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Testing mettle

Day 1 featured physical testing, meetings, photo sessions and media schmoozing.

Friday, 12.09.2008 / 5:43 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Testing mettle
It's a popular belief that talent has no age.

Luckily for the Vancouver Canucks prospects that are trying to crack the team's roster, this is one of the truer cliches in sports.

Twenty-three players were scattered throughout the bowels of GM Place on Friday as prospects camp officially got under way.

"It's an exciting part of the year, you get kind of sick of working out for four months so it's good to get back and see all the guys again and get the competitive energy going," said netminder Cory Schneider, 22.

The smorgasbord of young talent featured 12 forwards, seven defencemen and three goaltenders, ranging in age from 18 to 25, with varied experience. Some have been here before, others new to the process and what a welcome they received.

TESTING

Players were poked and prodded like lab rats as they took part in a series of physical tests, which measured everything from their body fat and vertical, to chest strength and endurance, with the VO2 max test proving to be the least popular of the day.

While breathing through a Darth Vader-like mask, players are pushed to their limit on a stationary bike, the exercise measures the maximum capacity of the player's body to use and transport oxygen while being exerted physically, in short, it's an important reflection of the player's physical fitness.

"It was hard," said Jordie Benn, 21, an undrafted Victoria native who played defence for this hometown Grizzlies of the BCHL last season. "It was the worst part of the day for sure, it just kept getting harder and harder."

Some of the players may have been huffing and puffing like chain smokers running a marathon, but that was the goal of the tests, to push players beyond their comfort zone.

NEW FACES

Canucks 2008 fifth round draft pick Prab Rai, 18, a Seattle Thunderbirds standout from a year ago, was thoroughly impressed with his testing as he improved in every area, which was important to him because unlike July's lengthy prospects camp, this time around the players only have three days to establish themselves.

"The camp in July you had the whole week to prove yourself, but with fitness testing today and skating this weekend, its down to the wire and you really only have a couple of days to prove yourself.

"Today was tough day, but its good to see how you improve doing the drills compared to the last prospect camp and it lets you know where you should be for the next one as well."

Testing day wasn't all torturous though, in addition to meeting with doctors and dentists, players underwent baseline impact testing before flashing their pearly whites for headshots and media interviews.

While being surrounded by a swarm of media was clearly new for some players, others took it in stride, such as Cody Hodgson, Vancouver's first round selection this year. His youthful enthusiasm was apparent as he spoke to reporters, he aced all the tests that were thrown at him on the day, why not impress the media as well.

Hodgson's whirl-wind summer had the Ontario native all over his home province, including Markham and London, as he worked with Dave Gagner, the director of player development for the Canucks, and his son Sam Gagner, a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Testing day was fun and all, but Hodgson is eager to hit the ice to prove he's good enough to be with the team once the season starts. He believes here's more balanced, aligned and explosive than ever before.

"I think the overall game but defintely my stride, that's one thing Dave and I talked about, he said that if I want to play in the National Hockey League this year I'd have to improve my stride and that's something we looked at."

Hodgson and the rest of Vancouver's prospects hit the ice Saturday and Sunday at the UBC Thunderbird Arena beginning at 10:15 a.m.; they'll take part in on-ice sessions before lacing up their sneakers for some rigorous dry-land training. (All on-ice practice sessions are open to the public.)






3 - number of one-ice sessions for the rookies before they head to Alberta for a rookie tournament with the Flames and Oilers.

7 - hours between the rookies final on-ice session at UBC Monday and puck drop vs. the Flames in Camrose.

25 - age of the eldest rookie attending prospects camp, defenceman Travis Ramsey.




Training for success
1-on-1 with Gendur
Prospects do Yoga
Grinding it out
Hodgson’s first day
Grabner gets stronger