Edinburgh Capitals’ defensive young guns Jay King and Tyler Plews, who recently returned from a “mind blowing” intensive training camp in Canada, are primed and ready to fire ahead of the new ice hockey season which gets under way next month.
The pair resided with Caps’ player-coach Riley Emmerson for the month-long camp near Vancouver and the teenagers mixed with top professionals who grace the rinks of the NHL, as well as some of Canada’s most promising young talent, with 17-year-old Plews, a former Kirkcaldy Kestrels player, sealing a move to Murrayfield into the bargain.
“It was a great experience just being in those surroundings and getting the opportunity to train every day,” said Plews. “The skill level out there is crazy, and the way they train and how hard they go at it is just a completely different level to what we’re used to in Scotland.
“Just to be on the ice with guys who have played in the NHL was a great experience. It really made you up your game.”
“Riley is good friends with Brad Bowen who runs the camp and has a big involvement in it. When he’s not training himself he’s out teaching the younger players, and yeah it did feel a little bit like a trial for me.
“Talks had been going on for a while, but it wasn’t till near the end of the camp that it all got sorted out. It was a move I wanted to happen and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Both players, who are due to travel to Nottingham and attend final trials for the British Under-20 World Championships squad later this Saturday, say they are already feeling the benefit from the intensive training programme that included punishing hill runs, gym work-outs, skill sessions and practice games.
King said: “We were either in the gym, running, or on the ice every single day. Twice a week we trained with the junior players aged between 15 and 19, and twice a week we were with the pros – a mixture of guys from the NHL, AHL and players waiting to get drafted.
“Even playing with the young guys was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I think Tyler and I benefited more from this camp than anyone else just because it was such an eye opener for us and we had to work so hard just to try and keep up.
“Working with the coaches and players over there has really improved my confidence. I feel better carrying the puck. I feel more comfortable playing with my head up and knowing when to make a pass or when to hold onto it.
“The whole experience was just mind-blowing. Any young player who gets a chance of doing something like this, they’ve got to take it, they will improve so much.”
Staying with Edinburgh’s new player-coach provided ample opportunity to discuss the season ahead, which begins on Saturday, September 5th when Caps entertain Belfast Giants in a Challenge Cup clash. Emmerson took over from Slovakian Richard Hartmann last April and has since added 12 new faces tot the squad and reshaped the club’s playing philosophy.
King continued: “It’s going to be very different to how we played last season. We were all about controlling the puck and trying to slow the game down, now we’ll be playing more of a North American style; we’ll be playing a fast hard-hitting game.
“Riley is really excited about the team that’s being put together. He spoke to us about some of the guys he’s played with before and how good they are. Who he expects to be the leaders on the team, guys like Everett Sheen and Ryan Hayes.
“When I got back from camp, all I wanted to do was get back out on the ice again, I just wanted to hit fast-forward so I could get back out there.
“I learned a lot last season and I’m so much fitter now than I was at this point 12 months ago, and it’s important I keep up with my training as I don’t want to loose any of this before the season starts.”