An annual event, Development Camp is held every summer for coaches and management to assess up and coming players in within the Florida Panthers system, consisting of draft prospects and other young players acquired by trade, or attending through an invitation.
Prospects were divided into two groups, the Red Squad and the White Squad, participating in power skating on-ice drills to test their skating, stickhandling, and stamina, all run by newly-appointed San Antonio Rampage Head Coach Peter Horachek, Director of Player Development Brian Skrudland, and Manager of Player Development Bryan McCabe. During each on-ice session, the opposite squad took time to work-out off-ice.
38 players were in attendance for this yearís camp (22 forwards, twelve defensemen, and four goalies). Several of this yearís notable attendees include (C) Aleksander Barkov, who was selected 2nd overall at this yearís NHL Draft, (C) Nick Bjugstad (19th overall at the 2010 NHL Draft), and (D) Mike Matheson (23rd overall at the 2012 NHL Draft). Two players did not participate in the first day of camp; (C) Jonathan Huberdeau, who had surgery on his hip in May and is expected to make a full recovery by the start of training camp in September, and (C) Aleksander Barkov, who underwent shoulder surgery in April and is also expected to make a full recovery by September.
Expecting to make the jump this year is (C) Aleksander Barkov, who was selected 2nd overall at this yearís NHL Draft. In 2012-2013, Barkov recorded 48 points in 53 games, acting as a key player for Tappara as its second-leading scorer, only to be sidelined by a shoulder injury late in the season. Nonetheless, Barkov helped Tappara reach their best season in over a decade.
Regarding his probable jump to the NHL next season, Barkov is fairly confident, despite his injury, saying, “I think I will be [fine] by September, finally. It's not painful anymore, and I can do more and more everyday.”
All in all, Director of Player Development is more than impressed with the group of prospects assembled in South Florida this week. “They're great hockey players, they're good people. They work so hard, day in and day out. They work as hard off the ice as they do on the ice…we're just feeling really fortunate. We feel like we've got a great group of people and hockey players.”
Ruchika Sharma covers the Florida Panthers for Teenlink.