DEVELOPMENT CAMP – DAY 1
Hey Devils Fans!
I’m at the New Jersey Devils Development Camp in Newark this week and I will be updating you all week in this blog with what we are doing.
Before I begin, please ignore any bad grammar. I lose my English when I am tired!
I flew in from Montreal on Sunday and I got in a quick skate on the ice at Prudential Center. I didn’t do too much yesterday. There were only six other guys here so we just chilled at the hotel.
Today was more interesting because all the boys arrived. We had a little skate in the afternoon and we made a little game. It was pretty fun. The new guys are really good and really fast. It was just for fun and nobody was really trying too hard, but we’re still a competitive group. I was on the white team and we won the first game 5-1 and the second game, we were winning 3-1, but they said last goal wins and the red team scored so they celebrated, but that was not fair because we actually won.
Later on, we had a welcome dinner and a couple speakers. It’s always great to hear from the coaches and feel like you’re here for a reason. This is my fourth development camp and it’s just a great opportunity to learn and get better. It’s also really great to see all the guys again.
I’m looking forward to a lot of things this week, but for sure the talent show. Last year’s was really funny and it will be really tough to beat it. I don’t want to tell anything about what my team has planned because other guys might read this and steal our ideas, but [Colby] Sissons and [Ty] Smith [noted magicians] are on our team. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
We also have some other things too like a nutrition seminar and a Navy SEAL is going to talk to us as well about teamwork. For the fun parts, there will be a ping pong tournament (I feel bad for whoever my teammate is because ping pong is not my best sport. Last year, I was terrible!) and axe throwing and a Yankees game too. So, I’m excited about those things.
For now, I’m just going to catch up with the boys. I haven’t seen a lot of them in three months since the season ended and we have to get up at 6 a.m. for physicals and testing. Can’t say I’m looking forward to that part but the rest of tomorrow should be fun.
Keep you posted!
DEVELOPMENT CAMP – DAY 2
Today was a long day, like really long.
I got up at 6 a.m. and got to the rink early to warm up a little bit. We saw the doctors to make sure we’re all healthy. After two years of not being able to participate in the actual hockey parts of this camp because of injury, I was very excited when they said I was good to go.
Then, we had the testing. I think the pull-ups was my best one. I did 22. I have no idea what anyone else did, but I think that might be good enough to win. We will find out the results tomorrow.
We also did the running test – the 200 yard shuttle. That was tough, but I was in a good group and we really pushed each other. Mikey [McLeod] was flying and we were all trying to catch him. I think I did pretty well on that test too, but we’ll find out tomorrow for sure.
Then, we had a meeting and went on the ice to work on some of the details of the game like puck retrieval on the wall. It’s one of my weaknesses, so it’s good to practice that here so I can bring it home with me.
Next, we had the ping pong tournament. I was playing with Jeremy Groleau. We won two games and then lost two games, so we didn’t make it through to the semifinals. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t have a lot of strength in ping pong. Cheering on my teammate is my biggest strength. I had some good parts, but he carried us today. [Blake] Speers and [Joey Anderson] were really good. They put two really good players together. I don’t know why. I think it’s cheating, but they won our group and are in the semifinals. The other team from our group to advance were the Russians – [Nikita] Popugaev and [Mikhail] Maltsev. They had a weird strategy – they were just running everywhere – but they were good.
After that, a couple of us went to Chipotle – always a good choice – for a pre-dinner snack. Don’t judge me. I was hungry!
Then, we went to the Giants practice facility and we got a little tour. We met Evan Engram and he talked to us about brotherhood and being committed to the game. I don’t know that I’ve ever talked to an NFL player before, so that was pretty cool. He was a nice guy.
We got the competition going again with a couple games they had set up for us – a little football, a little frisbee, a little hockey. That was fun. They also had a nice dinner for us. It was a great night.
Now, we’re all pretty tired. It’s been a long day. So, we’re just at the hotel, relaxing and doing nothing. Actually, that’s not true. We’re getting ready for the 3-on-3 tournament tomorrow. I won my first year and, since I couldn’t participate the last two years, I’m undefeated and I’d like to keep it that way with a big win tomorrow.
DEVELOPMENT CAMP: DAY 3
Hey Devils Fans!
Today was a really great day. 🙂
I’m happy to say that I’m still undefeated at the Devils development camp 3-on-3 tournament. My team won in the final 1-0 thanks to Xavier Bernard’s goal.
The fans were amazing. I think it helped that Jack Hughes was on my team. The fans really seem to like him. I think he’s ok. (I’m being funny.)
We won the first game, 5-2, I think. I scored the first goal. That felt good. The second game, we won 9-2 and I had a hat trick. That was nice too. The third game we lost 4-1. We were pretty gassed, by then, and the ice was getting beat up so passes were not as good because of all the snow.
We got a little rest before the final because they shoveled the ice, so we rallied as best as we could for the final.
With four minutes left in the game, both of my laces broke in the same spot around my ankles. I was not happy, but I tied to fix them and re-tie them to get out there for my last shift and help defend the lead to win. We only got that one goal, but throughout the whole tournament, we all played really good. We had good chemistry and knew where each other would be. It was really good.
After the tournament, there was an autograph event with the fans. There were so many. I don’t know how many things I signed, but it was a lot. It was really great to see how much support we have here. It really helps to motivate us to do more and be even better.
After that, we had another meeting – there are a lot of those here. This one was with Dr. Aimee Kimball. She’s the team psychologist. It was called Being A Pro 101 and it was really interesting because it was more about how to represent ourselves and the organization even when we’re not wearing the jersey. There was like a little game where we had to interact with different people. It was easy for me. I like to talk. 🙂 So that was fun.
We also had a meeting this morning about the culture of the team with Coach Hynes. They say the same thing every year – I’m sure you’ve seen the words on the back of our t-shirts here: Grit, Self-Starter, Compete, Brotherhood -but every time you hear it something else sticks a little bit more with you. As a veteran of this development camp and having played in Binghamton a couple years now, we’re trying to help the younger guys understand more about what all of that means and what we’ve been doing to build our game around those qualities.
When you think about it, you have to be or have all of those things to be a really good NHL player, but, for me, being a self-starter is the biggest one because you need to be able to motivate yourself and be consistent and competitive every day in every way – on the ice, in the gym, with your nutrition and your sleep and all of that – before you can really do any of the other three at a high enough level.
In the afternoon, went to Whole Foods and met with a nutritionist. He showed us how to read nutrition labels and be smarter with what we buy. I was really paying attention to that because that’s one area I think I could be better at. I don’t always read the labels and I think something is healthy for me and then it’s not. I’m not trying to lose weight, or even gain weight, but I want to be quicker on he ice and more fit. You can be stronger without being heavier. So, I need to fuel my body properly to get the results I want.
One suggestion he gave us that I thought was really smart was to buy filet mignon and ask the butcher to grind it up instead of buying ground beef for hamburgers. He said it’s better quality and better for your body. I will definitely be doing that.
For dinner, we went to an axe throwing place. I had never done that before and, throughout the whole practice round, I was terrible. Like really bad. On one shot the handle hit the board instead of the blade and it did a bad bounce on the ground and hit Mikey [McLeod] right below the knee. He was talking to someone behind me and it was really bad luck, but, fortunately, it didn’t hurt him. He was just traumatized. That’s why he lost in the tournament. Oh well.
But honestly, that entire practice round, I couldn’t get a shot to stick. Honestly, the guys were laughing at me. Chirping me hard. I was really bad. But then they called my name to go play and I beat [Colby] Sissons. I have no idea how I did it, but I won. Then, I played [Jeremy] Groleau and I was a little more confident and I was able to beat him too. In the third round, I played Giles Senn and beat him too. That game wasn’t even close. I hit a lot of shots and the timing and momentum was there for me and I thought I was bad, but now I’m thinking that maybe I could win.
In the semifinal, I played Akira [Schmid]. It was a best of three. I lost the first one. He killed me. I couldn’t get a shot and I was like, oh no, the magic is gone. But, in the second game I beat him and in the third I beat him in another close one.
In the final, I played Case McCarthy. There were a lot of people there watching behind us. It was really nice to have a big crowd. On the first shot, he hit the bullseye and I was like, oh no, I’m done. But, then I hit a bullseye too and I was like, ok…let’s go!
Then, he started missing and everyone was saying that he hadn’t missed the board once in the other rounds. So, maybe the pressure got to him or his arm got tired. I don’t know, but I kept hitting and hitting and I won.
It was a good day for me in the standings. I don’t think I told you about that…
At development camp, you earn points for doing well in the physical testing and winning the ping-pong tournament and the 3-on-3 and the scrimmage and I think you get points for scoring in that one too and the coaches can give you extra points if they see you doing something that shows good character. At the end of camp, the top ten or something like that get to pick from a bunch of prizes like a grill set or a putter or some Devils gear. It’s all for fun, but we’re all competitive and want to win. I don’t know where I am on the leaderboard, but I know I got a lot of points today and have a good chance to be on top of the leaderboard.
As good as today was for me here at development camp, my heart was heavy for my girlfriend and her family. Her grandfather passed away last week and today was his funeral. I couldn’t be there in person, but I was there in spirit and I’d like to say I scored my goals today to honor him.
Tomorrow is another busy day, but I’m really looking forward to the talent show tomorrow night. Still not telling you what we’re doing though!
You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out. Stay tuned!
DEVELOPMENT CAMP: DAY 4
This morning was pretty easy because we weren’t on the ice. We just had an off-ice workout and hung out in the lounge and a couple guys got their headshots taken. Then we had a community service/team building event called the ACE Race. We played some games to improve our teamwork and then we built mini golf holes out of boxes or cans of food. Each team had a patient from a local hospital and we voted our girl, CiCi, as our team captain.
She’s having a rough time and it was really nice to be able to have fun and help put a smile on her face. She was a really nice little girl. We even put her name into the design of our golf hole.
The goal was to make it as hard as possible, but still be able to make a hole in one. Then we had to play all seven holes and the first two teams to complete two rounds got to face-off in the final. We didn’t win that competition, but we had a lot of fun and the kids had a great time and then we packed up all the food to donate to Covenant House here in Newark.
Then we had lunch and had another meeting with Aimee about the mental side of being a competitor. Then we had a Navy SEAL talk to us. The guy was really humble and he was hesitant to say it, but one of the coaches said he was the best of the best and I believe them. It was really nice to meet a person like that who’s willing to put his life on the line to protect all of us and really knows what it means to be part of a team because, if they’re on a mission and the don’t work as a team, they will be dead. It as a really good meeting. I took a lot of notes.
After that, it was time to get ready for the talent show. My team still wasn’t sure exactly what we were going to do, but we had about an hour to decide and practice.
The idea we decided to go with was a skit from Family Feud. It was actually really funny. There’s no pictures or video of the talent show because we make a lot of fun at each other and even straight up embarrass ourselves just to get a laugh out of the boys. So, you’ll have to take my word for it, but it was so funny that we actually won. It was a team effort. Everyone contributed and I was really proud.
Most importantly, that’s more points for me on the leaderboard!
After that we went to dinner at Chipotle. There’s one around the corner from the arena and I am a big fan. I’m really simple. I just get a bowl with rice and chicken with some cheese on it. No guac or salsa or anything. Don’t judge me on that. It’s good and it’s healthy.
Tonight, we have a free night and I’ll either go sleep early or hang out with some of the boys. We’ll see.
Tomorrow is another busy day. We have practice and yoga and then we’re going into New York City and going to a Yankees game.
Keep you posted!
DEVELOPMENT CAMP: DAY 5
Hey Devils Fans!
Today at development camp, we had practice. We went over offensive sone entries and 2-on-1s and small area plays. It was intense, but really good. After that we had a yoga class that showed us different poses specifically for hockey players and stretching the muscles we use a lot. It’s about repairing your body to go out and do it again the next day. It’s good for recovery and it’s really helpful to know.
We had a quick lunch after that and then there was the ping pong final. I only saw a little bit because we also had our exit meetings at the same time, but I heard Joey Anderson and Blake Speers won. Like I said before…I don’t know why they put two really good players on the same team. It wasn’t fair. But whatever, I’m not good at ping pong anyway.
During the exit meeting, it’s just an opportunity for the coaches to tell you what you did good and what you need to work on and what you can expect during training camp in the fall.
In the afternoon, we went into New York City in small groups to do some exploring. My group was supposed to go on a sightseeing tour bus, but we waited for thirty minutes and it didn’t show up so w went to the top of the Empire State Building instead. It was really nice. I had been to the top of Rockefeller Center before and it was a lot like that. It’s really impressive, but I’m sure it’s really pretty at night too with all of the lights. We had a fun group of guys and had a great time together.
The other groups went to Rockefeller Center, on a boat and the last group went golfing.
After that, we got on the subway and went to the Yankees game. This is my fourth or fifth baseball game at this camp and I don’t know if it’s me, but every time I go there’s no action. I saw they played a game two weeks ago that was 18-13 against the Red Sox, so I was like maybe it will be fun this time, but they must have used up all their runs in that game and run out for this one because after 5 innings the score was still 0-0. So…still terrible.
But, I love baseball and I love that the Devils always take care of us and plan nice activities that people will enjoy and give us opportunities to hang out and relax away from the rink. We really appreciate nights like tonight.
Now, I’m back at the hotel and getting ready for tomorrow’s Red and White game. I want to win, of course, because I am competitive and I want to win all the time, but also because I am second in the point standings behind Case McCarthy and we are on different teams, so this is my chance to win. We’re going to do a shootout too and I think we get points for scoring there too. I might do something spectacular there, but I don’t really know what to do because I’m not that spectacular. So…I’m just going to try to score and we’ll see what happens.
DEVELOPMENT CAMP: RED & WHITE SCRIMMAGE
Hey Devils Fans!
We finally got to sleep in a little bit today. I didn’t have to get up until 8:30! Big win!
I packed all my stuff up last night because we had to check out of the hotel before heading to the rink for the Red & White Scrimmage.
My team didn’t do so well in the first period and we had to rally in the second. I played ok. Not my best, but not my worst. We played 4-on-4 in the second and I played better. I made good passes and had a lot of chances. I thought it was really good. We tied things up in the second and it went to 3-on-3 sudden death overtime. Studs [Marian Studenic] got us the game winner so I was excited about that AND I was happy to finally beat Case McCarthy. I was pretty sure this meant I jumped to the top of the standings on our camp leaderboard, so it was a double win for me.
The game was really high paced. Every one is really good and really quick. The coaches talk about about internal competition and we’re all pushing each other to be better and it’s so fun to play with and against them.
Jack Hughes is something else. He’s so good, but he’s also so humble. When he scored his first unofficial goal as a Devil, we were waving him over to the bench to celebrate with him, but he wouldn’t come over. He didn’t want us to make a big deal about it. The fans were going crazy though.
After the game we all participated in a shootout. Michael Vukojvich pulled out an unreal move, especially for a defenseman. I don’t know how he did that, but it was nice to see and the fans loved that too. My shootout was terrible. I tried to do something nice, but it didn’t work out for me. I’ll have to work on that this summer too.
The fans were amazing again. So many people came and it was really nice to be able to play in front of them. A lot of the work you do on the ice in the summer is in an empty rink, so it was nice to have people cheering us on.
When we got back to the room, I was officially announced the winner of our development camp competition. It was really nice. I was in the top ten my first year, but because I couldn’t participate in the on ice events the last two years and couldn’t earn any points that way, I was always near the bottom. So, this year, it was nice to come back and win it all. I got a nice heritage jersey and a Lululemon gift card and speakers. It was all really nice.
I appreciate everything the coaches and the staff did, especially Aimee [director of player and team development], putting all of this together for us. They did a good job organizing a great week for us to learn and be better hockey players, but also get to know each other better with all the off ice activities. We all had a really good time. All the guys are really great people and I’m not just saying that. There wasn’t one person that I didn’t like. It was really nice.
Now, I’m waiting for my flight home to Montreal and I’m going to spend the rest of my summer doing everything I can to give myself a chance to earn a spot on the team in October. I want to be ready to show the coaches and management that I belong with the New Jersey Devils during training camp, but that work happens now in the summer.
Thanks to all the fans that watched in person or online. We always appreciate your support!
See you in September!