One day you’re playing in a local rink, enjoying time with your childhood buddies in the locker room and then driving home for dinner with the family. A couple months later, you’re skating in an NHL Arena with players from all over the world, learning about nutrition and living on your own. Oh, and you’re playing with and against the future stars of the NHL.
Six Minnesota products spent the last week soaking in every aspect of their experience during the 2013 Minnesota Wild Player Development Camp at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild invited a total of 36 prospects to the camp, including 20 draft picks, for a week filled with on and off-ice development activities.
With the players focusing in on what it takes to fulfill their NHL dreams, it was a special week for all of them. For the six with deep roots in Minnesota, that Wild logo has a little more meaning though.
“Growing up, I have always been the biggest fan of the Wild,” said camp invitee Matt Nelson, a senior defenseman on Edina’s 2013 State Championship team. “To get a call to come to camp from them was just a really surreal experience.”
As exciting as it was for Nelson, it may have been even more so for Avery Peterson.
“When the Wild came up and my name got called I was pretty excited about that, obviously, being a Minnesota kid,” said Peterson, after getting selected by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
This was the Grand Rapids native’s first development camp as member of the Wild organization. Luckily, he was able to share a room with another Minnesota kid that knew all about what he was going through, Nick Seeler. Seeler was drafted by the Wild in 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center, just a couple months after helping his hometown Eden Prairie Eagles win the AA State Championship in the same building.
“I’m kind of one of the old guys now,” said Seeler who was participating in his third Wild Development camp. “He[Peterson] just turned 18 so I know what he’s going through. I played against him in high school so we have a little history, but I’m trying to show him around.”
The first timers at camp likely appreciated any help they could get from the older guys. For many of them, the talent level and competition can be a significant step up from what they are used to.
“It was an eye opener,” said Nelson who will be playing in the USHL this season and attending Princeton in 2014-15. “There are so many good kids here. The speed is so fast. To be with these guys, some guys played up with Wild and down in the AHL too. It’s fast but you know I’m starting to get used to it more.”
The step up is a welcome one though. The increases in speed and intensity drive the players’ inner desire to compete and improve.
“Obviously, I go from playing high school age kids to playing against kids in the AHL here so it’s definitely a great experience,” said Peterson. “You’re forced to play at a higher level so I like that a lot.”
Just like the Reebok Minnesota Hockey High Performance Programs, that is the focus of the development camp. It is about showing each of the players what it takes to achieve their goals and then, giving them the tools to do it. The players were instructed on everything from their skating stride to proper nutrition in hopes that once they return to their teams for the coming season they will continue the high level of training needed to succeed.
“I have learned how hard you have to train,” said Nelson. “I kind of see what it takes: how fast you have to be, how quick, the strength of them and really the skills too. It just shows me what I need to work on and what I need to keep developing in order to be here eventually, one day.”
As much fun as these guys had putting on the Wild sweater for the 2013 Development Camp, it is just another step towards their final goal of putting it on for real.
|Name||Pos.||Youth Ass.||High School||Acquired|
|Avery Peterson||F||Grand Rapids||Grand Rapids||EN 13|
|John Draeger||D||Edina||Shattuck St. Mary's||EN 12|
|Nick Seeler||D||Eden Prairie||Eden Prairie||EN 11|