By Carly Grimaudo
Special to GoHolyCross.com
When returning back from school after the summer, students are bombarded with questions like "How was your summer?" and "What did you do this summer?" The repetitive process of hearing answers like "interned" or "went to Europe" becomes tired and expected, until one asks ice hockey players senior Adam Schmidt (Warrington, Pa.) and sophomore Castan Sommer (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and hears the answer, "played in an NHL prospect development camp."
Annually throughout the month of June, NHL teams host development camps for their prospective players that include those who are under contract, recent draft picks who have yet to be signed, several undrafted and free agent amateur players, as well as a select number of current college players. This past June, both Schmidt and Sommer attended these camps for the New York Rangers and the San Jose Sharks respectively.
Schmidt, who was invited by the head scout of the Rangers after watching him play throughout the year, and Sommer, who attended with his father Roy Sommer, who is head coach of the Worcester Sharks, the AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, joined the competitive environment and tested their skills and talents with some of the top players from around the U.S. and the world. Each camp functioned under set schedules that included a variety of scrimmages, skating, workouts and skill sessions.
Going up against draft picks and players under contract is a unique experience that as Schmidt said, was both eye opening and reassuring at the same time. "There are some young prospects that are very skilled and have bright futures," said Schmidt. "Playing with them was a great experience, but also gave me the reassurance that I can play with them as well." Sommer too, noted that his time spent at the camp was incredibly valuable and how attending each year with the world's best young players gives him a special perspective on the Sharks organization. He said, "I learn a lot from guys that have been there before, and it is always enjoyable to see how much better the Sharks' prospects get year in and year out. It really shows that the San Jose organization cares a lot about developing their own crop of players."
Attending a NHL development camp does not come without challenges. With strenuous workouts and jam-packed schedules, it's hard to catch a breath during the camps that only last a few days. Sommer and Schmidt both agreed that the toughest challenges were the physical and mental demands. Sommer said, "At the camp players get fed more information about hockey in one week than they have learned in their entire lives. The days are very long. Waking up at 6:00 a.m. everyday, working at a high pace all day and then not finishing until 5:00 p.m. is a grind." Schmidt added, "It is a job and they demand the most out of you every day no matter how tired you are."
A second challenge that exists at such camps is that players have to adjust quickly to working with others whom they have no prior experience playing with. In such an intense atmosphere, there is little time to get used to the different playing styles of other players. Since a good portion of each camp is scrimmaging, participants like Schmidt and Sommer, had to learn to mesh quickly with their new teammates in order to showcase themselves. Schmidt said, "It was a competitive environment. It made it easier to adjust because there were other college players there as well. In the scrimmage atmosphere it was tough to adjust to your linemates in a short period of time because everyone has a different style of play."
Despite the challenges, Schmidt and Sommer learned a lot from the Rangers and Sharks development camps and will utilize their experiences in the 2013-2014 hockey season as well as with their future hockey aspirations. In regards to his upcoming sophomore season, Sommer said, "I hope that it means more goals for me, and that those goals will help our team win more games. One of my main focuses of the summer since going to the camp was working on the scoring techniques I learned at the camp, especially in front of the net. So, I hope I can contribute to the team's success in that department more so than I did last year." When talking about his future in hockey, Schmidt said, "The camp gets my name out in the world of pro hockey and hopefully will translate to more exposure to the pro world and a career in hockey after school."