NHL Development Camp Chronicles: Star In Final Scrimmage

July 10, 2014

Sophomore defenseman Michael Downing and senior forward Zach Hyman are in Coral Springs, Fla., this week for Florida Panthers Development Camp, held at the Florida Panthers IceDen. The professional level camps, which do not affect student-athletes NCAA eligibility, are designed to give players the experience of an NHL training camp. Rookies and prospects are subjected to on-ice practice and scrimmage sessions, medical and fitness testing and meetings and seminars, as well as off-ice team building activities.

Downing, a fourth-round draft pick in 2013, earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Rookie Team as one of the league's top defensemen, recording 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and a plus-3 rating in 34 games played last season. Hyman, a fifth-round selection in 2010, had a breakout campaign as a junior in 2013-14, notching career highs in points (17), goals (7) and assists (10).

Downing is attending his second development camp with the Panthers, while Hyman is making his fourth trip to Coral Springs. Each day this week they will share their thoughts about camp on MGoBlue.com.


Michael Downing: Today was the last day of development camp for Zach and I. The only on-ice activity we had today was a scrimmage, Red vs. White. I was on the Red team and Zach was on White. We both played well, but my team (Red) won the game 6-5 in a shootout. I had two assists and was plus-1.

Zach Hyman: The day started off with an early breakfast and then we headed to the rink for a scrimmage. The scrimmage was five-on-five for two 30-minute halves and was competitive and really fun. I had a goal and an assist. Overall, development camp was an incredible experience. This was my fourth year going to the camp and every year I come away with great experiences and learn a lot. 

Michael Downing: This was a very good development week for me and it helped me understand my future on the professional level. Florida was happy with the season I had at Michigan and they are excited for my future. I was pleased with all they had to say, but now it's time to head back to the University of Michigan and start training with the boys again so we can achieve our major goal, a national championship!


Zach Hyman: Today was another really busy day. We woke up at 6:30 had some breakfast and got to the rink around 7:30. When we got to the rink the forwards and defensemen were separated into two different groups. The forwards went on the ice for the first hour, while the defensemen worked out and then we switched. Today's skate started with 15 minutes of three-on-three followed by a series of drills that focused on stick handling, puck protection, passing and shooting.

After the skate the forwards had a workout followed by a series of different meetings. We had meetings about social media, money management and mental toughness. All of the advice was really helpful and relatable because they all pertained to important aspects of being a professional athlete.

Downing & Hyman

Michael Downing: Another fun day today with a lot of meetings. We started the day off with a social media seminar which consisted of tips mostly to keep us out of trouble! After that meeting, the skate (only defensemen) consisted of all skill work and skating. The staff had us work on our shots and pivots and helped us understand different techniques. It was very helpful and a lot of the things I learned I will bring back to Michigan with me.

After that we had a lunch and then a few more meetings. Then Brian McCabe, Florida's director of player development, gave a speech about his journey to the NHL. His background was a lot like mine.

He was projected to be a first-round pick to start the year and then had a tough final season in junior hockey just like myself. He used that as motivation to become better and work harder just as I have. I can't give away more details but it was a good story and one I can relate to. Tomorrow we have a scrimmage and it should be a lot of fun and I will write up my last blog about that!


Zach Hyman: Today was a really fun and busy day. It started with a 7 a.m. wake-up, call and then we were off to Deerfield Beach. At the beach, we were split up into two groups and had to complete a challenge that was similar to a scavenger hunt. I was on the blue team, while Mike was on the red team. Each team had a sheet with a number of tasks and for each task that was completed you got a point. There were a series of tasks that varied from collecting different items at different locations to taking a number of group pictures with different people like police officers, lifeguards, construction workers, etc.

At the end of the challenge, Mike's team was up by one point, but there was still one more event. The last event was a tug of war competition, and my team ended up winning that and getting two points to win the competition. After the competition we had some time to relax, play some beach volleyball and swim in the ocean.

Downing & Hyman

Michael Downing: Zach had mentioned the beach, but something we did that was really special was head to Feeding South Florida near camp to do some community service. We packed and unpacked food all day and served 8,000 pounds of food to people in the community in need. It was very rewarding and gave all of us a pretty good feeling afterward.

After that, we went back to the hotel and participated in a five-mile run for a military veteran who was a captain at West Point and died in battle. It was a run in his honor and although it was tough it was very satisfying to participate in it. Zach and I finished the run in 50 minutes. Today altogether was humbling and very rewarding!


Michael Downing: Today it was another early morning. We had a 6:30 a.m. wake up and went right to the rink for a light workout. After the workout, we had a skate and a 3-on-3 tournament. It was a fun environment and really competitive.

Downing & Hyman
Downing and Hyman pose with Florida Panthers assistant coach Brian Skrudland after practice Tuesday.

Zach Hyman: During today's skate Mike and I were on the ice together. The skate was a lot of fun and consisted of a bunch of cycle and shooting drills. It ended with 15 minutes of 3-on-3 and a shootout.

After the skate, we headed to Whole Foods to learn how to shop and eat healthy. The people at Whole Foods were great and showed us where to find all the essential groceries. They also brought two chefs in to show us how to properly cook steak and fish. I've been cooking since I moved out of the dorms after my freshman year, but it was nice to pick up a couple new tips.

Michael Downing: At Whole Foods, we got to shop and had a tour of many of the things they sell there. Their staff taught us how to cook and season our food, which was pretty nice considering I will have to cook a lot on my own next year.

We then went back to the hotel and hung out a little bit, before Zach and I went out to eat at Delray Beach right on the ocean with one of the scouts from the team. Altogether it was a very fun day, and we're excited to head down to the beach tomorrow.


Zach Hyman: Today started with a 6:10 a.m. wake-up call followed by some breakfast, and then we headed to the rink for 7 a.m. practice. When we got to the rink we had to go through a series of medical tests and then finished off with some strength testing. Downs and I did really well in the testing, which consisted of a 30-yard sprint, a three-rep max pull up and a two-minute plank. After that we had some lunch and just relaxed with a bunch of the guys.

After lunch, we had to do a relay competition. The relay competition was a lot of fun. There were 10 different items that varied from different weighted plates to jugs of water and some heavy dumbbells. Each team had to take each item to a cone placed 50 yards away and back. It ended up being a pretty fun workout.

Hyman & Downing

Michael Downing: After the off-ice training, we had an on ice session. Zach and I are not on the same team, so we both practiced at different times. The practice was a lot of flow and skill work but also involved a lot of speed and strength. It is one of the longest days we will have all camp, but it was very beneficial for both of us.

We scrimmage Friday, and I'll try not to beat Zach up too badly so all our fans won't be too upset with me! Later at night, we went back to the hotel room, and Zach helped me with a little bit of homework, and we hung out. After that we went out to eat at Hibachi as you see in the photo. One of my favorite restaurants, and we really got to know a lot of the guys better. I may be wearing red this weekend, but I'll always go blue!

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