This past summer was busier than usual for a few members of the Penn State men’s hockey team.
At the peak of the NHL’s offseason in late June and early July, 11 players on Guy Gadowsky’s 2017-18 roster were invited to attend NHL development camps. Of this group, three were drafted in the 2017 NHL Draft, and five others were invited externally by various different NHL organizations.
Among those who received camp invites were forward Andrew Sturtz and goaltender Peyton Jones. Sturtz attended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ development camp alongside Nikita Pavlychev, a seventh-round pick of the defending Stanley Cup champions, and Chase Berger, who was also invited.
“It was an excellent time,” Sturtz said. “We learned so much off the ice, things like nutrition, what to do in the weight room, what to do away from the rink. They taught us how to play like a pro, and they also taught us what these guys are doing to be the best players in the NHL. We want to take what we can from it and try to implement it into our day-to-day lives.”
Meanwhile, Peyton Jones got to work with, as he said, “some of the best goalie coaches in the world” while attending camp with the San Jose Sharks.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) July 3, 2017
For the three NHL draftees on the roster, attending an NHL development camp was expected of them once their name was called in Chicago, but they still enjoyed the experience.
“[The development camp] was awesome,” freshman center Evan Barratt, who was drafted No. 90 overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, said. “There are lots of great players in that organization, and everything they do is first-class. I was only there for a couple days, but I learned so much in such little time.”
Barratt performed well at Hawks’ camp; his intelligence and hockey sense impressed SB Nation’s Steve Primose.
“What stood out to me about Barratt was that I was looking at a smart hockey player,” Primose wrote. “He made good decisions with the puck, skated well, and showed good vision. He’s an intriguing prospect just beginning his journey through the Hawks’ system. The 18-year-old is heading to Penn State for his freshman year his fall.”
“It was good,” Hults said. “I learned a lot, and have to give credit to the development staff there. There’s a lot of teaching; they taught a lot about the little aspects that [the Kings]play with. I’m going to try to implement those those into my game.”
Hults’ size and strength stood out to those watching Kings’ development camp, and LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen particularly liked what he saw.
“The first thing apparent about the Penn State commit is that he’s built like a truck,” Rosen said. “NCAA hockey’s reduced schedule allows players to spend ample time in the gym, and it’s clear that he’s already put some good work in before setting foot on campus.”
Rosen also likened Hults to Kings’ captain and star center Anze Kopitar.
“[Hults] used his sturdiness to protect the puck well during a three-on-three rush, leveraging off a defender similar to the way Anze Kopitar is capable of when bringing the puck into the attacking zone.”
Denis is helping Andrei translate his interviews… And having a little laugh, too 😄 pic.twitter.com/hokdCoTa3k
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 29, 2017
NHL organizations always treat the players attending development camp as professionals, allowing amateur players to experience what life is like as an NHL player. Although it’s just for one week, the players get to use the same facilities, receive treatment from the same trainers, and eat the same food as NHL players.
“It was tough, but it was interesting,” sophomore Denis Smirnov said about his experience with Colorado. “I learned a lot about nutrition, off-ice exercises, being professional off the ice, preparing yourself [like an NHLer], and skills on the ice.”
“It was a cool experience to see what being a pro is like,” Hults said. “The food was unbelievable, and the coolest part was being treated like a pro.”