EDMONTON - In similar style to the NHL Scouting Combine, the Oilers' medical, strength and conditioning consultants put 35 prospects through their paces in an intense, three-hour-long workout and more bright and early Wednesday morning at Rexall Place.
Welcome to Development Camp 2013.
For newly drafted prospect Darnell Nurse, it's been a surreal whirlwind.
"It really started to hit me when I walked into the (dressing) room this morning," he said. "I looked around, saw everything, saw the history and had one of those ‘wow' moments. There's certainly a lot of hard work ahead, but this is the fun part. You get to go to work playing the greatest game in the world."
Sunday night in New Jersey, Nurse was up on stage at the Prudential Center, celebrating his seventh overall selection with the likes of Craig MacTavish, Stu MacGregor, Dallas Eakins and Daryl Katz.
Less than 72 hours later across the border in Oil Country, he's decked out in orange and blue, ready to make an early impression and begin the most important off-season of his career.
"It's been a crazy week, but my head popped a bit -- it's time to go," he said. "I'm not going to make any assumptions or try to guess [what my role could be], but I'm going to work hard as hard as I can to be prepared for training camp next season."
At 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, Nurse, 18, is already an imposing physical presence. But as with anything else, there's room to grow.
Looking up to the League's most powerful skaters, he knows exactly what to focus on. With the next six days dedicated to lengthy practice sessions and grueling off-ice workouts, he's getting a head start on his summer regimen here at Development Camp.
"I think it's crucial to have a strong core and lower body," Nurse said. "I look at a guy like Sidney Crosby and you can see you strong he is. He has one of the largest lower bodies and his core (strength) is unbelievable.
"A hockey player is going to train differently than a football player, so I'm not going to be doing too much benching."
While Nurse is one of over 15 newcomers, the rest have been here before and know what to expect.
Nineteen-year-old defenceman Oscar Klefbom will be making his second appearance at Development Camp. With an eye on securing a roster spot this fall, the smooth-skating Swedish blueliner is looking to have a strong showing after missing most of the 2012-13 season.
"It's feel good," Klefbom said of his shoulder, which was operated on back in November. "I can take slap shots and do everything you need to do out on the ice. At this point I'd say it's 100 percent."
Paired with veteran defenceman Sanny Lindstrom, a fourth-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 1990, Klefbom posted three assists and a +7 rating after only 10 games with Farjestad BK of the now re-branded Swedish Hockey League.
Playing over 25 minutes a night and quickly emerging as the team's most dependable defenceman, Klefbom's season came to an end on Oct. 9 after being run violently into the end boards.
"I spoke with my doctors and they said that if I wanted to play in the NHL next season, I needed to have surgery," he said. "I haven't played since October, but everything feels good. I'm lifting weights in the gym and it feels very stable. The left shoulder almost feels better than the right one."
Klefbom visited Edmonton numerous times over the course of the lockout-shortened campaign. He even got a chance to practice with the team late in the season, giving him an even greater taste of what life is like as an Oiler.
Now, with only a few short months until main camp opens, Klefbom is ready for the next chapter in his career.
"I'm ready (to make the NHL)," he said. "I feel like I took a big step last season. I've been here recently watching some games and it's very special. I'm very honoured to be a part of this organization. It's tough to make the team, of course. But I think this camp is very important for me to get into it and try to be in the best shape I can be heading into training camp in September.
"That's my goal. I want to make the team this year and earn a spot on the Edmonton Oilers. I'm very hungry."
For Klefbom, Nurse and 33 others, the time is now to make an impression. On-ice sessions begin Thursday (9:30am) at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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