For some players, its about trying to show a team the potential that they felt they had drafted. For others, its about trying to show a team the potential they wish they had drafted. Either way, impressions are made and a player can find themselves closer to their dream of playing in the NHL or at some other level of professional hockey. Just because you shine or play well at one camp doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get a contract from the team whose camp you attend, but it might come from another. Want some examples? How about Nate Prosser? Nate Prosser had a decent peformance as an invitee at St. Louis' prospect camp and that eventually led to being offered a professional contract by the Wild when he graduated from Colorado College. The Wild had solid performances from Tyler Johnson and Matt Read. Both players earned contracts from Tampa Bay and Philadelphia Flyers respectively. Read nearly won a Calder Trophy in his rookie professional season and Johnson helped the Norfolk Admirals win a Calder Cup in the AHL last season and came very close to repeating that feat this season with the Syracuse Crunch. Yet, there are plenty of examples of how a player who shines doesn't get anything at all. Kyle Thomas and Sam Lofquist both impressed at camp but it didn't yield any professional deals being tendered their way.
For the NHL teams, its a chance to put the young players through their paces to see how they react to adversity, to new linemates and to evaluate development and a player's individual improvement as well as their deficiencies. Players get a taste of what it takes to be in the pros as they recieve strength and conditioning advice as well as nutrition lessons. For fans who attend the scrimmages its an opportunity to see these players they may not be able to see play otherwise. So who will shine at this year's Wild Prospect Development Camp?
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The goals of the Development Camp remain the same, just the faces of the prospects as well as those who put them through drills. This time around, Brad Bombardir and Andrew Brunette will be in charge of putting the prospects through their paces. The camp starts today and goes until this weekend. The camp will conclude with a series of 3-on-3 games as opposed to the big scrimmages in years past. Although with just 18 forwards they don't feel they have enough to play 5-on-5 games and often times the games were rather sloppy as the teams had so little chemistry. Personally I loved the scrimmages and as of right now it doesn't look like there are any plans to stream those 3-on-3 games unfortunately. Fans can attend these games for free. Here's the schedule.
3:30PM-4:45PM Thusday, July 11th
2:45PM-4:00PM Friday, July 12th
2:45PM-4:00PM Saturday, July 13th
For myself I love watching the tryout / invitee guys because you're not sure what to expect. From a high school player like Edina's Matt Nelson or an offensive defenseman like Sarnia's Alex Basso. Or how about Miles Koules, the son of Hollywood movie (SAW movies) and former Tampa Bay Lightning part owner Oren Koules or fellow WHL'ers Zane Jones, Ben Walker, Brandon Baddock, Colten Heffley and Rhyse Dieno. International Scouting Service had this to say about Zane Jones back in in 2012 when he was passed over in the draft. "A very underrated prospect, Jones has good strength, protects the puck very well, plays a good physical game and in general a very reliable presence in all 3 zones. he is very strong on his skates and is difficult to containe around the net. He has a good work ethic and battles well along the boards. He needs to improve his overall speed and quickness but its not so bad that it will hold him back. He has good bloodlines and is the nephew of NHL Hall of Famer Lanny MacDonald."
There has always seemed to have been an invitee that makes an impression on me; like Norwich University star forward Kyle Thomas who demonstrated there are very impressive athletes playing Division III college hockey. Sadly, Kyle wasn't invited this season. So who should Wild fans be paying attention to closely at this year's camp?
#31 G – Johan Gustafsson ~ Gustafsson followed up a great 2011-12 season with an equally impressive 2012-13 where he was amongst the Elteserien's leaders in goals against average (1.70) and save percentage (.933%). Will he play as dominant as his gawdy numbers suggest he can?
#42 D – Daniel Gunnarsson ~ The big Swede surprised many with his offensive skills at last year's camp. He liked to jump into the play and looked very comfortable and skilled handling the puck. Gunnarsson had a decent sophomore season in the Eliteserien, so Wild fans should expect to see a better, more refined defenseman who moves very well for a guy who's 6'5".
#44 D – Gustav Olofsson ~ The Wild's first selection in this year's draft is a mobile shut down defenseman in the mold of Jonas Brodin. Fans will have a chance to see if that's an apt comparison or not.
#49 LW – Raphael Bussieres ~ The rugged winger had a great season for the Drakkar but his production dried up towards the end of the playoffs before his team fell to the Memorial Cup Champions from Halifax. Bussieres had career highs in goals and assists but was very streaky all season long. Bussieres had a decent camp last season and demonstrated his toughness as well as his skill as he lost a tooth after getting a stick to the mouth.
#53 C - Tyler Graovac ~ Graovac had a terrific season in the OHL, helping lead the Belleville Bulls deep in the playoffs. He was a go-to scorer all season long and at last year's camp he demonstrated some flashes of terrific skill. Wild fans should hope that the 6'4" forward is a dominant player whenever he's on the ice.
#55 D – Mathew Dumba ~ Dumba is the Wild's most intriguing prospect that has not played in the NHL yet. At last year's camp he provided a little excitement with a few big open ice hits. He had an 'ok' season in junior this year, but it would be nice to see him exhibit a little more of that offensive flair that he is also known for. Some believe that Dumba has a chance to make the team this year if he performs well enough, so will he rise to the occasion or will he look very much like a raw kid out of major junior?
#56 F – Erik Haula ~ After leading the Golden Gophers in scoring the past two seasons, he's seeing if he can replicate that in his first season in the pros. It will be interesting to see if he stands out more than he did last year.
#61 C – Zack Phillips ~ The clock is ticking on Phillips' development and Wild fans should look closely for signs of improvement in Fredericton-native's skating as its really his main obstacle to the NHL. He has the hands and the Hockey IQ, so hopefully he shows a bit more jump in his skates.
#62 C – Avery Peterson ~ It is always interesting to see how a top level high school player performs at Development Camp. Peterson, a soon-to-be senior in high school is a power forward but he's likely never played against players with the level of skill and speed that he'll have at camp.
#75 F - Mike Collins ~ The 23-year old invitee was one of the better scorers in Hockey East this year scoring at a point per game pace. Will the future senior at Merrimack he show the same scoring ability at the development camp?
Here is the rest of the roster and if you want their individual statistics click on the link below.
#50 Alexandre Belanger (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL) 6'0", 170lbs
*#84 Tony Capobianco (Canisius, Atlantic) 6'2", 190lbs
#31 Johan Gustafsson (Lulea, Eliteserien) 6'1", 187lbs
#30 Stephen Michalek (Cedar Rapids, USHL) 6'2", 209lbs
#38 Corbin Baldwin (Orlando, ECHL) 6'5", 209lbs
*#73 Alex Basso (Sarnia, OHL) 6'1", 184lbs
*#70 Mike Boivin (Colorado College, WCHA) 6'1", 190lbs
#41 Cody Corbett (Edmonton, WHL) 6'1", 196lbs
#65 Nolan De Jong (Victoria, BCHL) 6'2", 180lbs
#51 John Draeger (Michigan State, CCHA) 6'2", 190lbs
#55 Mathew Dumba (Red Deer, WHL) 6'0", 185lbs
#42 Daniel Gunnarsson (Lulea, Eliteserien) 6'5", 201lbs
#74 Colton Jobke (Regina, WHL) 6'0", 189lbs
#58 Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) 6'1", 180lbs
*#40 Matt Nelson (Edina, USHS-MN) 6'1", 195lbs
#44 Gustav Olofsson (Green Bay, USHL) 6'2", 185lbs
#76 Nick Seeler (Nebraska-Omaha, WCHA) 6'1", 193lbs
#60 Carson Soucy (Spruce Grove, AJHL) 6'4", 191lbs
*#82 Brandon Baddock (Edmonton, WHL) 6'3", 200lbs
#48 Christoph Berstchy (SC Bern, Swiss) 5'10", 175lbs
*#71 Adam Brace (Robert Morris, Atlantic) 5'10", 183lbs
#54 Brett Bulmer (Houston, AHL) 6'4", 205lbs
#49 Raphael Bussieres (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) 6'1", 197lbs
#68 Josh Caron (Orlando, ECHL) 6'4", 215lbs
*#75 Mike Collins (Merrimack, H-East) 6'1", 185lbs
*#47 Rhyse Dieno (Red Deer, WHL) 5'10", 172lbs
#63 Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) 6'3", 208lbs
#57 Adam Gilmour (Muskegon, USHL) 6'3", 189lbs
#53 Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) 6'4", 191lbs
#56 Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) 5'11", 189lbs
*#81 Colton Heffley (Kelowna, WHL) 6'3", 200lbs
*#83 Zane Jones (Calgary, WHL) 6'2", 192lbs
*#80 Miles Koules (Medicine Hat, WHL) 5'11", 195lbs
#62 Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids, USHS-MN) 6'2", 193lbs
#61 Zack Phillips (Houston, AHL) 6'1", 187lbs
*#78 Ben Walker (Victoria, WHL) 5'11", 175lbs
*- denotes Camp Invitee
Mario Lucia, gone again? What gives?
For the second straight year, the Wild's 2nd round pick in 2011 (60th Overall) Mario Lucia is going to miss camp. Last year he missed due to a broken leg, but this time there is no reason given. What gives? Lucia had 12 Goals and 23 points in 32 games in his freshman season at Notre Dame. It would be nice for a local player to play and attend these things so one can compare him playing along side his fellow Wild prospect peers. I guess its recently been revealed it has to do with exams in summer classes he's taking at Notre Dame. I guess the money he might make playing professional hockey doesn't mean that much.