On the heels of a national holiday, 32 prospects--most drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, others signed as free agents and a handful of invitees--gathered on the ice Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon to begin several days of on-ice and off-ice conditioning as well as instruction in organizational values and the culture of professional hockey for both returning and first-time participants.
"Let's call this what it is: summer hockey," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told assembled media. "Part of what [the players] get out of this camp is the chance to get to know myself, Rob Zettler, the staff. Getting to know expectations and being a pro."
"A lot of these kids are coming from juniors programs, college, all these different walks of life, but here at the Tampa Bay Lightning we've got a certain code of conduct," Cooper noted. "This is where it starts."
Having concluded fitness testing and physicals, players hit the ice and rounded out their day with an hour-long practice spent completing basic drills as well as a forty-five minute power skating session.
"The first day is always kind of a feel out day," Cooper said. "Some of these guys, I'm sure, have been skating and some haven't been."
Keeping in mind that the 3-on-3 tournament scheduled to begin Tuesday and wrap-up on Wednesday, the final day of camp, will provide better opportunities to gauge player abilities and hockey sense, here are some brief and selected observations:
Name: Adam Erne
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 210 lbs
Club: Quebec (QMJHL)
Tampa Bay again foregoes need to select the best player available, Adam Erne, who was rated in the top 15 prospects by both Red Line Report and THN.
Power forward plays a pro-style north-south game. Excellent outside burst and has the strength to bull his way to the front of the net. When he gets there, he has a hard shot to go with soft hands and ability to finish off goals in tight. Can play a chippy game and isn't afraid to mix it up.
Conditioning and maturity off the ice. He's clearly got a bit of baby fat he needs to lose and he needs to learn to train like a professional. If he gets his cardiovascular level to where his strength level is, he could be NHL-ready.
Second line scoring winger, or checking liner depending on if he gets his training habits right.
Patrick Marleau... or Steve Bernier