July 23, 2004
Happy Campers
Summer camps allow college players to work on their games in an NHL setting

By Nate Ewell

College Campers

Here is just a partial list of current and future college players who took part in NHL developmental camps this summer, listed with college and NHL team (* denotes recruits):

Paul Baier* Brown LA
Luke Beaverson* UAA FLA
Vince Bellissimo WMU FLA
David Booth MSU FLA
Brian Boyle BC LA
Chris Bourque* BU WSH
Adam Burish Wisconsin CHI
Tim Cook Michigan OTT
Joe Cooper Miami OTT
John Curry BU LA
Jason Dest Michigan LA
John Doherty UNH TOR
Jake Dowell Wisconsin CHI
Patrick Eaves BC OTT
Brian Elliott Wisconsin OTT
Mac Faulkner Clarkson LA
Jordan Foote* MTU NYR
Matt Ford* Wisconsin CHI
Colton Fretter MSU ATL
Tanner Glass Dartmouth FLA
Mike Grenzy Clarkson CHI
Marty Guerin Miami LA
Peter Hafner Harvard FLA
Chris Harrington Minnesota LA
Brock Hooton SCSU OTT
Hugh Jessiman Dartmouth NYR
Jack Johnson* Michigan LA
Brady Leisenring Vermont CHI
Matt McIlvane* OSU OTT
Jim McKenzie* MSU OTT
Keith McWilliams RPI LA
Al Montoya Michigan NYR
Ryan Murphy BC LA
Brady Murray N. Dakota LA
Ryan O'Byrne Cornell MTL
Darin Olver NMU NYR
Nathan Oystrick NMU ATL
Scott Parse UNO LA
James Pemberton Providence FLA
Neil Petruic UMD OTT
Nick Pomponio Merrimack LA
Chris Porter N. Dakota CHI
Ryan Potulny Minnesota PHI
Travis Ramsey* Maine LA
Josh Robertson N'eastern WSH
Billy Ryan* Maine NYR
Jim Slater MSU ATL
Mike Sullivan Clarkson LA
Dan Travis UNH FLA
Mike Vannelli Minnesota ATL
Shawn Weller* Clarkson OTT
Stephen Werner UMass WSH
Matt Zaba CC LA

Chris Bourque looked comfortable in his white NHL practice jersey, Washington Capitals logo displayed prominently on the front with his name and number on the back (he wore 67 – perhaps 77 would be too much pressure). He darted around the ice in a 4-on-4 scrimmage, piling up goals and assists and finishing the night by swatting a puck out of midair for a goal.

It’ll be another year, at least, before Bourque takes the ice in a Capitals sweater again. But for a week this summer, as he prepares to enroll at Boston University, he worked on his game in a pro setting, taking part in the NHL team’s development camp.

Roughly half the teams in the NHL hold these camps – designed to give the team’s prospects a taste of the on- and off-ice competition they will face in the professional game – and dozens of college hockey players and future collegians take part (see sidebar). While European and major junior players have their transportation, room and board covered by the team, college hockey players and future collegians have to pay their way to maintain their eligibility.

The financial burden may not have much of an impact on Bourque, whose father Ray will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall, but he understands the camp’s value.

“This is the first time I’ve stepped on the ice with an NHL team,” Bourque said after the 4-on-4 scrimmage. “It’s a pretty big step. It’s a big eye-opener to see how big and fast these guys are.

“Next year is obviously going to be a big step for me, playing against bigger, stronger, and faster players,” he added. “Hopefully playing in a camp like this is going to help me make that adjustment.”

Joining Bourque at the Capitals camp were two other Hockey East players: Northeastern recruit Josh Robertson and Massachusetts forward Stephen Werner. Werner, a D.C.-area native, was making his fifth appearance at the Capitals development camp.

“It gives me an idea of where I stack up against players at this level,” said Werner, the top returning scorer for the Minutemen. “It shows me what I need to work on to get better.”

Robertson took a break from workouts at Northeastern and his occasional summer job of cutting concrete to travel south to Odenton, Md., and take part.

“The biggest thing I get out of it is the experience,” Robertson said. “It’s good, hard work, and the experience always helps. It always looks good to show up, too, and maybe get noticed.”

As in Werner’s case before he was drafted by the Caps, invitations to these camps aren’t limited to players selected by the teams. The Los Angeles Kings welcomed undrafted Mac Faulkner (Clarkson) and Chris Harrington (Minnesota), along with young phenoms Sidney Crosby and Michigan recruit Jack Johnson to their camp. Caps’ camp featured local product Garrett Roe, a 1988 birthdate currently playing at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school, and Kyle Laughlin, son of Caps color commentator and former Clarkson star Craig Laughlin.

The result is a diverse mix of backgrounds on the ice. Caps camp featured players like Brian Sutherby and Steve Eminger, who spent much of last season in the NHL, as well as the likes of the 16-year-old Roe.

Not to mention Terriers, Huskies and Minutemen – all teammates, for the moment.

“It’s fun to get to play with those guys now, and it’ll be fun to play them during the year in Hockey East,” Werner said. “Every time you play against guys you know it’s a great time.”

Robertson and Bourque, two players looking to step in and make a contribution as freshmen the way Werner did two years ago, roomed together during the week at Capitals camp.

“I’ve played with him before, but haven’t really gotten to know him until this week,” Robertson said of Bourque. “He’s a great guy, and a great player.”

Capitals fans, a few hundred of whom watched the 4-on-4 scrimmage, were equally enamored with their team’s prospects. As Bourque left the ice, one fan presented him with a poster that said they were “Wicked Happy” he was a Cap.

Before then, he’ll be a Terrier. But Terrier fans can be happy that their prospect had a chance to spend a week working out in a professional atmosphere this summer. Wicked happy, perhaps.

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