot on the NHL roster with senators right away. It’s exactly what the NHL is about in its current state: a great skater who moves pucks with minute ports, or by skating alone.
He is physically sneaky and has the wits to use in all game scenarios. He’ll attend his first official NHL boot camp, but first he’ll be looking to impress the Senators with a solid show at Buffalo.
Simon Nemec, DE, New Jersey Devils: 2nd overall pick in 2022
It was an exciting day for Slovakia when their country saw two local players selected as first and second overall in the draft in Montreal. Demons have a potential higher defensive man in their stable with the addition of Nemec. He’s close to a full player.
Nemec moves to pucks, defends well and can play a power game. He has proven that he can play against men at the professional level in Europe. The NHL is a different level, however, that will be tested early.
Jerry Kulich, C, Buffalo Sabers: The 28th overall pick in 2022
Kulish blew up the 2022 draft rankings after his performance as the best player at the U-18 World Championships last spring in Germany. He continued his momentum with an outstanding performance at the recently completed World Junior Championships in Edmonton, scoring two goals and five assists in seven matches. All this kid does is produce insult. The puck shoots a ton and has a deceptive and accurate release. Sabers fans will get a first-hand look at one of their best prospects at the event.
Kevin Mandulisi, J., Ottawa Senators: 157th overall pick in 2018
Mads Sogaard, J., Ottawa Senators: 37th overall pick in 2019
Sooner or later, one of these two giant Senate guards will have to separate itself from the other. Goalkeepers mature at different rates before they become full-time NHL puck stoppers. None of the goalkeepers near the NHL look ready, but the competition for confidence within the Senators organization begins in this tournament.
Jan Mysak, C, Montreal Canadiens: The 48th overall pick in 2020
Mysak is an interesting prospect. He’s always produced offensively, but his detail and his willingness to compete in small spaces have been a concern in the past. It is evolving. I expect to see him and Slavkovsky play together at Buffalo. A bunch of opponents can be to defend it.
James Hardy, Los Angeles, Boston Bruins: Free agent call
Hardy is a player I’m interested in following this weekend. He has historically scored at a high level in every step of his development. Last season, he produced 41 goals and 77 points for OHL Mississauga. Teams stayed away from drafting it for a variety of reasons. If his fitness and speed improved, he could open some eyes in the Bruins’ organization.
Other Notable Names
Jordan Harris, Justin Barron, Kayden Jhel, Arbor Xhekaj: Montreal Canadiens
Harris and Barron are likely headed to the Habs’ NHL roster this season with Guhle not far behind. Xhekaj great story. He basically fell into their lap last season as a free-agent invite went for a contract.
Each of these four is a defensive guy, so to say Montreal is full of Grade A prospects on its rear end is an understatement.
(Add Jayden Struble to the list of long-term prospects, too. He’s ineligible for rookie camp due to the fact that he’s back in Northeastern for another year at the NCAA level.)
Samuel Poulin, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins: Twenty-first overall pick in 2019
Pauline is coming off a decent rookie season in the AHL, with the powerful forward scoring 16 goals and 37 points for Wilkes Barr/Scranton. It’s fair to say that Pens is looking for this first-round pick to take another step in his development and start in Buffalo.
All player cards and information from Pro Hockey Collection.