This summer was an eye-opening one for local defenceman Will Warm.
The 18-year-old defenceman, currently skating with the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings, turned heads with the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights, parlaying his appearances at their development and rookie camps into opportunities to skate for nearly a week at the newest pro team's main camp.
"I was expecting to go to rookie camp and go home right after that, but I ended up sticking around for main camp," he said. "It was pretty incredible to be out there with NHL guys and see what they're all about."
After impressing the coaching staff when playing with his peers, he was one of 20 defencemen invited to come to the main training camp with veterans like sniper James Neal, former Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison and three-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Warm was impressed with the dedication the older veterans showed even after decades of commitment to the game.
"The biggest thing to take away from main camp was how all the NHL guys handled themselves and how professional they are around the rink and how hard they still work, even though they've made it to the NHL," he said. "They were probably the hardest-working guys there."
At main camp, Warm was primarily paired with Brayden McNabb, who was a mainstay on the Los Angeles Kings' blueline for the last three seasons before being scooped up by Vegas in the expansion draft.
"That was pretty cool. It was good to talk to him after shifts and see what he thinks and ask him about different plays and what he would have done in certain situations," Warm said. "It was a unique experience for me."
Warm said it took until the second practice of main camp to feel completely comfortable, explaining he got up to speed quickly and was able to skate with the pros.
"It's a lot faster. It's a lot quicker paced. Everything in practice, even, is really sharp and there's no mistakes," Warm said. "It's a big step up from the WHL, that's for sure."
Warm, whose rights are not owned by any NHL club, said the main message from his exit interview was to continue to bulk up while the Golden Knights would continue to monitor his progress.
"The biggest message in my exit meeting was just to get stronger because that's the biggest thing. That's something I've been hearing from most camps I've been to, even with the Oil Kings," he said. "That's been my main goal for awhile.
"They just said to have a good year in junior and they'll be watching me."
Warm's role is increasing for the young Edmonton team, as he's earned a letter on his jersey as an alternate captain. He's also picking up more of the offensive slack — in the team's first two games, he's already contributed three assists after picking up 15 last season. He'll also look to hit double digits in goals after picking up nine in his rookie campaign.
"It's more of a leadership role for me and (we're) just trying to put together some more wins than last season," he said after Edmonton picked up only 23 wins in 72 attempts last year. "That's the main goal for me and our team."