DULUTH - Neither Chad Denny nor his equipment had a smooth trip down to Atlanta.
But the Atlanta Thrashers' big young defensive prospect didn't let it put a hitch in his stride. After having his flights messed up, Denny arrived a day late for the Thrashers' annual development camp. His gear didn't show up until 10 p.m. Tuesday, nine hours later.
"It happens, you know," he said with a shrug.
It was all good by Wednesday. Denny rolled through the morning skate with veteran savvy.
John Anderson, who coached Denny in AHL Chicago before being named the Thrashers' head coach three weeks ago, liked what he saw from the get-go this week.
"He's become professional," Anderson said. "He knows where to go a little bit better now and he doesn't take his time going there, there's no hesitation."
Knowing the drills helps. Anderson was able to send Denny and some of the other pros to the front of the line to lead the way. Denny's booming shot also was on display in Technicolor on Wednesday.
"He has an NHL shot," Anderson said, adding with a chuckle, "he almost killed the goalies. We had to tell him to tone it down, we're running out of goalies.
"So he's coming along. His stick is better, he's using his poke check way better. It's a work in progress right now."
Denny, who spent the bulk of the 2007-08 regular season with Atlanta's ECHL affiliate in Gwinnett, has been to this camp a number of times already. The two-a-day schedule is old hat to the 21-year-old.
"It's definitely intense," Denny said. "But I think everybody's ready, everybody's trying to earn a spot. You've got to work hard."
Selected by the Thrashers in the second round (49th overall) of the 2005 NHL entry draft, Denny only turned pro last year. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound blueliner was coming off a highly productive junior career with the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He began 2007 in Chicago, Atlanta's AHL affiliate, but was sent down to the Gladiators. With Gwinnett, Denny picked up his first pro point, an assist, during a three-game stint and was called back up to the Wolves.
Over the next two months, all but a short weekend were spent in Chicago. Then Denny was assigned to Gwinnett in early December and remained with the team for the majority of the season. He had 13 points and 48 penalty minutes in 48 games for the Gladiators.
"Chad, he's improved immensely from the very start," Anderson said. "We had to send him down (at the beginning of last year), he kind of wasn't getting it."
Chicago recalled Denny in mid-March and kept him for two more weeks. He arrived back in Gwinnett just in time for the start of the playoffs and remained here until the Gladiators were ousted in the second round.
Then it was back to Chicago and a championship run. The Wolves were the last hockey team playing this year, claiming the Calder Cup on June 10.
"It was great," Denny said. "You grow up trying to win a championship. (I did) in the Quebec league, two years ago, then being with the Chicago Wolves when they did, it's been a great experience."
But it's been a short summer for the native of Nova Scotia.
"I just got home like three, four weeks ago," Denny said.
Denny already had some celebrity status at home as a pro hockey-playing member of the Mi'kmaq tribe and a native of Eskasoni, First Nation, N.S. But during the Gladiators opening playoff series, a film crew flew in to follow Denny, one of four subjects of a documentary by the Nova Scotia Office of Aboriginal Affairs on successful individuals from the maritime province's first nation tribes.
It was scheduled to air either this summer or fall and Denny said he isn't sure when it'll be out. Since he hasn't needed any security to fend off the paparazzi, it's safe to assume it hasn't run yet. Although, Denny's already formidable physical presence looked slightly bigger at camp, so he can be his own bouncer if necessary. But seriously, that was in an effort to prepare for the season.
"I think I'm in pretty good shape right now," he said. "Obviously you can get better. There's always room for improvement, you know?"