Three current Edmonton Oil Kings and one alumnus attended NHL development camps over the past few weeks and were very pleased with their experiences.
Davis Koch crossed the hall and joined the Edmonton Oilers for their camp out in Jasper; Will Warm flew to the desert to Sin City where he suited up for the Vegas Golden Knights; Brayden Gorda was in Dallas with the Stars and Aaron Irving went west to join the Vancouver Canucks camp.
“It was really cool,” said Koch. “This year I thought it went well and it is nice to be recognized and be able to come here to learn some more as well as keep improving. Just the attention to detail is unreal. I mean every little thing at the NHL level makes a big difference when maybe in junior you can get away with some mistakes or cheating a bit. When it comes out here you can’t, because it is going to cost you.”
Koch and his fellow Oilers invitees started the camp in Edmonton before heading to Jasper for the week where they participated in on-ice drills and skills as well as some team bonding off the ice.
“I know a few guys from playing with them and against them in the League and it is nice to kind of meet guys from all over and guys from Europe. To connect with them and their hockey backgrounds was cool.”
“I mean every little thing at the NHL level makes a big difference when maybe in junior you can get away with some mistakes or cheating a bit. When it comes out here you can’t, because it is going to cost you.”
– Davis Koch
Of course being in the same building as the Oilers the last few years was an advantage to the 19-year-old centre.
“Being just down the hall I think our coaching staffs have talked a little bit because it is very similar to the things we do. Some of the stuff was pretty familiar and other things I just took in as much as I could.”
Warm, who was a rookie last season with the Oil Kings, also said he learned a ton while in Las Vegas.
“That was a pretty good opportunity,” said Warm. “It was pretty amazing to be in Vegas as well, which is crazy. It was an incredible experience overall.”
The standout highlight for Warm in Vegas? As cool as it was to meet new players and learn about the team, the 18-year-old defenceman said it was one of the first things they did as a team.
“We volunteered at a church and helped serve food to the less fortunate. It was really eye opening. We fed just under 1,000 people that day. Everyone knew about the Golden Knights and everyone was super pumped around there. It was surreal.”
Warm said he found the experience very positive and was able to take away things to work on this summer.
“Practices were mostly run by their skills coach. There were a lot of good things I have to go back and work on too. I am going back to training camp there in September so there will be opportunity to show what I have worked on and learned this summer.”
Fellow blueliner Brayden Gorda echoed Warm’s thoughts on his takeaways from the Dallas Stars camp.
“I thought it was going to be harder than it was,” Gorda said.
“But it was more about learning and skills. I met a lot of different guys and lots of presentations on different things each day like nutrition and sleep. I learned a lot about being a good teammate and leader. We went through some cool drills as well and learned a lot from there.”
Even though the weather is “10 times hotter in Texas”, Gorda said he enjoyed it and they had a lot of time to do team bonding activities such as Top Golf, as well as the usual on-ice practices.
“My big accomplishment leaving there was taking first place in pushups during fitness testing. My biggest takeaway was nutrition and sleep information, which I can use to be better here.”
Former captain Aaron Irving enjoyed his third NHL development camp, but first with the Canucks. His first two were with the Nashville Predators. However, the 21-year-old Irving said this one was different since he is no longer eligible to return to junior hockey.
“Knowing that I don’t have a for sure plan for next year made it more serious and urgent,” said Irving. “I was able to really showcase what I have knowing going back to the WHL wasn’t there. It created a lot more urgency for sure.”
Although Irving is set to join the Dinos at the University of Calgary this fall, the two-way defenceman still has goals to pursue a professional career in hockey and was more than pleased with his camp last week.
“I thought it went really well. One thing that was nice was there wasn’t too many hard practices so it made it easier to just put it all out there because we didn’t have a lot of sessions to get tired from. In the final scrimmage I showcased what I had with a different group of guys to the scouts and management and the feedback from them reassured me I did do as well as I thought. I was asked to come back for training camp in September and I will be going to the Penticton (rookie) tournament, which should be fun.”
Irving went on to explain his time with the Oil Kings was invaluable in shaping him into the player he is today and helping him land a chance with the Canucks.
“I was fortunate enough to play with so many high-end players,” he said.
“The Oil Kings shaped me to be who I am now. Who I was coming into the WHL is not who I am coming out of it.”
– Aaron Irving
“And not only recognizable guys from the Memorial Cup year but even the years following that. Being able to see guys transition into leadership roles in the Memorial Cup season and then becoming leaders later on was huge. I was able to see you don’t start in a full-out leadership role but you still have the opportunity to grow as person and become a leader. The Oil Kings shaped me to be who I am now. Who I was coming into the WHL is not who I am coming out of it. The coaching staff of Steve Hamilton and Ryan Marsh really allowed me to grow by giving me the roles and responsibilities of leading the team. I knew I had their support 110 per cent. This allowed me to adjust going into training and development camps with confidence as opposed to when I was younger and couldn’t maybe handle that stress.”
Even though we are in the middle of summer, the guys realize the importance of off-season training and all of them are training hard in the gym as the Oil Kings open camp exactly six weeks from today.
“I am working on a lot of things with skating to be better,” said Warm.
“I am in the gym a lot trying to get bigger and stronger. I want to eat right too which is important to grow for my second year in the League.”
Rookie camp opens Thursday, August 24 at the Downtown Community Rink, followed by main camp on Monday, August 28.