You can’t blame Union hockey coach Rick Bennett if he is a bit leery about the prospect development camps that the NHL teams conduct during July.
Bennett was burned last season when left winger Josh Jooris, who, a couple weeks after attending the Calgary Flames’ camp, signed with the team and gave up his senior season with the Dutchmen.
Union, the NCAA champion, will have five players attending prospect development camps over the next few weeks.
Senior goalie and Niskayuna native Colin Stevens will be in two camps. He is in the New York Rangers’ camp this week, and next week, he will be attending the Florida Panthers’ camp, along with sophomore center Mike Vecchione.
Sophomore defenseman and Clifton Park native Jeff Taylor, who was selected in the seventh round of Saturday’s NHL draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, will be in their camp. Senior left winger Daniel Ciampini is headed to the Vancouver Canucks’ camp, and sophomore center Eli Lichtenwald is going to the Anaheim Ducks’ camp.
Jooris’ signing occurred a few days after the Dutchmen announced their 2013-14 recruiting class. They were able to replace Jooris by getting right winger Michael Pontarelli to come in a year early.
But if one of the five Dutchmen decides to sign a contract this year, Bennett may not have the luxury of replacing that player.
“This is a conversation that I have had with personnel of the NHL teams,” Bennett said. “If you’re bringing in our player for a tryout camp, then we don’t want any part of you, and our staff doesn’t want that player going to that team. But if you’re telling me it’s a development camp and you’re bringing him in to see him in a different light and fill them in your program, then that’s another thing.
“But I don’t know when a development camp became a tryout camp. I don’t know when that started. It’s not good for college hockey in the fact that we’re losing guys so late in the summer. I think it needs to change.”
All five Dutchmen are attending the development camps for the first time. Stevens will be the busiest.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Stevens, who won the Ken Dryden Award as the top goalie in ECAC Hockey last season. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. It’s busy, but I’ll benefit from playing some good hockey and seeing some shooters. It’ll just help me prepare going into next season.”
Stevens is focusing on what he can do to get better. He isn’t going to entertain any offers from the Rangers and Panthers.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” Stevens said. “Obviously, I’ll be back at Union for my senior year. That’s my main focus right now, getting ready for next year at Union. These camps will help me prepare and get ready for next year.”
Ciampini won’t have to worry about a contract offer from the Canucks when he goes to their camp next week.
“My intention is to come back,” said Ciampini, who is the Dutchmen’s top returning scorer with 23 goals and 18 assists. “They sort of made it clear on the phone that, ‘You’re not coming here to win a contract. You’re coming here for the exposure,’ and for them to gauge how well I do against their top prospects.”
The Canucks have a new general manager in Jim Benning and a new coach in Willie Desjardins, so there could be a new philosophy with how camp is conducted.
“Jooris went to Vancouver, so he gave me a rundown of what to expect,” Ciampini said. “But with the new management in the front office, I would assume it will be a little bit different. But at the same time, I’m just going there for the experience and the exposure and get a feel of what it’s like to live as a professional hockey player.”
Former Union defenseman Mat Bodie is in the Rangers’ camp. Bodie, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent three days after Union won the NCAA title, scored a goal in Monday’s scrimmage. . . .
Luke Curadi and Matt Neal of Rensselaer Polytechnic Intitute are in the Rangers camp along with former teammate Ryan Haggerty. Haggerty gave up his senior season to sign with the Rangers shortly after RPI’s season ended in March.