Last year, I wrote a story after attending Day 2 of the Flyers' July development camp. The takeaway for me?
Holy hell, this is boring. (I mean, as boring as hockey gets, at least.) Watching players we've never seen play hockey skate around in drills, maybe play a handful of minutes in a scrimmage depending on that day's camp schedule. Yaaaaaaawn.
The amount of value an onlooker can get at this camp is really pretty slim, and as numerous people watched camp last year while attempting to make assessments of various players -- man, that Zac Rinaldo sure does have slick hands! -- I couldn't help but think the way we were looking that the entire thing was a bit silly.
I'm not saying prospect camp is meaningless. Far from it, in fact. The scouts know these players better than we all do and can take what they see on the ice and the hard work the players are being put through and actually use that knowledge to their advantage. They wouldn't do it if it were meaningless. Really, this camp is just to acclimate these players in the organization, have them meet people they otherwise wouldn't meet and to give them a taste of what it takes to play at the NHL level.
For us, though, who have never watched most of these guys play the game, it's almost impossible to come away with anything that resembles an honest opinion. All I'm saying is that as much as we want to make snap judgments on all these players based on their performance in camp, we can't. None of it really matters.
Again, it's not an invaluable experience. Prospect camp is still super valuable to the organization and every player in attendance, and today, Ian Laperriere explained that value as succinctly as anybody could.
"I told them Day 1 at the meeting," Lappy said Tuesday. "'Boys, we've got over 5,000 NHL games in this room. You know, if you leave with questions it's your fault because we're here for you.' And that's part of my job and it's part of everybody's job here, to make them better.
"If they don't want to ask questions and they don't want to talk about anything, well, you know, we won't take it out of them. They need to come up to us and we'll teach them stuff on the ice that usually they don't work on during the season, that they don't have time to work on, or the coaches don't want to do it. We really believe on the skill side of it, that's the time to work on it. It's July 10th, you know. I know nobody is going to win a job today or lose a job today. It's a time to get better as an individual and I know that it is that kind of camp."
Development camp. Not "Hey you guys Shayne Gostisbehere is the answer on the blueline!" camp. Not "Oh my God Oliver Lauridsen is really tall I bet he's just like Pronger!" camp. Development camp. Let's remember that.
Lappy talked to the media assembled in Voorhees for a while on Tuesday. Full transcript below.
Q: Has anyone surprised you in these two days?
"Surprised? No. But, I'm encouraged but I'm encouraged by our first-rounder this year, [Scott Laughton]. He's been showing a lot of skills. We're not playing a game but with practices like that you can see their individual skills and it's always good to see that.
"I'm a fan of Nick Cousins, I like his game. I like how much fun he has out there and it doesn't matter if it's a practice or a game, the kid's having fun but he works hard. I'm all about having fun but as long as they work hard I'm impressed by that."
Q: Brandon Manning played a few games in the NHL last year, how much does that affect his game or his confidence?
"You can tell. It affects everybody in the room. You can see it on the ice. I look at him in practice and you can tell the guy played pro. I don't care if it's four or five games he's just stronger than everybody and he's more mature on the ice.
"He's been great and I have to give him props because before camp I told him, 'You're one of the oldest players here, you know, a veteran. I need you to be a leader in camps like that,' and he's been great since Day 1. With everyone around looking up to him, it's good. It shows leadership, and it shows a lot to me as well as the people upstairs."
Q: Is there anyone else who has grown over the past year?
"Well, [Oliver Lauridsen], the big Dutch. I don't know if he'll make the NHL but he's making every effort to make it on and off the ice and I've got a lot of respect for guys like that. I'm sure he's going to have a chance at one point. Is he going to be a NHL player for 20 years? [shrug] But at the end of the day he's going to go through life and say 'I gave it my best shot,' and again I've got a lot of respect for guys like that.
Q: You watched Oliver over the last couple of years going up to Adirondack. What has he changed in his game?
"Well, you know, you really improve a lot with the coaching staff down there as a hockey player. His work ethic has always been there and you know if you talk to Riley Cote he's going to say he's the hardest worker on the team. He's not a bad skater for a big guy but he works at it.
"If you just say, 'I don't have good hands' and don't do anything about it, that's your fault. But he's got the other approach. He says, 'Maybe I don't have the smoothest hands but I'm going to work at it.'
"Like I said if he doesn't make it, it won't be a lack of effort and I'm a big believer that he's got a big shot at making it to the NHL."
Q: He was talking yesterday about how last year every time he turned around one of his teammates was getting a call-up because the Flyers had so many injured defensemen. Do you think he's getting to that level where he could be one of those guys?
"Yeah, well, maybe. It's tough for me to say because I've only seen him play a couple times. I haven't seen him play that much. If you need a big physical guy to do all the dirty work, he'll be a really good call-up for sure. And just because of his attitude they'll call him up because they know they won't expect to play 20 minutes. Some guys will just pout on the bench, but Oliver will do whatever the coaches ask."