BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY — Jim Nill was pleased with what he saw at this week's Development Camp at Centre ICE.
On the ice and off.
"We've been happy with the overall camp," said Nill, the Detroit Red Wings' assistant GM. "All the players came to camp in good shape. We always see what happens on the ice, but it's about what happens off the ice too; seeing how they're developing as far as conditioning, which is as important as on ice this time of year.
"We've been very happy with that part of the camp. It's just been a solid camp. It seems the players understand that it's a year-round thing. It's not like they can just show up here without doing anything. They were all prepared. That's nice to see."
Forward Landon Ferraro was among those who tried to add size and strength during the off-season.
"I put on seven pounds," Ferraro said. "That helps. My overall fitness test scores went up, and I was able to keep my body fat down, so I'm putting on the right type of weight.
"That's what I like about this organization. If you're 176 pounds, they just want you to be the strongest 176 pounds. If you can play at that weight, you can play at that weight. Obviously, I would like to be at 185, or somewhere in there, but as of right now it doesn't look like it's happening. I'm the type of guy who sits on the couch, goes to stand up and burns a thousand calories. I just need to make sure that I'm as strong as I can be at my size."
Ferraro, who turns 21 next month, received his indoctrination into professional hockey last season playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings minor league affiliate. He finished with nine goals and 11 assists.
"It took awhile (to adjust)," he said. "I think right around Christmas time is when I took my biggest step. I had a good finish to the year."
Ferraro had a strong scrimmage Tuesday night despite taking a stick to the face that opened a cut between his eyebrows. It took five stitches to close and it came on his third shift.
"I got an assist on my fourth shift with about two minutes left in the first (period) so that kind of made up for it," he said.
Ferraro added a goal in regulation, then netted the game-winner in a shootout.
Defenseman Ryan Sproul also tried to bulk up in the off-season.
"I was about 185 pounds last year. I'm trying to get up to 190, 195," the 19-year-old said. "I've been doing a lot of heavy lifting. I think it's paying off."
Sproul will play one more year in juniors as will Xavier Ouellet, an 18-year-old defenseman. Both were taken in the second round in the 2011 draft, as was forward Tomas Jurco.
Jurco, 19, will play in Grand Rapids this season. Ouellet, like Sproul, will return to juniors.
"I'm here to do my best and try to get ready for the NHL," Ouellet said. "I want to play in the NHL as soon as possible and I'm working hard (to accomplish) that.
"I've been training six days a week, working with a nutrition program. It's been a busy summer."
Sproul and Ouellet are considered two of the club's top young defensemen.
One of the top enforcers in the system is 20-year-old Mitch Callahan, who played for the Griffins last season. He led Grand Rapids in one category — fights. He was involved in 14.
"I'm guy who likes to forecheck and is not afraid of anybody," he said. "If I have to go get a puck, and I'm going to get hit, I'll take the hit. I'm always willing to go into the corners against bigger, stronger guys. I'll also stick up for my teammates — so I fight every once in a while."
Callahan played on a grind line with Trevor Parkes and Louis-Marc Aubry.
"We're really physical and we create a lot of energy," he said.
The camp ends today with a scrimmage from 8:30-10 a.m.
"We're not really sitting here analyzing," Nill said. "This is more like going to school for them. We're trying to send a message that, 'Hey, this is what the expectations are. We're giving you the tools to learn the most you can.'
"Now it's up to these guys to develop and see where they fit in."