By RYAN MCCRACKEN on September 13, 2019.
The Medicine Hat Tigers are nearing full strength with the returns of James Hamblin and Brett Kemp from pro camps Thursday.
While neither achieved their goal of earning an invitation to main camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs or New York Rangers, respectively, the pair of Tabby forwards still left their mark on the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. and return to the Gas City fired up and ready to prove they belong at the next level.
“I thought I did pretty good. I kind of showed them what I had,” said Kemp, who finished the tournament with three points in four games with the Rangers. “It’s not the result I wanted, I wanted to stay there longer, but apparently lots of teams don’t take invites.
“It was pretty upsetting. I honestly thought I was going to go to main camp, that was my goal. Obviously not getting that goal kind of lights a little fire under me and I want to prove people wrong.”
Hamblin – who netted a goal and added three assists over his two games with the Maple Leafs – said he was happy to showcase himself in front of the team’s brass after having his time at development camp earlier this summer cut short by a dislocated knee. While he would have liked to remain a bit longer in the centre of the hockey universe, Hamblin says he’s bringing a lot of positives back to the Canalta Centre for the season ahead.
“They have a lot of bodies right now, Contract-wise they’re pretty tight, but for me it was a pretty good showcase. There were a lot of teams there so I’ve got to be happy with what I put out,” he said. “It was phenomenal being able to skate with guys like (Auston) Matthews and seeing how they operate â€¦ He’s so skilled, he’s always in the right spot. You don’t always think that about NHL guys, you think they’re just going to kind of get the puck and do it themselves. No, they’re always in the right spot, and he just uses his skill when he can.”
Hamblin’s big moment in Traverse City came in Toronto’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. While his Leafs were unable to complete the comeback, Hamblin helped the team overcome a three-goal deficit to force overtime with a goal and three assists.
“I was lucky to get an opportunity on the power play, which helped, and I got moved up in the lineup a little bit later in the game and I think I was just really confident with it,” said Hamblin. “The first game on Saturday against Chicago was a good kind of warm-up game, I feel. I kind of got in and got the feel of the pace. Then the game against Columbus, I just took what I learned on Saturday and applied it.”
Kemp added he’s taking a number of things away from his experience with the Rangers – which featured a two-goal performance in a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jackets – and he’s hoping to both apply what he’s learned and further his development when the puck drops next week.
“If you want to make it to the next level you’ve got to get bigger and stronger, I mean everyone does. Coming back here, I think there’s lots of little things to be a pro you’ve got to do,” said Kemp. “Here I’m going to be able to work on those things as much as I can. I’ve got great teammates and a good coaching staff.”
Kemp and Hamblin are two of four Tigers to be invited to NHL camps, though with Ryan Chyzowski’s return from the Winnipeg Jets earlier this week, only Mads Søgaard remains with his big-league club. The 18-year-old Danish netminder earned an invitation to main camp with the Ottawa Senators after being drafted 37th overall in June.