Kootenay Ice veterans get put through fitness testing at the College of the Rockies by head coach Ryan McGill.

Kootenay Ice veterans get put through fitness testing at the College of the Rockies by head coach Ryan McGill.

Fit to win

With NHL camps on the horizon, returner fitness levels are strong.

Taylor Rocca

With eight players heading off to NHL training camps in the coming weeks, Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill was thrilled with the performance of his veteran players coming out of fitness testing Tuesday afternoon.

Tim Bozon (Montreal Canadiens), Jaedon Descheneau (St. Louis Blues), Tanner Faith (Minnesota Wild), Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres), Mackenzie Skapski (New York Rangers) and Rinat Valiev (Toronto Maple Leafs) will all attend their respective NHL training camp as drafted players.

Forwards Jon Martin (Vancouver Canucks) and Luke Philp (Toronto Maple Leafs) will be attending NHL rookie camps as invitees.

Returning players testing began Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. in the depths of Western Financial Place and continued outside at College of the Rockies.

“We saw a lot of good leadership qualities out a lot of guys,” McGill said. “Really happy with how the guys pushed themselves.

“It gets you excited for training camp to see how they interact, see how they’ve matured over the summer. I saw that today and I think we’re really proud of those guys.”

McGill and his staff are coming into camp with a bit of a different approach this season. Having closely monitored the fitness levels of returners through the summer months, McGill feels his troops are ahead of the game coming into camp this fall.

With the help of skill development coach Wayne Dougherty, returners start camp focused on their own personal puck-handling, skating and skill development as opposed to immediately trying to grasp team systems and structure.

The goal is to then provide each player with individualized pre- and post-practice plans in an effort to help polish their respective skill sets.

“After the weekend we’ll start getting into more system stuff,” McGill added. “It’s a little bit different and the reason it’s different is because these guys are in really good shape.

“There’s no sense in killing them or burning them out just to see what kind of shape they’re in. We know what kind of shape they’re in. We’ve got eight guys going to NHL training camps so we’ve got to get their skills ready and their timing ready, more importantly.”

Bozon, Reinhart and Skapski were not present at fitness testing and won’t be in Cranbrook for training camp as they prepare for their NHL opportunities.

Rookies were put through fitness testing Tuesday afternoon.

Returning players will hit the ice for practice Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. while the rookies won’t see action until the first prospect game at 11 a.m.

A second prospect game is slated for 6 p.m. and a goaltenders session is wedged between the two rookie contests at 4:45 p.m.