As the regular season quickly approaches, NHL training camps are now in full swing. Each club is now in the process of finalizing their opening night rosters for the opening week of the NHL regular season.
The process is complicated for all of the clubs during this period. Every GM is on pins and needles trying to assemble the best possible roster for the new season. The pressure is also high for any young or veteran player that is on the bubble in a training camp.
THE NEW ERA OF YOUTH
In the new age of the NHL, it is a young man’s game. It is not uncommon to see 18-year olds and 19-year olds crack opening night NHL rosters.
Some may ask: why so young? Why are these kids thrown into the fire so quickly at such a young age? With youth comes new energy, speed, and skill.
One main reason players start at such a young age is because the speed of the game has become quicker, and the athletes have become larger and more powerful. If you do not believe me, just take a look at the goaltending position. You will see giant goaltenders like Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop playing now. These goaltenders are not really up in age, but they look like they should be playing on a basketball court instead of a hockey rink. Even with their giant stature in net, these goaltenders are some of the best in the league today.
Young players can bring a change of pace to the game. Most young players can bring energy to a bench, especially if the bench is an older and more experienced group.
DRAFTING AND DEVELOPING
In any professional sport, drafting and developing is the biggest key to success. No franchise performs well and goes far if they do not draft and develop well.
In the NHL’s salary cap world, very few young players hit the open market. Most teams will sign all of their top young talent to long term deals very early in their respective careers. In the hockey business today, teams will look to find any kind of bargain they can with home grown players. Most teams are able to get their bargains with players that they do end up drafting. In free agency, some teams tend to overpay for players, and some can get into cap trouble if they spend too much.
After the draft process, the most-stable franchises are able to develop their young players at whatever pace is needed to reach top potential. Developing a player involves a careful process that GMs and scouts have to go through every single year. GMs have to make sure that they do not rush a young player, because it can hurt their development. In hockey, players develop at various paces. Some players develop quickly, and are able to contribute from Day 1. Other players take multiple years to develop to reach their full potential.
The pressure is on for all players in training camps. Every player realizes that every team is different every year.
Every single training camp has competition. For example, it can involve a rookie player trying to crack an NHL roster for the first time. It can also involve a veteran player trying to earn a new contract with a new team. Every player is trying to impress the GMs, coaches, and scouts.
If there was no competition at a training camp, a GM would not be doing their job properly. Competition on the ice makes everyone in the organization better. Competition drives individuals to work harder and harder every single day in order to achieve individual and team goals.
By: George Foussekis