The Checkers’ 2011-12 training camp is ‘built’ by Timberstone Homes
After as successful of a junior career as a player could ask for, Justin Shugg is essentially starting over.
Last season, the 19-year-old forward narrowly missed out on becoming just the second player to win the Memorial Cup – the trophy given to the best team in Canadian junior hockey – three consecutive times as his Mississauga team lost in the final game. He did his part in the lengthy playoff run, adding to his 41-goal regular season with 19 points in 20 postseason contests.
While his junior career got him to professional hockey, where he’s just now starting out as a rookie at Checkers training camp, he knows his track record won’t guarantee him anything going forward.
“It’s going to be a process,” said Shugg, who the Hurricanes drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. “It’s a strong lineup here, and I know I’m going to have to fight for my ice.”
Though Shugg posted gaudy totals each of the last two seasons – he netted 39 goals with Windsor in 2009-10 – it remains to be seen when he could reproduce them at the professional level. Checkers coach Jeff Daniels cautioned against expecting too much too early, as many incoming players have come in with similar resumes and taken some time to get acclimated.
“He’s a skilled guy and when he gets the puck he knows what to do with it, but he’s no different from Chris Terry, Drayson Bowman and other guys that have come in here after scoring a lot in junior,” said Daniels. “It’s a big step and things aren’t going to come quite as easy for him as they have in the past.”
For comparison’s sake, Terry and Bowman netted 39 and 47 goals, respectively, in their final years of junior hockey. They each scored 17 in their rookie AHL seasons, which is more than solid for first-year players but not the same star paces that previously saw them rank near the top of their leagues in scoring.
“It’s a whole new lifestyle for them and they have to learn what it takes to be a pro,” said Daniels of his rookies in general.
“Gradually I’ve been adjusting to the speed, which is the biggest thing,” said Shugg, whose postseason success prevented him from joining the Checkers towards the end of his last season, as many junior players do. “This is really intense.”
This season will mark the second year of change for Shugg, as he was traded to Mississauga last offseason after winning his first two Memorial Cups with Windsor. He said that helped him to get used to a different style of coaching – something he’ll have to do again this season – but that there was another new experience he was hoping not to repeat too often: losing.
“It was a tough loss last year, but now I know what it’s like to be on that side,” he said. “It’s not fun.”
• The pace remained high at camp Tuesday, with grueling skating and battle drills taking place until the players left the ice after the roughly 90-minute session. Towards the end, some players were slowing down more than others.
“We’re going to use this time to get those summer bad habits out of them,” said Daniels.
• Another group of players will likely arrive in Charlotte following the Hurricanes’ Wednesday preseason contest in Winnipeg. With Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice wanting to use his full-strength squad for the final exhibition contests on Friday and Saturday, the game could present the last chance for the likes of Bowman, Terry and Zach Boychuk.
Now it’s as much and maybe more about preparing our team than the opportunities,” said Maurice, speaking to the media in Raleigh. “We’ll put players in that we feel either have something to prove or something to gain – players that are maybe right on the cusp of making our hockey team. There are some that I think have more to offer, and this is a big game for them.”
• Former Checker Zac Dalpe has being seeing time on the right wing with Eric Staal at Hurricanes training camp, even further indicating that he will not be back in Charlotte to start the season. It seems as though Maurice will give him every chance to keep that role going forward.
“If Zac Dalpe grabs that job and takes it all year, good for him,” said Maurice. “It’s a lot to ask, but we’re not going to limit a guy based on his age.”
Dalpe's promotion is getting some national attention, with this blog post from NBC Sports suggesting he could follow in Jeff Skinner's footstep from one year earlier.
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