EKATERINBURG, RUSSIA – So far at the PD13 camp, the kids have been put through countless drills on and off the ice. The entire program is designed to work on attributes that have made Pavel Datsyuk one of the world’s best players: puck protection, stickhandling, skating, body positioning, etc.
The only thing missing at this point is the NHL experience and the kids are about to dive into that aspect on Friday, with an authentic team draft setting the stage the day before.
The schedules on the second-last day of the camp ran as usual and even began to swerve towards the physical components of the game. But it was at the end of the second practice when the mood began to shift to game day. The players gathered around a table that was placed at center ice and coaches were assigned to the two teams that will face off Friday afternoon: The Banditos and The Torpedoes.
Todd and Jay Woodcroft became GMs of the two teams and, through the translating of Masha Leonova, went through all the pomp and circumstance you would expect from a professional team at the podium, with a little injected humor.
“He has an entourage the size of President Putin’s…The Banditos are proud to select: Vova!”
The GMs let the players know trades could still happen until 10:00 p.m. Thursday, so they had to make sure they answered the phone just in case (though it wasn’t that serious). There are stories of some past players being unable to sleep the night before and on the Friday a few have shown up in suits over the years.
From now until game time, the teams will be separated: Players eat with their teammates, do drills together and play soccer against each other. This is what the buildup has been coming to and the excitement in their young faces is palpable.
By now, everyone knows Datsyuk’s draft story, the fact he was a sixth-rounder selected 171st overall in 1998. But he’s not the only one here selected by an NHL team.
One of the coaches on The Torpedoes bench, Kirill Gotovets, a seventh round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009 as an 18-year-old, has been an instructor at PD13 for each of the four years of its existence. A native of Belarus, he also acts as a translator when the coaches are explaining drills.
Gotovets was originally a student at camps the Woodcrofts held in Belarus. The defenseman was seeking to play in North America and, with a little advice from his new friends, found himself playing two years at the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school. While there, he played with a few other European draftees such in Alexander Fallstrom and Erik Haula.
If that’s not impressive enough, the defenseman’s story gets even better from there. He always wanted to get a good education along with playing hockey and last fall began playing at Cornell University on a hockey scholarship – the first Belarusian to gain this kind of honor from an Ivy League school.
When Gotovet’s Torpedoes team takes to the ice Friday, it’ll be up against Greg Ireland’s Banditos. It’s being billed as the kids vs. the veterans as Ireland’s years of coaching experience from the ECHL and American League will come in handy. But since this is his first PD13 camp, will Gotovet’s unique experience here help?
Ireland, who was last in North America coaching the San Antonio Rampage, was once an assistant and then the coach of the Red Wings’ American League affiliate in Grand Rapids. At training camp, the Wings split players up into four teams and have a mini-tournament in Traverse City, Mich. In his first year at the camp, Ireland was coaching one of those teams and happened to have Datsyuk on his roster. At the time, the 25-year-old was only two seasons into his NHL career.
One end of the Traverse City Arena is all glass that extends up to the second floor where the weight room is. Whichever two teams aren’t playing are up doing mandatory workouts and a number of the Red Wings veterans happened to be upstairs when Ireland’s team was heading into a shootout.
“I saved Pav for the end,” Ireland said. “I thought it was amazing because you had guys up top like Yzerman, Shanahan, Chelios. I guess someone yelled ‘It’s a shootout and Pav’s shooting.’
“When I looked up I just saw all these guys looking out the window like little kids and they were waiting to see what the next move was going to be.”
With all the parents of the PD13 school kids invited to the showdown for the Cup, we can expect that same type of excitement here in Ekaterinburg Friday.
212 AWARD FOR THURSDAY
This is the final time the honor of excellence will be handed out this year and today’s winners were Vanya in the young group and Kirill in the older group.
Vanya is a return student and is a very familiar face to the instructors. “Vanya Vanya my little lasagna,” is what he’s recognized as and he was also the first overall pick in the young group’s draft.
On Friday, one player in each group will earn THN’s award for the week.
Rory Boylen will file reports regularly over his time with Pavel Datsyuk and Co. at his hockey camp held at the Kurganovo Complex near the Red Wings star's hometown of Ekaterinburg, Russia.