Conner Bleackley: Summer Vacation? No, thanks!


Summer is the time to relax, lie around in the sun, and get a nice tan going. Well, not for everyone. Colorado Avalanche prospect Conner Bleackley for example, is jumping from hockey camp to hockey camp, with workouts in between.

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The 19-year-old center was the Avalanche’s 2014 first-round selection. He is the WHL Red Deer Rebels’ captain, and was an assistant captain for Canada’s under-17 and under-18 teams. Since he isn’t eligible for the AHL, Bleackley will most likely stay in Red Deer for another season. However, that doesn’t mean he gets to take the summer off — or even spend it outside of Colorado.

At the beginning of last month, the Avalanche held their annual prospect development camp. While Bleackley neither stood out positively nor negatively (check out the camp’s winners and losers here), development camp seems to have taught him a few things.

Asked what the biggest thing he’s learned from training with power skating coach Tracy Tutton was, Bleackley told Avalanche TV the following.

"“I think just working on it over and over and over again, you know. There’s no secret to becoming a better skater, or a better anything for that matter. I think repetition and attention to detail is the quickest and fastest way to improve on anything.”"

Very true words from a young player, who still has a lot of work to do, before he is ready to join the pros. Here is what BSN Avalanche‘s Andi Duroux had to say about Conner Bleackley after development camp.

"Skating is Bleackley’s greatest weakness as a player, so it’s clear this camp was rough on him.  However, he asked a lot of questions and worked his rear off to try to implement the coaches’ suggestions.  His biggest problem is that instead of bending his knees, he bends his waist, giving him an unbalanced and hunched over stance.  It also keeps his head down and makes his stride cloppy and slow.  As a result, he struggles to do quick crossovers after a stop because his knees aren’t bent enough and his balance is too far forward.  He certainly has the desire to get better, but he’ll need to fix his form first.Overall Thoughts:  Bleackley’s weakness will probably always be his skating. However, if his defensive play transfers, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  I have a feeling that this camp was an excellent learning experience for him, even if it looked painful at times.  He made the most out of it."

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That doesn’t sound too great yet. But as said, Conner Bleackley knows what’s most important on his way to improve. Therefore, his further plans for the summer shouldn’t hit anyone by surprise. He told Avalanche TV that he had more power skating and skill work lined up for his days at home, in addition to his regular off-season workout.

Next up on the calendar is a summer training camp that is no less important than that of the Avalanche — Hockey Canada National Teams’ Summer Showcase. Conner Bleackley is one of 149 Canadians to take part in the camp that takes place from July 29 to August 6.

The amount of players sounds crazy, but it is easily explained. Hockey Canada decided to put their under-17, under-18 and under-20 all in one place, all at the same time. To be more exact, Conner Bleackley will attend Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Summer Development Camp, which features a 40-player roster, including some 2015 draft picks like Mitchell Marner.

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Bleackley will want to make an impression there, as he is hoping to make Team Canada’s 2016 World Junior Championsip roster. The competition is strong, but Bleackley has good chances, coming in as a 2013 draftee who was an assistant captain at the Under-17 and Under-18 World Championships.

This year’s development camp started off with two training sessions and will conclude in four exhibition games. Canada will face off against Russia on August 3 and 5, and against the Czech Republic on August 4 and 6. Development camp and all exhibition games will be held in Calgary, which also happens to be the city Bleackley calls home.

Once all that is over, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound center will get back to his regular workout. He still has about one and a half months before Avalanche training camp in mid-September. However, he set some high goals for himself.

“My summer is getting pretty busy here with hockey,” Bleackley told Avalanche TV. “I’m just trying to soak up as much as I can along the way and come into camp in the best shape of my life and go out there and show why they picked me in the first round.”

So whoever said hockey players don’t work as hard as people in regular jobs, will have to admit that they were wrong. Conner Bleackley isn’t even a professional yet, but already has his entire life dedicated to hockey. Summer vacation? Maybe he’ll go for a virgin Margarita at the rink.

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Next: Meet Andreas Martinsen!

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