Attending training camp on a Professional Tryout Offer (PTO) is never an ideal situation.
There isn’t the security of an NHL or AHL contract and the team can cut you at any moment.
There are eight players attending Stockton Heat Training Camp on PTOs. They are goalie Eric Hartzell, defenseman Taylor Doherty and Ryan Constant and forwards Rob Brodson, Garrett Thompson, Dana Fraser, Kyle Flanagan and Garet Hunt.
There is no guarantee that any of these guys will be able to break onto the Heat roster, but they certainly are going to try and make the coaches’ decision as difficult as possible and maybe even earn a roster spot.
One such player is forward Kyle Flanagan, who spent last season in Sweden playing with MODO Hockey in the SHL.
“It was a fun day I thought for both the coaches and the players,” Flanagan said of his first day. “It was a good feeling to get out there, get the hands going and get the feet going. [The coaches] want a fast pace and I thought for the first day it was a quick skate.”
Flanagan joins training camp in the hopes that he can establish himself for his second stint in the AHL, as he played in 76 games across the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms.
When it came to Flanagan’s expectations for himself during camp, his statement was simple.
“Just work hard and try to get somebody’s attention,” Flanagan exclaims.
The former St. Lawrence University captain is not the only NCAA product here in Stockton for training camp on a PTO.
Following an impressive collegiate career at Quinnipiac, goaltender Eric Hartzell joins the camp after splitting his last two years between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Wheeling Nailers of the AHL and ECHL respectively.
“So far I love the coaching staff and how they are stressing this as a team game,” Hartzell said. “Everything they’re stressing out there is right up my alley and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”
To say Hartzell had a solid college career is a pretty bad understatement. He capped off his four years with the Bobcats by having a season for the ages, posting a .933 save-percentage and a 1.57 goals-against-average in his 42 appearances.
The White Bear Lake, Minnesota native led Quinnipiac all the way to the NCAA Championship game before falling to Heat forward Kenny Agostino’s school, Yale, in the final.
“My expectation for myself is just to get better every day,” Hartzell explains. “The facilities here are brand new and top notch. We even hit Bud’s Restaurant and a little jazz festival Sunday night, so I’m impressed with the city too.”
Hartzell will have to put a lot of effort into just seeing around some of the massive defensemen that the coaching staff has brought in to camp.
One of those big defenseman is the 6’8”, 235lb. Taylor Doherty.
Doherty enters camp on a PTO following four full seasons with the Worcester Sharks of the AHL and obviously his goal, as is the case with any player here, is to make the final roster for opening night on October 10.
“I think it’s pretty simple – my goal is to do everything I can to earn a contract here,” Doherty states. “It was tough for me not getting invited to an NHL camp, but that’s just motivation for me to work my way onto this roster.”
Certainly Doherty’s attitude towards earning a roster spot is shared by all PTO players attending camp this year.
As we are in the midst of the second day of camp, all eight PTO players will look to build on the previous day and continue to show the coaching staff that they are worth an opening night roster spot.