With the 2013-14 season set to begin Oct. 1, National Hockey League teams are busy whittling down their training camp rosters, assigning not-quite-ready for prime-time players to the minor leagues or back to their junior teams.
Many of the young players of color taken in the 2013 NHL Draft managed to get a brief taste of NHL life before returning to their junior squads to get more playing time and buy time to grow both physically and mentally.
Jordan Subban enjoyed his training camp time wearing the Vancouver Canucks blue, white and green. But first-year Head Coach John Tortorella felt the 5-foot-9, 177-pound defenseman, the 115th player picked in the draft, could use more seasoning with the Ontario Hockey League’s Bellville Bulls.
“I’ve always said that if I don’t play in the NHL, it won’t be because I’m too small,” said the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Boston Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban told Metronews.ca earlier this month. “I think that I can definitely use my vision and smarts. I’m not the biggest guy, so I’m not going to be able to muscle a lot of guys off the puck, so just try to think the game maybe a little bit more and make smarter plays.”
The Washington Capitals have high hopes for Madison Bowey – but not for the 2013-14 season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defenseman, the 53rd overall pick in the draft, was sent back to the Western Hockey Leagues Kelowna Rockets.
“Want to thank the @washcaps organization for giving me the opportunity to have an amazing experience at the main camp,” Bowey tweeted on Sept. 15. The next day he pronounced himself ready to go for a new season with the Rockets.
“Great to be back @Kelowna Rockets boys! Misses the fellas,” he tweeted.
When the Buffalo Sabres drafted Justin Bailey, he felt right at home. After all, the right wing from the OHL Kitchener Rangers grew up Williamsville, N.Y. – just a stone’s throw from Buffalo. After a stint in the Sabres camp, Bailey is a Ranger again.
Rght wing Nicholas Baptiste, chosen by the Sabres with the 69th overall pick in the third round of the draft, impressed the Buffalo brain trust at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., earlier this month, registering points in three consecutive games. Still, he’s back with his junior team, the OHL Sudbury Wolves.
Left wing Anthony Duclair impressed the New York Rangers with his speed and skating ability. “REALLY like this kid’s game,” the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard wrote last July in his “Blueshirts Blog” following a Rangers development camp. “Very, very good skater who frequently arrives at the puck on the spot first…He needs to get stronger, but that’s normal for a young prospect who needs to grow and develop physically. He’s shifty, dips out of checks often, too.”
Duclair, taken with the 80th overall pick in the draft’s third round, is a few seasons away from his Broadway debut. The Rangers sent him back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts where he scored two goals in the first game of the season.
The Nashville Predators someday may boast a twin-towers defense pairing of 6-foot-4, 206-pound Seth Jones and 6-foot-5, 223-pound Jonathan-Ismael Diaby. Jones, drafted fourth overall, is likely to make the Predators and is a longshot to make the U.S. Olympic hockey team that will compete at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia in February. The Predators returned Diaby, the 64th pick in the draft’s third round, to the Victoriaville Tigres for another season in the QMJHL.
Meanwhile, defenseman Darnell Nurse is turning heads at the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp. The 18-year-old from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds had an impressive pre-season outing against the Vancouver Canucks recently, playing 23 minutes in a 4-1 Oilers victory. He blocked shots and broke up two-on-one rushes.
“I can’t believe he’s 18 years old,” Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk told the Edmonton Journal. “He has this maturity about him on the ice. I’ve been so impressed with him.”
Still, Nurse, picked 7th in the draft, seems destined to return to the Soo, though Oilers players and coaches can’t stop raving about the good in his game.
“He’s raw and he’s got some steps to take to get to the NHL level, but I have to tell you we’re really happy with what we’ve seen of him so far,” Oilers Assistant Coach Steve Smith told TSN.