The Checkers’ 2011-12 training camp is ‘built’ by Timberstone Homes
With his first professional season not having gone how he wanted, Jared Staal is hoping a new approach brings better luck in year two.
The 6-foot-4, 214-pound forward was expected to spend his rookie season with the Checkers, but instead played most of his games with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, scoring 11 points in 33 contests. Though Staal did appear in 13 games with the Checkers, mostly in the season’s first half, he didn’t make the type of impact he had hoped for upon leaving his junior team, the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves, one year earlier.
As tough as that was at the time, it may have served as a learning experience.
“Like a lot of guys, the first year pro is sometimes an eye opener,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels.
“You hear a lot of things but you never know what it’s going to be like until you’re there,” said Staal, 21. “In a way it was good because now I know what it takes and that you can’t take a shift off because there are always guys fighting for the same spot.”
Staal, a second-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, has already started that battle this preseason, as he’s among a group of forwards at Checkers camp looking to make a good first impression before more players arrive from the Carolina Hurricanes in the coming days. He said that he feels more prepared this season, thanks in part to an offseason workout regimen with former NHL player Gary Roberts, who helped prepare Canes forward Jeff Skinner for his award-winning debut season.
“It’s good to hear coming from a guy that’s been in the NHL and knows the grind,” said Staal, who estimates that he’s lost 15 pounds since the end of last season, of Roberts. “The nutrition aspect was also big.”
Additionally, he admitted to having a better understanding of his place on the team.
“Coming from junior you’re counted on as a top offensive guy and getting time on the first power play unit and things like that, and you kind of expect that to continue,” said Staal, who scored 49 points in 59 games with the Wolves in 2009-10. “Really, there are a lot of guys like that, so now I’m trying to adapt to a different role and just be a reliable player.”
According to Daniels, the key for Staal will be using his size to his advantage. The Checkers’ coach said that he wanted Staal to be more of a presence around the net while trying to create more “ugly” goals through screens and rebounds.
Staal seems more than willing to do that, which, along with his improved conditioning, could allow him to be a full-time player in Charlotte for the entire season. He’ll have to keep that up once more established forwards arrive following Hurricanes’ cuts, but there’s been nothing wrong with his start.
“He looks faster and he’s working harder,” said Daniels.
• The Hurricanes are in Winnipeg tonight for what will be the final preseason game for many less-established NHL players trying to make the team. According to CarolinaHurricanes.com and coach Paul Maurice, nine players will be sent to Charlotte on Thursday.
• Daniels continued to put his team through the paces on Wednesday, the third day of camp, saying that for the moment he was mostly focused on the group of offseason signings and free agent tryouts who are new to the organization.
“I’m looking more at the guys I don’t know,” he said.
In addition to the conditioning drills, Daniels said that he’s begun to implement some systems work in advance of the rest of his team arriving from Raleigh.
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