TPH Detroit trains pro players during offseason

Photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey
Photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey

By @MichaelCaples –

Over the course of the summer, Brandon Naurato and the Total Package Hockey team in Detroit work with players just slightly more skilled than their usual clients.

That’s not a knock against their in-season training participants, however, when you consider who the summer attendees are – players like Luke Glendening, Matt Hunwick and David Moss.

At their junior-college-pro prep sessions at Farmington Hills Ice Arena this offseason, Naurato and the TPH staff have been putting pro and college players through drills and exercises designed to teach them new ways to approach in-game situations, while staying in shape at the same time.

“Over the course of three years we’re seeing more trust from different people in the hockey world, whether it be coaches, scouts, agents, higher level players,” Naurato said. “Through those relationships with the coaches and agents and some contacts with guys that I’ve played with or against, they’re putting their trust in us to help implement different things into their game. We can help these pros with small little tweaks. With the pros, these small little tweaks can be a huge difference in signing a contract extension or putting yourself in the position to get the type of contract or opportunity you want going forward.”

Photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey
Photo by Michael Caples/MiHockey

Attendees at the TPH training sessions include pros Glendening, Hunwick, Moss, Steve Kampfer, Andrew Ebbett, Aaron Palushaj, Kevin Porter, Mac Bennett and Colin Campbell. College and junior players attending included Zach Werenski, Kyle Connor, Cooper Marody, Boo Nieves, John Lethemon, Sam Militec, Will Lockwood, David Keefer and Austin Alger.

“It’s great to be out here, obviously,” Glendening said. “They watch so much game film and are on the ice all day every day, they see a lot. For them to be giving us pointers is huge.”

It’s also ‘huge’ for the players aspiring to be in a position like Glendening some day.

“It helps a lot because we learn a lot from them, how they play and stuff,” said Keefer, a USHL player from Brighton.

“It’s been really great, it’s really working on my skills and edge work. That’s what I need to work on the most, too, edge work and Sean Perkins & TPH are really good at teaching it. They know their stuff, too, because all these guys have played.”

Naurato said it’s important to mix in the pros with the aspiring players.

“I think it’s awesome,” the TPH director of hockey operations said. “I think the pro guys, we’re all kids at heart just playing a game. Obviously the younger guys look up to these pros, they see how hard they work at all the skates and it creates a pro mentality. They see that they’re just normal people like everybody else. I think the pros have taken a new role of mentoring these young guys and talking to them in line, whether it’s trying to teach them something or just make them smile and make their day, I think it’s been pretty cool to bring back culture in that environment to the TPH skates in the summer to develop this next wave of players here in Michigan.”

For those professionals, however, the focus is on having new experiences to improve their game over the offseason.

“A lot of the stuff we work with them on is creating time and space with and without the puck,” Naurato said. “With the puck, a lot of the skating stuff that Sean Perkins does, whether they’re opening up their hips, shifting their weight…whether it’s in-zone entries, corner walk-outs or a defenseman walking the blue line, there’s not one way to do it. There’s one way to do it depending on what’s given and what’s taken away. The game of hockey is such a fast-paced game, you have to read and react quickly. These pros have these tools that were developing their individual skills, but then we’re teaching them the hockey IQ of when to use this at what times and then if that option is taken away.”

Hunwick said he’s been trying to take advantage of a new opportunity in training with TPH.

“It’s been great so far, we’ve done a lot of skills stuff,” the new Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman said. “Normally don’t hit the ice in June and we’ve been doing it twice a week, so it’s a good opportunity to work on stuff that you don’t normally have a chance to, and it’s been a lot of fun.”