So good, in fact, that the Jets’ coaching staff gave the players last Friday night off to relax, unwind and get ready for this week’s activities, again to go down at Lakeland Arena.
“All of the guys were very eager to learn and it was very competitive both on the ice and during our off-ice workouts,” Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop said. “We worked them pretty hard, got their feet going, and everyone responded to that in a good way. These guys want to work hard and want to be pushed. It's very encouraging and exciting to be with a group that wants to work like this.”
One area of camp Skop and Jets’ general manager Butch Wolfe noticed to be a big positive was the chemistry between the new players and returning players. Even the players themselves noticed this.
“The first day or two were pretty quiet,” said rookie defenseman Matt Zacharias. “Not too many guys knew each other, but now we're all talking and getting to know one another. I haven't seen any problems between anyone and everyone is starting to joke around with the guys. Skop has been pushing all of us pretty hard and it is really going to pay off in the long run, especially with all of the competition for spots in the lineup.
“I think it's easy to say that this team should surprise more than just a few people come September and October.”
“The returnees have looked well, obviously having experience, but a lot of the younger guys don't look out of place,” added veteran defenseman Brett Grech. “The first week is never fun, but it seems like we have a pretty good team. Everyone's working hard and obviously, that's a good sign.”
Last week’s camp was comprised of two hours of skating and hockey drills and the same amount of time in the weight room, running outside, plyometrics and more importantly, getting back into the hockey season frame of mind.
“I believe our overall skill set is improved,” said Wolfe. “We may be a bit quicker with more skill. It seems like the focus is on preparing for the season. There seems to be an air of single-mindedness as to the player's purpose at this point.”
“No matter if they played here last year or somewhere else, everyo ne was pushing everyone,” Skop said. “The guys all had good spirits and even when we knew there was nothing left in the tank at the end of practice, they kept working, and had fun with each other doing it. Everyone seems to be fitting right in and gelling together.”
Training camp continues this week at Lakeland Arena, with the opening night roster to be finalized by week’s end.