It wasn’t just Ryan Nugent-Hopkins representing the Red Deer Rebels at the Edmonton Oilers` recent prospects development camp.
Forward Brett Ferguson, who had a career year this past year in his final season of junior, also landed an invite to the camp, which wrapped up this past weekend in Sherwood Park.
“It’s awesome. It’s an unbelievable experience,” said Ferguson.
“Obviously, I’ve never been to an NHL camp before. The way they treat you here and the level of play, it’s just awesome and has been a great experience. I just wanted to soak everything in and take as much as I can out of this week.”
The 2010-2011 Western league season started off a bit slow for the native of Vibank, Saskatchewan, but once January rolled around, he caught fire, going on a 14 game point scoring streak that saw him put up 22 points over that span to lead all Rebels in scoring that month.
Ferguson finished the regular season with 23 goals and 61 points, and he also tallied four goals and 11 points in nine playoff games.
He says those numbers may have had something to do with the Oilers inviting him to camp.
“They called Jesse Wallin (Rebels head coach) and he gave them my contact information for my agent and my agent told me,” said the 21-year-old.
“It was early in May when I found out and because I got notified nice and early, I was able to start training and get on the ice, get in the gym and I felt I got myself ready for this so it was good. I’m sure they wouldn’t have invited me here if they didn’t see me challenging for maybe a spot on the farm team where, later on, I can maybe work myself up the ranks. Right now, I’m just working to get into fall camp and once I get into fall camp, then I’ve got to work for a spot on the team or the American League team.”
When asked about the biggest differences between a WHL camp and a pro camp, Ferguson pointed to the tempo and intensity.
“Obviously, all the guys here are the top end players from the WHL or from college and there’s some pro guys here too, so the level of play is pretty high,” said Ferguson.
“But the Western league definitely gets your prepared for this. I mean, the season we had in Red Deer, we played a high tempo all year so I’m used to that. One thing I learned over the past year is that you have to work hard every shift and it doesn’t matter what the score is or what the situation is, you’ve got to work hard, so I just tried to bring that into this week and hopefully it showed through.”
Despite the camp being Ferguson`s first at the pro level, he says having a teammate there made the whole process a bit easier.
“I hate to admit it, but Ryan and I were best friends in Red Deer. And we roomed together here and we get along really well off the ice so it was awesome to have him here,” said Ferguson.
“Obviously, I know a lot of the other guys from around the league but that familiarity is great, especially when you’re rooming with him. You can tell him whatever is on your mind or anything like that so it’s good.”
Ferguson says though, there was one drawback to Nugent-Hopkins being at the camp.
“The chirping — I mean, that’s what he does out there,” he laughed.
“He went first overall and I’m undrafted so he let’s me hear about it all the time. I have no response to that. I mean, what do you say to that? I just have to outwork him out on the ice. Or throw him around in the hotel room.”