By: Mike Sullivan | Follow me on Twitter @_MikeSullivan
The first two development camp days began on Monday, July 11th. With a roster of well-known players and some, well, players looking to make a name for themselves. The roster included 20 forwards, 12 defensemen, and four goaltenders. For the sake of sparing time, the complete roster is found below.
Both days one and two consisted of two separate sessions splitting the roster in half. The main features in the first group were Marc McLaughlin and Johnny Beecher. Although, 2022 4th-round pick Cole Spicer stood out to me. He was shifty and moving with a ton of speed which complemented his creativity with the puck.
Johnny Beecher and Marc McLaughlin aren’t unfamiliar with this process of development camp, and it showed. McLaughlin took steps last season, playing 11 games with the big club in Boston, and seemed comfortable under the bright lights. The former Boston College captain led seemingly every drill and was the clear, “lead by example” guy on the ice.
Beecher’s strength was evident this year as he alluded that his off-season goal was to add more weight and emphasize working on his goal scoring. In this year’s development camp, he seemed to be a much stronger presence on the ice. The added strength increased his ability to control the puck and develop a solid net drive.
The second group had a few players who stood out to me. Those guys would be Brett Harrison, Riese Gaber, and newly acquired defenseman Jackson Edward.
Brett Harrison, fresh off his 61-point season with the Oshawa Generals, was coming into camp with some confidence. Early in the session, Harrison seemed to have a case of the yips as he fell left and right. But, he quickly gathered himself together and put together an intense two days.
The former Dubuque Fighting Saint, Riese Gaber, was flying up and down the ice. Going undrafted, the 22-year-old Gaber stands at five-foot-eight inches and 161 pounds. In my estimation, his size is why he’s gone unnoticed, but that didn’t stop him from producing at an incredible rate in the USHL. Gaber scored 105 points, including 66 goals in 108 games for Dubuque. He then joined the University of North Dakota in 2020; after completing two seasons, he totaled 58 points in 63 games for the Sioux. After two days of development camp, Gaber is as advertised, small, lacking strength but has a high offensive IQ.
Jackson Edward was highly touted as a physical menace but lacked the fundamentals of every other aspect of the game. Criticized for being a one-dimensional player, I’m sure Edward is looking to use this camp to prove people wrong. While here at Warrior Ice Arena, he seemed to move the puck well and showed he’s more than just a one-dimensional guy.
Finally, Georgi Merkulov has been a player I’ve expected a little more out of. However, he indicated that the most significant aspect of his game that needs work is his defensive play. He knows his offensive skills are there, but where he struggles is inside the defensive zone, and he knows he needs to work that out before becoming a steady NHL player.
I am looking forward to the next two days of development camp. The young men have been tested thoroughly, and the rest of the week will be pivotal as they look to leave a lasting impression on the organization.