NATHAN BASTIAN – PRE-CAMP
Hey Devils Fans!
Before I get started with the blog about development camp, I want to thank you for being such great fans. You probably hoped for a few better outcomes this season – just like we did – but you still came to games and cheered loud for us and we really appreciated it. It was a real honor to play for you and I’m not just saying that. I really mean it. You guys were awesome and we’ve been working hard this summer to hopefully play better for you next year. So, thank you!
This is my third one and I’m excited to learn more and become a better player, but I’m also excited to be relied upon a little more as one of the vets here and help some of the new guys feel really welcome like a lot of the guys did for me the last two years. One of those guys is Mitch Hoelscher. The Devils drafted him a couple weeks ago and he actually trains at the same gym as I do in the summer. Before then, I never really knew him outside of the occasional, “Hey, what’s up?” you throw out as you’re working out, but we rode to the airport together to come here and it’s been great getting to know him and we’re even roommates here too. He asks a lot of questions – the same questions I was asking my first year – and I’ve done my best to help him out.
The first thing you’re nervous about as a new guy coming into a camp like this is the testing because you have no idea about anything. You don’t know the other guys. You don’t know the coaches. You don’t know what they’re going to ask you to do so there’s no way to train for it. You just have to show up and do your best and hope it’s good enough.
That will be first on the To Do List this morning before we get on the ice in the afternoon. We’re also having a barbecue at Red Bull Stadium afterward. Hopefully, that will give me some gems to share with you about the other guys too.
That’s another big focus of this camp – meeting and getting to know your future teammates – and the Devils do a really good job with it. It’s a tough week, but by no means is this the worst week of your summer. This is a development camp, not a bootcamp. They’re not looking to wreck you for the week and push you to your physical limit and then send you home to recover for the rest of the summer. It’s a lot of hard work and there’s a lot to learn both on and off the ice about how to be a better player and a better pro, but there’s also a lot of fun built in, like going to the baseball game or go-karting.
We had a little welcome dinner last night at the arena to kick things off with a couple speeches and an opportunity to meet the new guys. There was an optional skate yesterday afternoon for those of us who arrived early and just wanted to get on the ice and get a little sweat going, maybe get out some jitters, but I think we’re all pretty excited to get things going today.
NATHAN BASTIAN – DAY 1
Today, we woke up at 6:15 a.m. and had a quick physical, did a few fitness tests, had breakfast and broke out the Fortnite on the big TV in the player lounge. Quick shoutout to Jeremy Davies who pulled out a big win in front of all the boys. It was a pretty loud roar when he won. You probably could have been in the hallway and still heard us. Only one person plays, but if you’re good at it everyone gets into it and we were really into it. Of all the video games, being a spectator at Fortnight isn’t that bad. It was a high pressure moment and he came through with the W…like a good Canadian boy. So, shoutout to Davies.
Then, we had the shuttle run test. It wasn’t that bad. Probably the best part was the one-liners Blake Speers was throwing out. Some of the words he uses, I have to wonder if they’re real words. But if they are, just hang out with him for a day and you’re learn like ten new words. Today’s word was blasphemy.
I had to look it up.
I’m still not sure he used it properly, but it is in fact a word in the English language.
After that we had a nutrition meeting, which was good for me because I know I need to learn a few things. Basically, ice cream is my enemy. The guy who came to talk to us was the same guy who talked to us in Binghamton and he seemed really knowledgable. He didn’t just tell you what to eat or what not to eat, but he explained why it was good or bad and how to fuel your body for maximum performance, especially on game days.
Then, we grabbed lunch and headed off to the ping pong competition which was easily the best part of the day. We were split in two groups today. The forwards played ping pong while the defense were on the ice and then we swapped. I don’t know if they were just gassed from skating, but I heard the forwards had a lot more firepower in their ping pong session than the D. We were just ready to go for it.
When I saw the bracket, I was worried about going up against Quenneville and McLeod, but Speersy and I put them to sleep. Aimee Kimball – the team psychologist who was running this ping pong tournament – put out a poll on twitter to see who would win and 70% said they would and we dusted them. So, that was ideal for us. I was so ready to play in the finals by the end of it, but we have to wait until Friday to play the championship rounds. So, we have some unfinished business there.
I was impressed by the one Finnish kid – Eetu Pakkila – he was silky smooth, so I was worried about him. Mitch Hoelscher – my roommate – had my number. He kept throwing it to me and I was just butchering it. I’m not usually that bad, but I was having a tough game. It was very strategic of him so I liked that about him – very smart – but his teammate – Ryan Schmelzer – wasn’t very good so we took their game plan and shoved it right back at them and started feeding him and we bounced back and crushed them. Fabian Zetterlund could use some work too, but I really admire his passion. Super competitive guy.
Then, we got on the ice for a very familiar practice. It was a Killer practice and since I had him in Binghamton all year, I didn’t really have to think about what to do. (I don’t know why he’s called Killer, but he’s had it since his playing days and I’ve never even considered calling him anything else. He might be Coach Kowalsky to you, but he’s Killer to us.) It was a hard practice and was good to get on the ice again.
Tonight, we went to Red Bull Stadium for a barbecue. It was a nice set up and getting to see the field was pretty cool. We had a chat with Commissioner AK (Aimee Kimball) about how we can earn more points in the standings. Everything here is a competition and you earn points along the way. I don’t know who’s on top of the leaderboard right now, but Speersy has to be up there. He was top three and got points in every single physical test.
I have absolutely no business talking about the leaderboard after my last two showings at development camp. Apparently, fitness testing is not my thing. Last year, Bobo Carpenter accumulated more points in one day than I did the past two years combined. He just ran away with it and I’m worried about him again this year. Right now, I’m a win away from getting a point from the ping pong, so that will be big for me and it would be nice if I could win the 3-on-3 tournament for the first time.
That’s tomorrow and I’m obviously looking forward to that. I have no idea who I’m playing with, but the place is usually packed with fans, so it will be fun. I have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow afternoon, but tomorrow night we’re going to the Mets game, so it will be another packed day and, in the midst of all that, we have to put together an act for the talent show.
You read that right.
I’m assuming we’re going to see a lot of very below average dancing and a few mediocre lipsyncers. I have no idea how much talent is floating around here. I know The Sizzler (Colby Sissons) has some magic tricks up his sleeve – like legitimately, he does magic – and Ty Smith actually referred to himself as a magician and they’re in the same group, so I’m pretty sure they’re down to get their whole squad in for a magic trick to change things up a bit. I think the whole thing will be hilarious and I’m actually looking forward to it later this week.
But, right now, I’m looking forward to going to bed. I don’t even remember waking up this morning because this day was so long it feels like it started last week. I’ll check back in with you guys tomorrow.
NATHAN BASTIAN – DAY 2
We started the day with a seminar on the culture of this organization and the character it takes to be a New Jersey Devil. We were fortunate enough to have Corey Schneider, Kyle Palmieri and Andy Greene join us and share about their development experiences and what they were thinking and feeling and going through when they were in our shoes. It was nice to be reminded that every NHLer starts out as a prospect and goes through this process. It’s just a matter of if you’re willing to push through and do what it takes to get to the other side.
After that, we got ready for the three-on-three tournament. I was pretty confident going into it because I really liked my team. Quenneville is a good guy to have on your team and I like Bobo Carpenter’s game and, of course, thought I brought something good to the table and our goalie, Gilles Senn, was really good. So, I thought we’d do really well…but we didn’t.
Three-on-three on the cross ice is really different. The small game and playing in tight areas is pretty hard. For a team that’s pretty much built on speed, it was hard to showcase any of that in this event. There wasn’t even hitting or battles on the boards for the grittier guys to do their thing either. So really it was for the guys who can snipe in close and have great edges and can skate around guys and turn on a dime. I’ll have to remember that next year and make sure those guys are on my team.
We didn’t get the results we wanted and, unfortunately, it’s been like that for me the past three years. It was disappointing, but I’m 2-0 in the scrimmage so hopefully I can bounce back and keep that winning streak going on Saturday.
After that, we had an off-ice workout. It was good to get in the gym. It’s what I would have been doing if we were at home, so it was nice to get that in today. Then, we had lunch and had the chance to talk with Schneider in a smaller group. I had actually met him earlier in the year when he joined us in Belleville for a game on a conditioning assignment. So it was cool to talk with him a little more.
In the afternoon, we heard from Tony Granato, who was the US coach at the Olympics – that was pretty cool – and Kevin Stevens. He played in the NHL and then became a drug addict and, fortunately, he recovered, but I think it was really good for us to hear because it’s pretty important. Your career can totally get off track with just a couple bad decisions. He said that when he was sitting in our shoes as prospects he would hear warnings about the dangers of getting injured and becoming addicted to pain meds and he said he never thought that would be me – no chance – but then he went from NHL All Star to rock bottom just like that. It’s not really something you want to talk about, but was really good for us to hear.
We pretty much had the rest of the afternoon off. We used it as time to game plan for our talent show on Friday. My group basically sat in the hotel room spitballing ideas. We think we have something, but I’m not going to formally announce it because that might ruin it. We didn’t practice anything, but we like our idea.
Tonight, we went to the Mets game. It was real nice to just get away and relax a bit with the boys. I got myself a new shirzey – Yoenis Cespedes. I’m adding it to my collection. I already have a Tim Tebow Binghamton Rumble Ponies shirzey. By no means do I watch a lot of baseball, but I’m pretty sure this makes me an official Mets fan.
Tomorrow, we’re not doing anything on the ice, just another off-ice workout in the morning and some community service in the afternoon. We’re building bikes for kids whose parents can’t afford them. I have absolutely no idea how to build a bike, so hopefully it comes with very detailed instructions. Mix in a little lunch and a little talent practice. Then, I think we’re going to Top Golf. So, another busy day coming up for us at Devils development camp.
Hope you guys are enjoying the blog!
NATHAN BASTIAN – DAY 3
This morning, we learned how to make omelettes and smoothies to help us start the day right with a good breakfast. I already know how to make omelettes, but it was a good opportunity to see how I could change things up from my go-to ham and cheese by adding tomatoes and spinach and peppers. So that was good for me. Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in the omellettes – they let us eat them – that I didn’t make it over to the smoothie bar, but I’m sure they were great too.
Then, we had a little break before our workout, playing some Fortnite – always a good time.
The workout was good. It was our only physical activity of the day so it was good to get our sweat on. It’s what I’d be doing if I were training at home right now. Felt good to get in there and get after it.
Then we had the build-a-bike and it was so much more than just building a bike. We started by doing some funny stuff. We were divided into groups of five and had to make a team name, a flag and a little cheer. It was a ton of fun. My team was me, Blake Speers, Max Veronneau, Yegor Sharengovich and John Edwardh.
There was actually a little competition on who had the best chant. We managed to win that part of it and got a 30 second head start on putting the bike together, but we had to answer a bunch of questions to get the parts. That was a little difficult and we even had a guy from Princeton on our team! But it was like word puzzles and trivia and we didn’t know a lot of the answers, so we started cheating and going to the other teams to see what they had and when you finally had the right answer, you could go up and get a bike part, but they were giving out all the pedals first and then all the seats and then the frames and then the handlebars and the wheels until they were all out of parts. So if we got the answers to two questions at the same time, we ended up with multiples of the same part and we needed to do some trading with other teams to get what we needed to finish the bike.
They said it wasn’t a competition, but….this entire camp is a competition and points are awarded for everything and we’re reminded of it every day when they announce the new standings on the leaderboard. So, we wanted to be the first to finish our bike. Max – AKA the smart guy from Princeton – studies mechanical engineering and he was really good with sorting the parts out and worked on the smaller details of putting the bike together. Then, the guy who can barely speak English, Yegor the mechanic, was an absolute weapon with the wrench and ended up helping put together five of the six bikes. I was very impressed with his skills there. This was not his first rodeo.
Ultimately, we didn’t finish our bike first, but we were the first ones to pass the safety inspection and ended up getting the win there anyway. Go Team Cavalier Toasts!
Then, they explained to us that what we thought was cheating by asking other guys for help was actually teamwork and they related it to hockey because while we’re all on the same team, we’re also competing against each other for jobs and spots in the lineup. It made sense to me and I thought it was a pretty good way to help us recognize that concept. There was also a lesson on the different words we use and how they can be misinterpreted. Like when we went to get the bike parts, sometimes they’d give us the part, but sometimes the guys would say “That’s not what I have” but I knew our answer was right and how could they say we were wrong, but they didn’t say we were wrong, they just didn’t have the answer to that question. That was a good way to help us understand that sometimes what people say is not always what we hear or how we interpret things and how it can lead to unnecessary frustration.
In the end, we got to meet the kids that were getting the bikes and take pictures with them and meet their parents. Overall, it was a really cool experience.
Then, we had lunch and a seminar on sports psychology and getting our mind right and working together as a team and how we can all help each other to have good attitudes at the rink.
After that, we had some chill time. We were technically supposed to be working on our routine for the talent show, but that didn’t happen. We’ll be good to go for tomorrow though. Full confidence there.
Then, we went to Top Golf. I’m not much of a golfer, but it was pretty fun. They have different kinds of games and ways to keep score. I didn’t know it would be this competitive though. The guys are really into it. I don’t golf so I just went up and took a couple whacks at it and see what happens, but the appetizers were great. They get an A-plus from me.
Speersy can play, Q can play, Blackwood has had a phenomenal showing. For a guy who doesn’t really shoot any pucks, he’s got a heck of a drive. Seney can play. Senn is one of the best Euros I’ve ever seen swing a club. Studenic is terrible, but he gets an A for effort and for doing it with a smile on his face. That kid is always smiling, except when he’s sleepwalking because of the jet lag. He’s from Slovakia and he trains there so he just came over for this week.
Tonight, we’re on our own for dinner, but I’m not planning on doing anything crazy. I’m going to get some take out and be in bed by 8. I’m exhausted. Seriously. I have no plans. There will be no hanging out or socializing, just lots of sleeping.
Tomorrow morning, we’ve got some yoga planned and are getting on the ice for practice before the scrimmage on Saturday. So, another work day. Time to rest up!
NATHAN BASTIAN – DAY 4
Today, I woke up around 7:30, went to breakfast, still had no idea what Team I was on for the scrimmage to know whether I was practicing or doing Joga first – that’s yoga with a J, not a typo. Turns out, the Joga was first for me, but I had no idea what exactly that was. I asked Mikey McLeod what it was and he said, “Oh I’ve done that before. It’s way harder.” So, I was oh geez, I’m not sure I’m ready for this.
Turns out, Mikey doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s called Joga because the lady’s name begins with a J, so it was regular yoga, but it was pretty hard. She said that yoga is what you make of it and if you do it all properly it will give you a great workout while also helping to stretch you out. At one point, I couldn’t even lift my arms any more. I was cooked.
Then, we had a tough practice. I think they purposely had a split squad practice to have a smaller number of guys on the ice and make it harder for us and it definitely was a hard skate. Killer ran it against and it’s exactly what he does in Binghamton, so I was pretty familiar and maybe a little easier for me compared to the guys won’t don’t run through these drills all the time.
After that was the highly anticipated finish to the ping pong tournament. We knew which teams were in the semis, but we had to sort out the seeding. Blake Speers and I won the first game against Team Ivy League – Max Veronneau and Max Andreev, who are going to Princeton and Cornell – and were declared the champions of the Offense Bracket and went up against Team Q – Xavier Bernard and Jocktain Chainey – in the semifinals and got beat pretty good. Berny’s backhand was HOT, like really hot. He was playing some good ping pong today. I’ll take most of the blame for the loss. They exposed me pretty bad and Speersy’s game was good. I held him back today and was more in the way than helping.
So we went to the consolation game and faced Team Ivy League again, but for me, similar to the 3rd place game in the 3-on-3 – the consolation game really isn’t my thing. I was checked out. We had one fan watching our game. So, shoutout to Gilles Senn for watching our game. It was great to have his support. We lost, which was unfortunate because we knew we could have beat them. It was a mental thing. We need to meet with Aimee, our sports psychologist, about that one I think.
Then we had lunch, played some Xbox and then got on the bus to the racetrack for go-karting. It was a lot of fun. We went two years ago and we had a great time then too. My heat was really fast and the top two in each heat made it to the final. I came in second and I was pumped. Eetu Pakkila came in first and he’s an absolute driver. He was fantastic. So, I was pretty satisfied and was excited to make the final and then someone told me that was just practice. That was disappointing and wasn’t sure I could match my best lap that round and make the final. Good news is that I actually beat my time in the practice round, but Eetu still beat me so we were one and two and made the final. I was pretty happy about that.
Then in the final race, it wasn’t fastest lap, it was an actual race and the first guy to complete 14 laps won. Brandon Gignac ruined my day. In the second or third lap he had me going in reverse down the track and I went from fifth to last and didn’t even have a chance. So, I just decided to cause as much havoc as I could. I was totally playing bumper cars out there, even though there were strict rules not to. Every time I started a new lap they were waving the black flag at me, but I really have no idea how else you’re supposed to create enough room to pass people without bumping them.
In the end, Giggy won. Bobo Carpenter came in second and Akira Schmid was third. Bobo was an animal out there. Yegor Sharengovic was in the lead. Bobo bumped him and sent him to the back. He was in the lead for awhile with Ettu hot on his tail and then Akira passed them both on a turn and the rest of the guys went crazy, but on the next turn Bobo bumped him and sent him back a few spots too. Then, in like the last lap, Giggy slipped by him. Again, the crowd went wild and he was full steam ahead to the finish line.
Go-karting was actually a lot of fun. It probably was my favorite thing we did this week.
When we came back we had some downtime and there was some practice to be done for the highly anticipated talent show. It’s been in the back of our minds all week, but I’m pretty sure everyone thought it came out a lot better than we all though it would be. I will admit that I wasn’t particularly excited about the idea at first, but it was actually really funny and most guys dealt with it pretty well. There were a few groups that I thought were actually pretty hilarious and I was really happy with my crew too. I thought we should have won. I wasn’t impressed with the judging.
So to run through the show, the first one was pretty good and set the tone. Speersy led that team and they reenacted the scene from stepbrothers where they were singing Sweet Child O’Mine in the car. CLICK HERE TO WATCH MOVIE SCENE
Davies crushed the mom’s role riding shotgun. Speersy was awesome as the dad. They were good. I thought there might be more people doing something like that, but no.
The next group was Mikey’s group and before they started Joey Anderson said it was going to be really funny. So, we were ready, but he just set us up to be disappointed. They reenacted a scene from Brooklyn 99 where they sang “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. CLICK HERE TO WATCH BROOKYLN 99 SCENE
Fabian Zetterlund was probably the best out of that group and Mikey showed off his pipes a little bit. It was good, but not quite as hilarious and Joey said.
Then, it was our turn with the fashion show.
To be honest, Aarne Talvitie was our team captain and when he said we were going to do a fashion show, I thought we were just trying not to be the worst and were just going to wing it, but he put a lot of thought into it and he got the team on board and in the end I actually thought it was pretty fantastic. Not sure exactly how much I can describe on here because this is a family blog, but I was the emcee for the show and the rest of the boys modeled “the latest in hockey gear” in various stages of undress and really nailed their poses at the end of the runway. The boys were crying they were laughing so hard. With entertainment valued at 50% of the judging we should have gotten tens across the board because we crushed it. Unfortunately the judges had a different opinion and we came in third. Like I said…not impressed with the judging.
The next group was doing something with the draft and when they were setting up, I turned to Marian Studenic who was sitting beside me and said, “This is going to be terrible. There is no way this is going to be any good.” I honestly felt bad for them, but Cam Johnson killed it. Basically, they reenacted the draft. New Jersey made their fifth round selection and picked up Yegor and Cam was his very excited sidekick. He jumped up and was yelling and fist pumping. I wasn’t sure if he was his buddy or his agent, but it turns out he was his translator for when he met with the “media”. Cam doesn’t known any Russian so he’s actually speaking Spanish and Yegor’s still speaking Russian back to him and all the answers were really funny. At one point, I was laughing so hard I don’t even remember what he said. They were really good. They came in second.
Then, Bobo Carpenter took some hypnosis classes in college and I have no idea what he learned because it didn’t work. I tried to do it in the audience because he told us he was going to do it and that he actually knew how to do it, but no dice. They were just acting like they were hypnotized. They did some funny stuff like dating with each other and acting like a gorilla, but when they gave them the win, I officially didn’t like it. I was pretty disappointed.
All the teams did better than I think we all expected, but I’m sour my team didn’t win. I thought we crushed it. Plus, I could have used a couple more points in our competition standings. I’m middle of the pack again. I’ll have to win the scrimmage and score like eight goals to be able to pass some guys and get to the top. This is my third camp and I’ve never been in the top five, maybe even the top ten. Just confirms my theory that it takes some luck to win the points competition. It’s still a lot of fun, though.
It’s about 9 p.m. now, so we’re just going to hang out a bit tonight and then we have the game tomorrow and we go home. The game will be interesting because it’s still summer and most of us haven’t played a game in months, so we’ll see how it goes, but we’re excited for the fans to be there and hopefully put on a show for them. I’m excited to see how some of these guys are in game action. I can imagine we’ll all be going pretty hard.
NATHAN BASTIAN – DAY 5
Today was really good because it’s the longest we’ve been able to sleep in. Breakfast was from 8-10 a.m. and they treated us like we were professionals and basically said, the game’s at 11, come as early as you need to to get ready and have a proper warm up. I really respected and appreciated that they let us take responsibility for our preparation. We came over, had breakfast, played some soccer, did our stretches and just got ready for the game.
I think it was pretty good. The guys worked really hard. Our conditioning was tested with only nine forwards on my team and the other team only had eight. I think after the first half, they were begging for another forward because we were just beating on them, so Marian Studenic actually switched sides. Then in the second half – we played two 30 minutes halves of running time, no whistles for offside, or hitting the netting above the glass and penalties resulted in penalty shots, but they didn’t call anything today so guys were getting away with everything – but in the second half we dropped it down to 4-on-4 and eventually 3-on-3. That part of the game was scary because when they pulled their goalie and started chipping away at our three goal lead, I really thought they were going to tie it up. We were feeling the pressure when they made it 5-4 with 90 seconds to go, but we pulled it out. I was sitting on the bench with a minute to go and itching to get out there, but my defensive game today needed a bit of work. I don’t think they were looking to me to go out there and shut it down, but my teammates got the job done and we won. I’m 3-0 in the scrimmage. It’s the only thing I seem to win here. So it was great to end the week on a high note.
The fans were really good today, all decked out in red. It was almost like we were the home team. 😉
There were even more fans than on Wednesday, which makes sense because it was on a weekday. I’m sure a lot of people had to work on Wednesday. So, it was good to see the stands packed and even more along the boards around the rink.
It was good to see Ty Smith do his thing and en up with a hat trick. That kid’s a player. Colton White was looking good, really happy for him. We had a really good D-core. Michael Kim was really good too, he had a great showing and my linemates were Eetu Pakkila and Mikey McLeod. I’ve played enough with him to know what he’s all about and we had some good chemistry going. And, the goalies. Gilles Senn and Akira Schmid were really good for us today. I was very impressed with both of them.
Overall, I think it was a great camp. I’ve said it a couple times now, but this really is the best group of guys we’ve had in my three years at this camp. Everyone got a long really well and we just had a great time doing everything together, didn’t matter what it was. The new guys fit right in and it was great getting to know the staff and the coaches better and we learned a few things along the way. Hopefully, we all show up in September better and bigger and ready to go for rookie camp. We know there are spots up for grabs and we’re all asking ourselves why can’t it be me?
Before I officially sign off on this blog, I want to thank everyone for following along. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed sharing my day with you. See you in September!