Development Camp Offers Prospects The Chance For Summer ImprovementsJul 18, 2022
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
IRVINE, CA – In the heat of the summer in Orange County, the Anaheim Ducks prospects found one way to keep cool – the ice inside Great Park Ice & FivePoint Arena.
The familiar sounds of skates cutting the ice and pucks crashing against the boards rang through the National Hockey League club’s practice facility last week, as 33 of the organization’s prospects flocked to the area for a four-day summer camp focused on skills development, off-ice growth and team-building exercises. The group even participated in a community outreach program, helping a group of local Anaheim children design a new playground for the city.
"It’s obviously a hard week and there’s a lot of good talent here, but (Anaheim Ducks head coach) Dallas (Eakins) and all the staff here have been taking us to a really amazing camp," Brayden Tracey said. “"They put all the work into it and we’ve just got to come here and show what we’ve got. We’ve been practicing, working out every day. We had some power skating today, we’ve been in the gym a lot with Caylin (Relkoff) and Colin (Reddin) and those guys. I think it’s been a pretty good week so far."
The camp, an annual tradition with several NHL clubs, gives the organization’s prospects a chance to get extended work with their teams before returning for the normal training camp in September. This year’s roster featured seven of Anaheim’s eight 2022 NHL Draft picks, including first-rounders Pavel Mintyukov (10th overall) and center Nathan Gaucher (22nd overall). Additionally, eight players who skated with San Diego during the 2021-22 season joined the group.
This included defenseman Drew Helleson, who joined the organization in a March trade with the Colorado Avalanche. The blueliner signed his first professional contract with Anaheim following the completion of his college season and made his American Hockey League debut against the Henderson Silver Knights on March 22, 2022.
The Farmington, MN native collected two assists in 17 regular-season games and matched that total in two postseason contests against the Ontario Reign. With this experience under his belt, Helleson entered the development camp looking to improve.
"It’s good; you learn a lot from off the ice from the guys and it’s kind of competitive too," he said. "You want to prove yourself both on and off the ice and the skates have been really good. The first day was kind of slower. A little skating stuff and then yesterday was more competitive and today we got back to skating fundamentals, which was really good."
The competition is something these prospects can’t replicate in their various offseason training programs.
"All of these guys are great players," Helleson said. "They compete well and everyone is here for a reason so just looking around and learning everything you can from everyone. All of these little things that some guys do better than you and knowing your weaknesses and things like skating. Whatever it can be and just learn from everyone here. There’s so many resources and (you) can ask questions, it’s awesome."
Tracey, participating in his second development camp , entered as a veteran of the group. He skated in a career-high 55 games, finishing with 11-20=31 points and 40 PIM. He went scoreless with two PIM in the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. The experience helped him in camp, as he continues to hone his skills to build off his first full professional season.
"Today even in power skating I learned a lot," he said. "Whether it’s just my chest being too low when I’m skating or my arm swings a little bit too much. That’s obviously key on the ice and off the ice it’s just the discipline. I mean, Dallas has been talking about it all week, discipline is huge. If you have that, you’re going to go a long way and also a lot of compete. These guys are battling out here and we’re all battling. We’re trying to have fun while doing it. It’s a fun week to get to learn and meet a lot of new guys and it’s been really awesome so far."
Tracey also took it upon himself to help the newest members of the organization.
"I remember coming in pretty scared and nerve-wracking and (what) my mom always told me is, 'Remember, you’re in those shoes too,'" he said. "I mean, I’m still a new guy around here, but at least I know around the rink so I just try to help them the best I can."
With the camp complete, the prospects scattered back across the globe, prepping themselves for the rigors of training camp.
"It’s awesome," Helleson said when asked about attending development camp. "I’m so excited, so happy to be here. I can’t wait to get, like you said, a full year under my belt of pro hockey. Last year, I got my feet wet a little bit, but I’m excited. This is your dream and of everyone here so it’s really cool."