Falcons receive taste of the NHL (08-09-12)
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Thursday, 09 August 2012 09:24
Virtually every college hockey player dreams of playing in the National Hockey League.
|BG’s Ted Pletsch (right) shoots the puck against Michigan last season (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Six Bowling Green Falcons had a taste of the NHL recently when they attended prospect camps hosted by teams in the league.
Senior goalie Andrew Hammond, and sophomore forwards Adam Berkle and Ryan Carpenter all attended the Chicago Blackhawks camp.
Berkle also went to the New York Islanders camp, while junior forward Cam Wojtala and freshman forward Brent Tate both participated in the Washington Capitals camp.
Sophomore forward Ted Pletsch skated with the Detroit Red Wings prospects.
The week-long camps typically are held during June and July, and mostly include draft picks and undrafted free agents. The six Falcons are undrafted free agents.
Although the schedule and activities vary from team to team, the camps usually include daily practices, scrimmages, and weight-training and conditioning sessions.
Some teams offer instruction on fitness, nutrition, financial planning and how to deal with traditional and social media.
The camps are a melting pot of players from college hockey, junior hockey in the United States, Canada and Europe, and minor professional hockey.
"Just competing against the other great players made it a great experience, and getting to see where you stood against unbelievable talent," said Carpenter, BG's leading scorer last season with 30 points, including 11 goals, in 44 games. "It was an eye opener and I know I have a lot of hard work to get to the next level. It was everything I expected."
Each camp consists of 40-50 players, who are divided into two teams for the week.
"It gave you a lot of perspective on what it takes to play at the next level, and how to take that big step from the college to the pro level," said Hammond, one of the best goalies in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
"It was a good learning process," said Tate, who is expected to provide BG with an excellent mix of skill and tougness. "I wanted to get my feet wet and learn the ins and outs, the do's and don'ts of how to be a pro day in and day out and what it takes to be a pro in terms of the lifestyle."
In addition to top-round draft choices, the camps often include an organization's top minor-league prospects.
Attending the Red Wings' camp was first-round pick and defenseman Brendan Smith, who was selected 27th overall in 2007. He played in 14 games with the Red Wings last season and is being counted on to help fill the void created by Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement.
"It was, one of the toughest things I've ever done in all my years of playing," said Pletsch, a hard-working working forward, who fills a checking role. "But it was really good to go through something like this. It's definitely a goal to play pro hockey after I finish college hockey and this was just another step towards that goal."
Under NCAA rules, college players have to pay their own expenses to attend the camp. The Falcon players also enjoyed the camp because they were able to hang out with other CCHA players for the week.
"I saw some strengths and weaknesses in my game, and I know what I have to work on to get to the next level and to take my game to even higher level in college," said Wojtala, who had 10 goals and 13 assists in 42 games for BG last season. He's been BG's No. 1 center the last two seasons.
"It's motivated me to work even harder," Wojtala added. "I learned a lot little things about how to improve my game. It was a good week because you learned where your game was at, things you did well and things you need to work on."
The camps typically re run by the organization's player personnel and scouting staffs, but the team's general manager and coaching staff are usually there for at least one day.
"You knew there were people watching every practice, every game, but you had to put that out of your mind," said Berkle, who had seven goals and 14 assists in 44 games at BG last season. "It was a week to elevate your game to see where you're at."
Competition is intense. Tate fought Max Iafrate, the son of former NHLer Al Iafrate, during the Capitals' camp.
The camps usually are held at each team's practice facility. However, the Red Wings held their camp in Traverse City, Mich., where they hold training camp each September.
The camps are covered by each team's local media, and the practices and scrimmages are usually attended by several hundred fans who are seeking a look at the organization's future stars or satisfy their need for summer hockey.
The Red Wings even hold an autograph signing session during their camp.
Hammond was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, which detailed his development as a late bloomer after he nearly quit hockey during his junior career.
"That was a cool to see all of the fans come out," Hammond said. "That just added to the atmosphere."
The players now are on the radar of the teams whose camp they attended. They could sign with those teams once they finish college hockey, although they're still free agents.
"I had a good camp by all accounts," said Hammond, who hopes to sign a pro contract once his final season at BG is over. "The Blackhawks said they'd keep following me and we'll see how it goes. I just want to get back to BG and have a great year, and we'll see what happens. I want to keep pushing myself and raising my level of play and expectations. My goal is to play in the NHL some day. I want to do everything I can to reach that goal. We'll see what happens and let things play out."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 August 2012 10:41