Spartan hockey players spent the summer working out with NHL Teams
Over the summer, defenseman Zach Osburn, forward Taro Hirose and defenseman Mitch Eliot all participated in NHL development camps. As for sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko, he represented Team U.S.A in the World Junior Summer Showcase.
“It was fun,” Osburn said. “Going into it I was pretty nervous to be with all those really good players and skilled players. It almost was a little intimidating, but when I was there you kinda realize, you know what these guys are good, but I feel pretty good too.”
During the week long camp, Osburn was with the Nashville Predators at Vanderbilt University’s football stadium and focused on off-ice drills and ran shuttle runs. He thinks this will help him offensively.
“I think one of the bigger things I learned is how to contribute better offensively and I think that’s what a lot of my game revolves around,” Osburn said. “Being that fourth wave of offense can really help my game and that’s what they taught me there especially regrouping in the neutral zone, they taught me a lot of stuff there.”
Last season, Osburn tied for first among the defensemen, along with senior Carson Gatt, an with 12 points. He scored four goals and eight assists.
For the Alberta native, Hirose participated in a camp held by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We played three games and we had a couple of practices so we did that for the first three or four days,” Hirose said. “The last two days of camp we had one team of free agents and we played against the draft picks so we got to stack up against some of their best guys in the organization. That was really cool.”
Hirose came in second for points on the team in the 2016 season with a total of 24, the highest point total by a freshman since 2009. He also had six multi-point games in the beginning of the season where he scored his first goal against Princeton on Oct. 28.
One of the things he took away from the camp was how to perform without his linemate Mason Appleton this season.
“I think just being able to play without him I guess,” Hirose said. “Make plays by myself and being able to play with anyone on the team. I think it sorta gave myself a confidence boost that I’ll be able to do hopefully what Mason did last year and help the team out to win this year.”
As for Eliot, the Michigan native traveled to Traverse City to practice with the Detroit Red Wings during their week long camp.
“It was awesome,” Eliot said. “It was an honor to put on that jersey on. Throughout the whole experience, I just tried to take in as much as I could.”
Eliot is the son of former NHL goalie and current Fox Sports Detroit Hockey Analyst Darren Eliot. Darren played for the Detroit Red Wings for one season during 1987-1988 and also played for the Los Angeles Kings and the Buffalo Sabres.
For him, this was an experience to share with his dad throughout his time at the camp.
“We shared a couple of cool moments just swapping stories and stuff, but it was neat,” Eliot said.
Last season, Eliot was the only freshman defenseman to play all 35 games. He ranked fourth on the team with 38 blocked shots and tallied three assists.
Besides the skate sessions and off-ice practices, there was one major takeaway for him and that was nutrition.
“They have a nutritionist on staff and she spoke everyday about different ways to implement better nutrition into my diet,” Eliot said. “That stuff goes a long way for preparing for a game and how you feel day to day off the ice. That’s probably the biggest takeaway I had.”
For Khodorenko, he played for Team USA in the summer showcase facing off against other junior teams from Canada, Finland and Sweden.
“I mean it was a little disappointing that I got released early and I’m just going to take that as a learning experience and hopefully make the camp in December, but we’ll see,” Khodorenko said.
During the tournament, Khodorenko played in a total of three games before departing the team. He earned one assist throughout the showcase.
For the Spartans, he ranked third on the team in points, scoring seven goals and 11 assists. Nine of the 18 points earned were during Big Ten play.
Playing in a faster pace game, doing the tournament helped him pace himself through the games, which he feels will be effective going into the new season, as well as being more physical.
“That’s just one thing, play more physical and the puck will come to you,” Khodorenko said. “That’s what kinda helped me in that camp. I thought I did pretty well and play more physical.”