It is usually around this time of the year when the hockey world begins to enter a hibernation period. The playoffs are over, the NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, and the last real event that happens before many people go offline for the summer is Free Agency on July 1st.
That last rush of hockey
However, if you do want to catch one last glimpse of your team’s logo whirling around on the ice before you transition fully into baseball season, consider heading to your local NHL Development Camp.
* Disclaimer * If you are looking to watch your favorite NHL player, you will likely still have to wait until the fall when training camps begin in September. Development camps feature young players who more often than not are still searching for their shot in the big leagues. Here, recently drafted players have the spotlight to prove themselves against competition of similar age and experience. Some players may be invited to participate in regular training camp closer towards the beginning of the season. Others may be sent back to their junior or college teams to continue fine-tuning their skills.
Where young stars shine
Depending on the team, some camps may draw a bigger crowd than others. For example, the NHL awarded the Buffalo Sabres the first pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, where they selected Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin, Swedish defenseman, is expected to make an immediate impact in the NHL this upcoming season. For an organization like Buffalo which has seen very little success over the last decade, the promise an elite player like Dahlin brings to the table has the ability to energize a fan base on its own.
On the opposite side of things, a team like the Boston Bruins had no first round pick in the 2018 draft. The franchise centered its development camp more on players selected in the previous 2017 draft. Left-shot defenseman Urho Vaakanainen is of specific interest in this regard. The Bruins selected Vaakanainen in the first round 18th overall in 2017, and because the team lacks in the department of lefty defensemen, the organization is closely following his development.
Why is Development Camp worth attending?
Development camp allows fans a close look at prospects within their favorite organization that they otherwise wouldn’t have much of a chance to see during the NHL season. For struggling teams, these players offer a glimpse into the future of a club in a way that might shed a ray of light on an otherwise dismal situation. For teams already enjoying a significant level of success, camp allows for players to shine and potentially prove where they belong on an already strong roster.
You can only learn so much about a player before they get the chance to play alongside bonafide NHLers. Yet, it is worth taking a day trip to get that much needed rush of hockey adrenaline in at the end of June, as the league is winding down for the summer. Most camps run around four days long. Some may include a weekend date depending on the camp if attending during the week isn’t feasible.
At Development Camp, fans get the opportunity to learn more about the players in their team’s prospect pool. Puck junkies get a feeling for what they can expect for the future of the franchise. While teams often deal prospects in trades, clubs often have the most success from drafting and developing talent within their own organization. General managers hope that players will eventually make an impact without having to be sent away for another return.
If you want to be able to track the growth of the next wave of talent your team has to offer, development camps are a great place to go. And when your friends at work or school are chatting about recent draft picks, you’ ll be able to be a part of the conversation.