Matt Fraser, a prospect for the Dallas Stars, steps off the team bus in Charlottetown Thursday. Passing him is Brett Ritchie as they and other rookies arrive ahead of the main team which opens a training camp in Charlottetown this week. Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong
It’s every young hockey player’s dream — to one day play in the NHL.
That’s exactly what a bus full of rookies and draft picks will try to do over the next five days in Charlottetown as the Dallas Stars’ prospects arrived in the city Thursday night.
Among the hopefuls are a couple of high-profile draft picks looking to impress general manager and NHL Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk while in town.
Junior gold-medal winning goaltender Jack Campbell, who went 11th overall in 2009, and defensive defenceman Jamie Oleksiak, the 14th overall selection at this year’s NHL draft will have the opportunity to show of their skills.
For both players, the training camp marks the first time either has set foot on the Island’s red soil.
Campbell said he spoke to a couple of players who were in camp last season in the city and said he heard great things about the experience.
“They just said it’s a great couple of days to get on the ice with the big guys and practice and give it everything you have. So, I am really excited,” Campbell said.
The 19-year-old Michigan native spent last season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, compiling a record of 24-14-4 with a goals-against-average of 3.80 and save percentage of .884.
Campbell, who backstopped the U.S. to a world junior under-20 title in 2010, said he hasn’t put any extra pressure on himself and will concentrate on doing his best.
“I’m going to try to learn from those pro guys every single day and as far as where I end up, I’m just going to leave it on the ice and just try to be the best teammate I can be to all these guys,” he said.
Oleksiak, who is listed as 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, said he is excited about participating in the camp on the Island and he’s heard nothing but positive things about the city.
“Everyone seems to have really enjoyed their experience and they said it’s a great city and there’s a lot of sights and everything,” Oleksiak said.
The hulking 18-year-old Toronto native spent last season at Northeastern University, notching four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 57 games.
Oleksiak, who is participating in his first NHL camp, said it’s all about expanding his knowledge of the game and showing what he can do.
“All I can really do is go out there and leave everything on the ice. I can’t really put too much pressure on myself, he said.
“I think really all Dallas is looking for me is to come in and really be kind of a sponge and to take it as a learning experience.”
Although there is that camaraderie there with all of the prospects, the competition will be there for spots on the team and despite his draft position, he is no different than anyone else, Oleksiak said.
“I’m in the same boat. I doesn’t really matter what happens off the ice — who is a first-round draft pick, who wasn’t drafted and was invited — it’s a matter of going out there and proving you can provide a piece to the puzzle.”
The prospects won’t have long to get accustomed to their new surroundings as the players hit the ice today at 10:30 a.m. in Arena A at the MacLauchlan Arena.
The rest of the team will arrive in Charlottetown later today and will get set to hit the ice Saturday in the team’s first full practice at 9:30 a.m. at The Mac.
Tickets are also still available for the intra-squad game Sunday at the Charlottetown Civic Centre by visiting the Civic Centre box office in person, by phone or online at $20 plus taxes and service fees.
Puck drop is 6 p.m.