Camp Check-In: Competitors ShineJun 30, 2017
In speaking to the media moments after Florida Panthers development camp had reached its conclusion, Geordie Kinnear explained what has become bulletin-board, everyday material with his team in Springfield.
“I always say there’s three types of competitors,” the second-year head coach of the Thunderbirds said. “There’s a competitor, a good competitor, and an ultra-competitor.”
If there is one word that serves as the most important in Kinnear’s vocabulary and philosophy as a coach, it is “compete.” His 2016-17 Thunderbirds, a club decimated with injuries and NHL call-ups and a constantly changing personnel landscape, may not have achieved playoff status, but it was not for a lack of competitive fire, as the club played in an astounding 40 games decided by one goal.
Fast forward to today, and a new wave of young players arrived on the scene in Coral Springs, Fla. for a chance to be seen by Panthers and Thunderbirds eyeballs. A scrimmage consisting of two 20-minute periods and a shootout concluded a week filled with conditioning and on-ice workouts, coupled with off-site training.
It would not be unusual for a camp of this setting to have a lull, as some players have had little to no ice time since the season’s conclusion, be it because of injuries, recovery time, or other matters.
However, Kinnear did not hesitate to speak his praises of a pair of young squads with plenty to prove.
“I thought the compete (level) and the pace were really good this week,” he said, citing the importance of development of the group taking precedence over individual player evaluations.
“We worked on a lot of skills – skating, pushing the pace (from the defense) – we were happy.”
While a four-day camp will never be the end-all telling of a player’s future success, certain players were more noticeable, in part because of age. In the Panthers’ case, two such examples were a pair of older forward prospects: 21-year-old Finn Sebastian Repo (6-3, 189 lbs) and 22-year-old Russian Maxim Mamin (6-0, 170 lbs).
“I’m not so worried about age, but their body types – they look like men,” Kinnear said of the pair. “Mamin answered the bell right away. We like the size for sure.”
Mamin scored one of the nine goals in the scrimmage, a 6-3 triumph for the white squad headlined by Jayce Hawryluk and Mike Downing.
Repo, a 6th round pick of Florida this month at the NHL Draft, is coming off a 32-point, 78-penalty minute season with Tappara Tampere of SM-liiga, the Finnish Elite league. Both Mamin and Repo would be eligible to play in the AHL for Springfield come the fall.
Another player of note was forward Francois Beauchemin – not to be confused with the longtime NHL defenseman of the same name. The 21-year-old scored a neat penalty shot goal while showcasing the hands that helped him score a combined 97 points and 45 goals in just 69 games with Val d’Or and Charlottetown of the QMJHL in 2016-17.
But it was where Beauchemin found himself on the ice that perked Kinnear’s attention.
“We talked about going to the net, and he took the puck to the net, drawing the penalty and scoring the goal,” said Kinnear. “That’s where the game is won, in the blue paint, and he got there a lot.”
Like Repo and Mamin, Beauchemin is AHL eligible for the 2017-18 season.
With plenty of roster battles heating up in Florida and trickling down to Springfield, the need for competitive energy will undoubtedly be a sought-after quality for Kinnear’s staff, much the same way it is preached in Florida under the direction of new head coach Bob Boughner.
“Just talking to (Bob), it’s a team-first organization (like Springfield),” said Kinnear of the similarities between he and Boughner as coaches. “You can have all the skill in the world, but if you don’t compete, you’re not going to be very good. It’s easy to do it when you feel good; it’s the days you don’t feel good where you still have to bring it.”
The Thunderbirds kick off their 2017-18 home schedule on Saturday, October 14 at the MassMutual Center. The full 2017-18 AHL schedule is expected to be unveiled in the month of July.