RALEIGH, N.C. – They know the drills and the routines, yet they continue to absorb as much knowledge and guidance they can to get better and prepare themselves to play at the next level in their hockey careers.
That’s what Sergey Tolchinsky, Daniel Altshuller, Clark Bishop, and Warren Foegele all indicated after completing their first day at the Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect camp held at PNC Arena on Monday.
“I think I’m ready,” Tolchinksy said.
“I have two months ahead of me. I’m already getting stronger to prepare myself. I’ll try to work on everything – skating, shooting, strength – trying to improve on everything the best way I can.”
Listed at five-feet-eight-inches and 165 pounds, the same numbers he came in at during the first camp he attended as a free agent with Carolina back in 2013, Tolchinsky emphasized that he’s continuing to work on getting stronger, but not at the expense of the scoring skill he possesses.
He finished this past season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds leading the team in scoring with 30 goals and adding 65 assists – 95 points – in 61 games and finishing 11th overall in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Scoring four goals and an assist in international competition, Tolchinsky also helped Russia earn a silver medal at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships, suffering a 5-4 loss to Team Canada, a squad that was led by this year’s NHL top overall draft pick, Connor McDavid.
It was the left winger’s second consecutive year scoring at the 90-point level, having completed the 2013-2014 season with 91 points (31g, 60a) in 66 games.
Tolchinsky knows what he needs to do to get his shot at embarking on his pro career.
However, no matter how tough it will get, his positive attitude will continue to carry him forward in how he approaches playing the game.
“There are a lot of good players here – great competition,” Tolchinsky said.
“We had a great skate, great practice. I think everybody’s excited about camp. Everybody feels great. It was fun.”
For goaltender Daniel Altshuller, the Hurricanes’ third pick (69th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, his fourth consecutive appearance at the team’s development camp hasn’t gotten old.
He still works to become better after completing his first pro season with the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with an 8-3-1 record, 3.21 goals-against-average, and an .881 save percentage.
“I think the focus of this week is to try and improve any way you can,” Altshuller said.
“We get a chance to work with (goaltender coach) Dave Marcoux which is great. Just kind of take bits and pieces of different things and different advice and apply it to your game. Just get better as a hockey player.”
Winning six of his first seven starts with Florida and earning his first shutout in the ECHL playoffs, Altshuller earned two separate call-ups to dress as a backup for the Charlotte Checkers in three AHL games in 2014-2015, but didn’t see any game time.
The experience he gained was valuable and gave him perspective on how to play the game at the next level.
“I think the biggest thing was learning to be a pro and playing against other pros for the full season,” Altshuller said.
“You learn a lot being with the team the whole year – going on the road – and all those things. Knowing how to eat right, sleep right. Last year was kind of a stepping stone for this coming year. This year I really want to make an impact. I feel like this year could be my year, so I’m looking forward to it.”
“It was a good skate,” stated center Clark Bishop, the Hurricanes’ fifth-round pick (127th overall) in 2014.
“It was good for everyone to get out on the ice and work hard.”
Bishop, a six-foot, 190-pound center, came into this year’s camp recovered from a serious ankle sprain that kept him out for nine weeks, having played only 38 games with Cape Breton in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Up to the point of being injured, he maintained close to a point-per-game scoring pace, totaling 35 points (19g, 16a).
“I guess I had a little bit of a hot stick before Christmas time,” Bishop continued.
“Everything was goin’ well, pucks were going in that never went in before. I had a bit of confidence goin’ and then it was unfortunate with the injury. A guy fell on my ankle and that was it.”
Though he missed a large portion of his team’s season, Clark managed to play the final 10 games, including seven in the playoffs in which he scored eight points (5g, 3a) for the Screaming Eagles.
It was a short postseason run that unfortunately ended in a first-round, game-seven loss to Quebec.
Having taken enough time to rest and heal his ankle, Bishop has returned to Raleigh intent on progressing upwards.
“Last year, comin’ in here was more of a learning experience for me,” he said.
“Now, I know everything that goes on here and I’m ready to prove myself this year, and prove to them that I’m ready to step up to the next level.”
For forward Warren Foegele, Carolina’s third pick (67th overall) in 2014, the return to prospect camp will build on the six-foot-one-inch, 185-pound left winger’s freshman season in college.
“It went pretty well – it was a good learning experience for me,” Foegele said of his year playing at the University of New Hampshire during which he finished with 16 points (5g, 11a) in 34 games.
“It was my first year away from home and playing against stiffer competition. I think it was a little bit of a roller coaster year, but that’s part of the learning experience.”
With the soft hands and smooth skating stride he possesses, a good start for the week will only strengthen his confidence to build on his skill set to eventually become a productive pro.
“I think it went well,” Foegele said while untying his skates.
“That’s what you take from here, learning a lot of new things. All the guys here are really talented. There’s a reason why they’re here, so that’s why we’re excited for the week and takin’ in as much information as we can.”
Even head coach Bill Peters got reacquainted with the returning prospects as he led his second camp with them.
“I’m much more comfortable,” the coach said.
“Some familiar faces on the ice too, and obviously some of the drills we did today were some of the similar stuff from last year’s development camp Day One, so some of these kids have seen it. It’s interesting to see as the week progresses who become the natural leaders and who are the followers.”
With eight new faces added to Carolina’s system from this year’s draft, the week will only get more challenging for returnees like Tolchinsky, Altshuller, Bishop, and Foegele to once again make that all-important lasting impression with Peters and his staff.