For a full camp schedule, player roster, and list of coaches, click here.
Every year around the NHL, fans wonder aloud why certain players are or are not participating in Development Camp and how Development Camp in the offseason differs from NHL Rookie Camp in September.
Here are some frequently asked questions about how Development Camp works in general, as well as a look at some of the participants in the Flyers’ 2022 camp.
1. What is the purpose of the Development Camp?
There are three main functions of an NHL Development Camp. First and foremost, it’s an opportunity for young aspiring NHL players — both drafted prospects and a select number of undrafted invitees — to have an opportunity to work on various on-ice skills and learn to refine their off-ice training habits in ways that could benefit them as professionals.
Secondly, it’s a chance to ask questions of the coaches and more experienced camp attendees as well as to receive instruction. Over the course of camp, attendees will do both familiar and unfamiliar on-ice drills and off-ice activities.
Lastly, it’s a chance for prospects in the system (as well as undrafted invitees) to get to know each other better, on and off the ice. Development Camp is where many new friendships are forged among attendees who came from different leagues or preexisting acquaintanceships are renewed and strengthened.
The first thing Development Camp attendees are told — in pretty much every camp around the league — is that no NHL/AHL contracts or roster spots will be at stake. The players are there to sharpen their skills, and learn training techniques they can take with them wherever their path in the sport leads.
At a typical Development Camp, attendees are at widely varying stages of their careers, ranging from junior/college age prospects to players who have already turned professional and are still on their entry-level contracts including a few who may have some NHL games under their belts. The age range is usually 18 to about age 23 or 24.
Normally, players who have moved past official NHL rookie status — even if they are still on entry-level deals — do not participate in Development Camp. To be considered a rookie for NHL purposes, a player must not have played in more than 25 NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie. Likewise, even if a player is below the NHL games threshold but has three or more seasons of pro experience at the AHL or ECHL levels, it’s not customary to participate.
However, these are not set-in-stone rules set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players Association.
For example, 2019 Flyers 1st-round pick Cam York now has 33 games of NHL experience to his credit plus 42 games of AHL experience. However, York has opted to participate in the organization’s 2022 Development Camp. He still has one season to go on his NHL entry-level deal and he’s already in Voorhees to do his offseason workouts. As such, York chose to take park in Development Camp, too, as a “senior camper” of sorts although it wasn’t required of him.
2. Why Isn’t Prospect X at Development Camp?
There can be any number of reasons why a notable pre-pro prospect or young pro does not attend an organization’s Development Camp. Injuries, of course, are one of the common reasons why a player either does not attend camp or participates only in the off-ice portions of the camp.
There can also be other hockey-related commitments that make someone unavailable. For example, Flyers 2020 second-round pick Emil Andrae is the captain of the Swedish national under-20 team’s World Junior Championship squad and preparations are underway for the 2022 WJC in August. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021-22 tourney was abruptly halted and then the tournament was rescheduled for the summertime. Andrae also dealt with a late-season injury in 2021-22 after an outstanding campaign during the 2021-22 Allsvenskan season.
The pandemic-forced rescheduling of the WJC was — hopefully — a one-time aberration. More commonly, an NHL prospect who is under contract to a European-based professional organization might have to miss an overlapping NHL camp for training commitments with his overseas team. Training camps, preseasons and regular seasons get underway earlier in Europe than in North America.
This, too, is not set in stone. For example, Flyers 2021 second-round pick Samu Tuomaala, who is both under NHL contract and also slated to be loaned to a club in Finland’s Liiga in 2022-23, is attending Development Camp in Voorhees.
There are formal rules in place that govern camp participation by prospects with NCAA affiliations. These will be explained below.
3. What are the NCAA’s 48-hour and once-per-team rules?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) maintains strict rules about collegiate players’ ability to participate in camps organized by professional sports organizations while still maintain the amateur status required to be eligible to play collegiate hockey.
In a nutshell, the NCAA required the collegiate players at Flyers’ Development Camp to pay their own way (including transportation costs, hotel and food) for all but the first 48 hours at camp. The “48-hour rule” partial exemption that allows the Flyers to cover hotel and food for two days applies only to first-time attendees.
The 48-hour clock starts ticking upon arrival at camp. All attendees must pay for their own round-trip transportation. Returning attendees must pay their own way for the entire duration of their stay, which technically includes even food.
The NCAA also has a once-per-team addendum as pertains to the 48-hour-rule for Development Camp. For example, James van Riemsdyk‘s brother, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Trevor, attended Development Camp both with the Flyers and Ottawa Senators while he was a student at the University of New Hampshire. The 48-hour-rule on partial expense coverage applied to both teams’ Development Camps.
Drafted players typically attend only one Development Camp for the duration of their collegiate careers. For example, 2018 first-round pick Jay O’Brien (who will be a senior at Boston University in 2022-23) already attended his one permitted Flyers Development Camp after he was drafted.
Importantly, even if the player fully pays his own way to Development Camp, the NCAA has additional rules that govern attendance. The most important rule is that players may not miss any classes at school in order to attend either a Development Camp in July or an NHL Rookie Camp in September.
Thus, if a player is registered for summer classes at school, he cannot attend an NHL Development Camp. For this reason, Tanner Laczynski was ineligible to attend the Flyers Development Camp back in 2019 while he was still a student at the University of Ohio.
Come NHL Rookie Camp in September, every NCAA prospect is affected by the coursework-takes-precedence rule because their fall semester is by then underway at school. This is the reason why no still-active collegiate players attend NHL Rookie Camp or full NHL camp as invitees.
The NCAA’s amateur status eligibility rules even affect things such as players’ ability to keep pro team swag such as Flyers hats or t-shirts or their jerseys from the scrimmage at the end of camp. These are officially considered “material benefits” by the NCAA, so Development Camp attendees technically must pay to purchase the items at the conclusion of camp, return them to the organizers or donate the items to charity.
Once a player completes his NCAA eligibility, he no longer has to worry about jumping through the 48-hour rule/ once-per-team hoops of maintaining amateur status if he attends Development Camp. He can attend on the same basis as the other attendees.
For example, the Flyers drafted forward Gavin Hain in the sixth round of the 2018 Entry Draft. Now that he’s completed his senior season at the University of North Dakota, he is at Development Camp with the other Flyers’ hopefuls. The Flyers retain Hain’s NHL signing rights until Aug. 15, 2022.
4. What do the players do at Development Camp?
The on-ice portions of Development Camp are substantially different than at Rookie or NHL Camp in September. Players will not be put in steady lines combinations, be drilled in systems, or do simulated game situations except as they may pertain to isolated focus on a particular skill. Additionally, there is more of a small-group emphasis with forwards, defensemen and goalies working separately from one another with the specialized development coaches.
There’s actually more combined activity that takes place off the ice at Development Camp than on the ice: whether it’s in the gym, education related to nutrition or opportunities for social interaction and bonding.
Attendees eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. The players are taught by camp staff about eating the proper diet to maximize their training. They don’t simply just eat. They learn about the specific ingredients that are contained in each meal, how many calories they are ingesting, and the grams of fiber, sugar, carbohydrates, and the fats content (whether unsaturated or saturated) of the meals they eat.
The purpose of this education and one-on-one interactions with a nutritionist is to design customized personal nutrition plans the attendees can put into practice when they leave camp. It’s also not about WHAT to eat or avoid, it’s also about eating at specific times of the day.
There is also a big emphasis on helping attendees train off the ice like NHL pros. As a matter of fact, attendees spend more time in the off-ice workout facilities at the Flyers Training Center than they do on one of the two rinks. There is strength-training instruction, advice related to cardio conditioning, and learning about incorporating warmup stretching, cool-down, and between-workout rest and recovery facets into training in a systematic fashion. Along with skating and on-ice drills, these are the aspects of know-how that go into a player getting into NHL-caliber game shape.
Because of the summertime timing of Development Camp — the offseason period separated both from all attendees’ last game being played and when their next one will be held — no one is pushed to their on-ice limits or expected to have their timing on the ice just right. That’s another key way in which a Development Camp differs from an evaluation camp.
5. Does any player evaluation at all take place during the main portions of camp or the concluding 3-on-3 mini-tournament?
There are no formal player evaluations at Development Camp in the sense of the developmental coaches holding meetings to discuss who has been standing out on the ice and/or who seems to be the most plugged in to the off-ice information that’s presented. Informally, however, the coaches are always watching and gathering observations on which attendees seem to be committed to getting the most out of Development Camp.
Who is paying attention and who is going through the motions? Who is asking substantive questions and who is just staring vacantly and eager for the time to pass? Genuine enthusiasm can’t be faked; because the level of commitment involved is such that only players who are truly driven to play the game for a living because they are truly passionate about learning to become pros.
Coaches notice which attendees relish thinking the game even off the ice or during dryland training. Some of these activities are designed to be fun and/or more of a friendly competition but the most likely future NHL pros are driven to be at their best even in these situations.
On this basis, there is a sort of evaluation that takes place in forging an impression of attendees’ mental discipline, emotional maturity and personal commitment. Hockey wise, they wouldn’t be there in the first place if they lacked certain raw abilities and innate athleticism.
The concluding 3-on-3 tourney on half-ice is mainly a reward to the attendees for their hard work during the week. It’s fun, it’s a bit competitive for bragging rights earned by the winning side. But everyone involved understands that it’s not “real hockey” and is more about freelancing than structure. There are no scouting reports to be gleaned from the tourney and nothing more to it than being a fun way to conclude the week.
The real test for the players at Development Camp, especially the undrafted invitees who may return for Rookie/NHL camp in September, is to soak in as much as they can. Meanwhile, the more experienced campers get a chance to pay forward to first-time attendees the assistance they got from older players who took them under their wings and made them feel included when the now-experienced attendees were in their first Development Camp.