Jared Staal doesn’t think that he drastically altered his offseason training program, but whatever he did seems to have worked.
More than any other player at training camp, the results are apparent at first sight. The 22-year-old forward just looks leaner, and he is. He now checks in at 6-foot-4 and an even 200 pounds, which is 14 pounds lighter than at this time last season.
Staal, set to begin his third professional campaign, mostly shrugged when asked how that came to be, but he was able to cite a few key differences.
“I just paid a little more attention to detail with watching what I ate and things like that,” he said. “I had the same trainer and everything, but I did work out with Eric a little bit more.”
Eric, of course, is his older brother and the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. Staal said that he’d worked out more with his other two brothers in the NHL, Marc and Jordan, in the past, but spent more time than usual with the eldest brother this summer.
“It’s good to be with someone at that level just so you can see where you are compared to them,” he said.
Besides how he looks off ice, the results have begun to show during camp. Staal earned positive reviews from visiting Hurricanes management after his performance during Thursday’s red/white scrimmage at Extreme Ice Center, with his coach taking note as well.
“He looks good, and you can tell that he dedicated himself over the summer and knows he’s going to have to fight for a job,” said Daniels. “Right away you notice the difference in his game and in his attitude.
“He’s here to make a statement.”
Staal, who played sparingly for the Checkers last season before joining the Providence Bruins in a late-season loan, will need that extra step. The competition has only become more difficult due the NHL’s work stoppage.
“It’s a unique situation with the lockout and the trickle-down effect,” he said. “Guys are coming down from the NHL in addition to some other new signings and guys that have come back from last year.”
That’s made it even more important for Staal to be in the shape he’s in, with this being the final year of his contract. He wasn’t quite able to establish himself as a full-time AHL player in the first two, spending part of his rookie season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades and 29 games last season as a healthy scratch with the Checkers.
“This could be a telling year for my whole career,” said Staal. “If I don’t have a solid year it’s going to be harder because I’m on the last year of my entry-level contract. Hopefully I can open their eyes and make them think that they want to bring me back.”
He’s got a long way to go yet, but it seems as though he’s off to a good start. He’ll look to continue that as the team departs for its only two exhibition games in Norfolk.
“This is the lightest I’ve ever been coming to camp for sure,” he said. “I feel stronger, lighter and faster than before, and it will be a good test this weekend to see where I’m at.”