RALEIGH, N.C. – When you step onto the ice of a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, you want to make an impression.
Twenty-seven prospects did just that when the Carolina Hurricanes held the opening day of their prospect development camp on Wednesday.
After an enduring day of fitness testing and back-to-back-to-back educational sessions on doing things the NHL way, 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and four goaltenders stepped onto the fresh sheet at PNC Arena and left it shredded.
In addition to team personnel and media, hundreds of fans looked on as the players released the high energy level they had from start to finish.
“I was really impressed with the overall quickness and size and hockey sense,” head coach Bill Peters said.
“I was really impressed with the way they played here tonight – it was good.”
Mission accomplished for Carolina’s nine draft picks from the recent 2016 NHL Entry Draft and those selected before them along with select invitees.
Peters didn’t give any one individual or group more attention than the others as he put them all through his military-style barrage of verbal instruction and encouragement to “move, move” as fast as they could.
“I look at everybody and see who’s doin’ it right, who’s playin’ fast, and who looks like they’re makin’ progress if they’ve been here before,” Peters continued.
“Some of the young guys were very impressive and some of the guys who came back, I’ve been very impressed.”
Defenseman Haydn Fleury, the Hurricanes’ top pick in 2014 (seventh overall), felt the day went well, regardless of how nervous many probably were.
“The first day you don’t know who you’re playin’ with, who you’re goin’ on the ice with,” he said.
“So, it’s just gettin’ familiar with each other. I thought as practice went on, the pace got higher, and I thought it ended up being a pretty good day.”
Attending this camp for the third year, Fleury’s transformed his body and added more bulk as his neck and shoulder size attested to while preparing for the coming year.
He took full advantage of finishing his junior career with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“I felt last season went very well,” Fleury continued.
“Things I got to play in – the World Juniors, the Memorial Cup – it was a special year with a lot to remember. It was a good final year of junior. I got the chance to represent myself well and I think I did that…It’s never easy, as a young defenseman, but goin’ back (to junior) for me was the right thing for me. I learned a lot and I owe my coaches in Red Deer a ton with all the help that they gave me this year, and I became a better player for it.”
As he and the rest of the young and energetic roster of prospects continue at their high pace through Saturday, each has personal and organizational expectations to meet.
He didn’t mince words on what the next step for him to take was, and how he’d go about it.
“It’s my goal to make this team in the Fall,” Fleury said.
“To do that, I’ve gotta keep gettin’ better every day here – just prove myself and work hard when we’re on the ice and in the gym. Workin’ hard and competin’ against everyone here.”