Senators Wrap Up Annual Development Camp

By Jake Dole
The Ottawa Senators’ annual Development Camp took place on July 3-11 in Kanata, Ontario. Featuring some of the team’s top prospects, the event showcased the skills and potential of the future Senators.

The camp consisted of on-ice and off-ice training, which was led by conditioning coach Randy Lee. On most days, the players started off with basic locker room weight lifting and strength exercises at 9 in the morning, followed by on-ice workouts in the afternoon.

The focus of the sessions included players’ body strength (upper and lower), agility, flexibility, foot speed, lateral movement and balance. Some of the daily exercises included rope skating, parachute skating, backwards skating, stickhandling and passing accuracy.

An exercise such as parachute skating, focused primarily on upper-body strength. The idea of the parachute is to create backwards pressure on the shoulders area, increasing the player’s exertion.

The development camp consisted of 20 of the Ottawa Senators prospects, which included such standouts as Jason Spezza (Belleville), Antoine Vermette (Victoriaville), Jakub Klepis (Portland), Petr Schastlivy (Grand Rapids), Tim Gleason (Windsor) and Ray Emery (Sault. Ste. Marie). Along with Klepis, 2 more of the club’s 2002 NHL Entry Draft picks attended: Scott Dobben (113th overall) and Brock Hooton (150th overall).

Spezza Geared for Prime Time

It is vital to point out that with the Senators’ training camp on the horizon, several players participating, could be ready to compete for a job on the senior club this fall. By this virtue, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of 19-year old Jason Spezza, the club’s first pick (2nd overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Spezza, a late cut in last year’s Senators’ camp, sounds candidly excited and prepared for the challenge.

“I have to go out and play hard”, said Spezza in a post training interview, “If I play well and make a good impression in camp, hopefully I will be a part of their plans.”

It was, by no means, a surprise to witness what turned out to be a very promising camp for Jason. A year ago, spectators first witnessed his top-notch stickhandling abilities, jaw-dropping instincts and passing skills. This year, Spezza came to camp with improved skating skills and added hustle.

“(Comparing to last year) I’m in much better shape”, said Spezza, “I am bigger, stronger and have more experience”.

Jason had to endure an inconsistent year in 2001/2002. But after a mediocre first half to his season with the Windsor Spitfires, Spezza blossomed in the second, after a mid-season trade to the Belleville Bulls. Healing the wounds of a late cut from camp could have contributed to his struggles.

“No one wants to play in Junior when you have a chance at the NHL”, mentioned Spezza, “I went there and played all right in the first half of the year, and when I went to Belleville, things kind of took off and I really got focused and geared towards this season”.

Spezza has assured that his defensive play improved drastically during the season – one of the knocks on his game earlier in the regular season.

“I think that I have definitely improved a lot on my defensive game”, he said, “I had to play on the bigger ice surface in Belleville and that really helped with my skating.”

“It’s not just on the ice that you have to perform, but you have to be disciplined off the ice with your eating habits. It is something that I am learning…. I have to show that I belong, because I believe that I do, and I believe that I can play this year.”

Klepis Quietly Doing His Thing

Jakub Klepis (Ottawa first round pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft) looked pumped on the first day of camp on July 3. An ear-to-ear grin didn’t hide his excitement.

“This is the biggest day of my life”, he remarked. When asked about his game, Klepis immediately exclaimed “I am a playmaker”.

And he looks to be a good one. A member of the Portland Winterhawks in 2001/2002, the 6-foot-200 centre collected 64 points in 70 regular season games last year. And his numbers certainly prove his claim of being a playmaker – 50 of his regular season points were assists.

Immediately upon taking the ice, Klepis showcased his exceptional stickhandling and passing abilities. What Senators had to appreciate when drafting Klepis had to be his understanding of the game and excellent vision of the ice.

Klepis showed flashes of brilliance during the 3-on-3 session, which occured twice during the camp. During Thursday’s scrimmage, Klepis set up several goals and collected a couple of his own.

Vermette Healthy and Better Than Ever

A neck injury severely limited Antoine Vermette’s 2002/2002 season in the QMJHL. Coming off a career year, Vermette suffered from what doctors at first thought to be post concussion syndrome. However, the headaches and pain did not seem to go away as Antoine only returned late in the season to play 4 regular season games.

The problem turned out to be with his neck, and once Antoine recovered, he got back to shape in a hurry. Vermette’s Tigres enjoyed a superb playoff, winning the QMJHL crown, as Antoine contributed with 10 goals and 26 points in 22 games. However, Victoriaville came a game short in the Memorial Cup final, losing to the Kootenay Ice in the finals.

“That was a great feeling (to win the QMJHL Championship)”, said Vermette, “I used to win a lot of championships at (Bantam) and that was something that was missing at the Junior level”.

When asked about his recovery from the neck injury, Vermette assured that it was behind him.

“That was a tough part of my life, but then (the doctors) found the problem with my neck, so now I am just happy to be here.”

“I used to work twice a day at the gym, so I am in pretty good shape now”.

When asked about his style of game, Vermette mentioned that he feels his style is similiar to Simon Gagne, the Philadelphia Flyer all-star and a close friend of his. “He’s a model for me”, said Vermette.

Healthy and eager to compete for a roster spot on the Senators, Vermette says that the sky’s the limit.

“I always put expectations at a high level. Last year I came in great shape and I was looking forward to it at camp, but the injury stopped me… Now I have to go from where I left off”.