By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Earlier this summer, Austin Madaisky’s father had a message for him.
“He told me, ‘You can either go get a job or you can train like it’s your job,’ ” the Kamloops Blazers defenceman said Tuesday, adding that he has chosen the second option.
Madaisky, recently returned from the development camp of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, was just back from doing agility drills at a track near his Surrey home.
The 18-year-old has had his summer vacation — he was on the Mayan Riviera when the Blue Jackets selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft on June 26 — so for the next six weeks, he said, “I just grind.”
“I’m skating. I’m in the gym every day now,” he added. “I’m doing a lot of stuff by myself . . . going for runs or shooting pucks in the back yard.
“It’s pretty much a job, eight hours a day.”
The Blazers acquired Madaisky and centre Chase Schaber from the Calgary Hitmen in January and both will be expected to shoulder a lot of responsibility on and off the ice when training camp opens Aug. 25.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Madaisky, who was hardly a regular in Calgary, showed down the stretch and in four playoff games last spring that he is ready for the load.
Madaisky’s stint in Columbus was his first taste of the pro game and, he said, “It was awesome.”
The Blue Jackets brought in 34 players, including 11 defencemen, for the five-day camp. Madaisky was the lone WHLer among the defencemen.
“It was good. It was fun and also a lot of hard work,” Madaisky said. “I definitely felt that I held my own, for sure. The skill level was all pretty similar. The older guys had a little bit of a strength advantage.”
The roster comprised mostly major junior and American college players, and Madaisky came away feeling he belonged.
“Definitely,” he said. “I felt really confident. I’m looking forward to going to the Traverse City tournament at the beginning of September.”
The Blue Jackets are one of eight NHL teams that will be represented at Traverse City, Mich., for what has become an annual event. The tournament runs Sept. 11-15.
Madaisky’s first Blue Jackets experience ended with the McConnell Cup, a tournament featuring six teams playing four-on-four and then three-on-three. His team, under assistant coach Brad Berry, who just happens to be a close friend of Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner, won the tournament.
Madaisky’s team included forwards Matt Calvert of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Chris Francis of the Portland Winterhawks, both of whom played as 20-year-olds last season.
The three-on-three games, played from the red line in, “were a lot more of a speed game,” Madaisky said. “That definitely benefited my team because we had guys like Calvert and Francis, who could find the holes and I’d just sit back and give them the puck.”
Having gotten a taste of play at that level, Madaisky has some sense of where he needs to be. So now he is focusing on improving his strength and foot speed.
“Those are the two biggest things I’m working on as a defenceman,” he said. “No matter where you are, you work on foot speed. The strength will come. And since the beginning of summer I feel I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”
He also is hoping to have the whole experience carry over into training camp.
“It was a very positive experience,” he said. “The compete level and everything . . . the whole experience . . . I’m looking to bring that intensity back to Kamloops.”
JUST NOTES: Francis, who is from Las Vegas, played five seasons in Portland. He has signed with the Springfield Falcons, the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate. . . . German F Bernhard Keil, who was selected by the Blazers in last month’s CHL import draft, tells The Daily News he is “already on the ice in Mannheim. Workout is doing very good. . . . For sure, my stuff is ready for Kamloops.” . . . Before heading for Kamloops, Keil, a right-hand shot who has been playing on the left side, will play for Germany’s U-20 team in the Summer Challenge in Arosa, Switzerland, Aug. 6-8. Germany is scheduled to play Switzerland on Aug. 6, Czech Republic on Aug. 7 and Slovakia on Aug. 8. . . . The Blazers had two others players attend development camps. F Brendan Ranford, a seventh-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft, was at the Philadelphia Flyers’ camp, while D Corey Fienhage, a third-round pick in 2008, was with the Buffalo Sabres. . . . D Josh Caron, a free agent, is in camp this week with the Minnesota Wild.