Every summer, hundreds of undrafted and unsigned teenagers get invited to NHL prospect development, conditioning, and training camps. By now, almost all of the NHL teams have held their preliminary prospect camps, used mainly to introduce new draft picks to the NHL style of training and get an in-person look at the progress of their old draft picks.
A little over a thousand prospects have attended these camps this summer, with nearly 250 of those being invitees hoping to catch the eye of someone in the organization. It’s tough to get exact numbers on invitees, as not all teams publish their camp rosters and many invitees will attend multiple camps. When training camps open in September, some of these invitees will return, joined by more hopefuls eyeing a spot on an NHL depth chart, no matter how far down.
Of these hundreds, a tiny fraction will earn NHL contracts. Every single one of these invitees is an underdog: a player has to be damned impressive at a prospect camp to get management to take their attention away from their prized draft picks. That said, there’s usually a reason a player warrants an invite to camp in the first place: some spark of potential, or an impressive playoff run, or an outstanding season as an older player in junior.
Michael Houser was invited to prospect camps based on all three of these things over the last three years: this summer, he finally beat the odds and got his NHL contract with the Florida Panthers. But beating the odds is nothing new for Houser.
It was an inevitable part of the situation, but the sentiment is still the same. Sven Baertschi was returned to the Western League’s Portland Winterhawks on Saturday after the Flames activated Lee Stempniak from the injured reserve. Excuse me while I have a quick cry.
No offense to Lee Stempniak – I’m sure he’s a good dude and all – but that kind of sucks for the Flames and their fans, doesn’t it? Baertschi was electric for the Flames in his time with the club. Obviously five games is a small sample size, but having him up for those five games was a giant freaking tease. Now we must wait another full season to see what Baertschi can do as a permanent pro.
The Edmonton Oilers are a team that can look back at a history full of accomplishment. The dynasty Oilers of the mid-80’s rewrote the NHL record books and won five Stanley Cups.
One thing the Oilers haven’t done well is develop goaltenders. After drafting Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr in 1980 and 1981, the development pipeline has been bare. Give or take the odd overage Euro or cup of coffee North American, the Oilers haven’t drafted and developed a quality goaltender since.
So it comes as a bit of a shock to see a system with a young starter and a group of quality prospects behind him.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is emerging as the overwhelming favourite to go first overall at this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Numerous scouts and hockey experts have opined positively about his on-ice vision, hockey sense, and puck skills.
There is, however, one thing about Nugent-Hopkins that bothers me: his relatively poor even-strength scoring. A number of reasons have been suggested, and one of them is that Nugent-Hopkins plays with inferior teammates. Was he being held back by the other players on his line this season?
It’s only a rookie game, but the magnitude of this Magnus Paajarvi snipe could be felt as far north as High Level, Alberta. Paajarvi scored twice in his Oiler debut, Taylor Hall also set up a Jordan Eberle goal as the Oilers defeated the Vancouver squad 4-1. You see kids… either top corner or along the ice.