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Hunter Skinner didn't have to show up early -- he wanted to.

Skinner reported to the Lincoln Stars annual camp, which concluded on Sunday, two days before he was supposed to. He also has a big week ahead of him with the NHL Draft in Vancouver this weekend.

"It's an example of the culture that we are trying to put in place," Stars head coach Cody Chupp said. "Guys that are willing and excited to work on their game and put in the time and effort every single day. Hunter is a great example of that."

Skinner, who was traded to Lincoln this season from Muskegon, has been a vocal leader from the time he stepped into the Stars locker room and wanted to set an early tone with two extra days of workouts.

"I just wanted to see what we had and grow from there," Skinner said Sunday. "I just got back from Chicago's (Blackhawks) combine, and my legs were a little tired. I needed to get them back to normal for camp.

"I just wanted the intensity of this camp and to set the culture. Everyone is willing to work hard and lay checks and not be afraid to fight. I think we had about six fights this camp, and that's good. That is more than last year and we just have to keep our intensity up and carry on."

The 6-foot-3, 18-year-old defenseman has recently been discussed as someone who could find his name on the NHL Draft board. Taking part in Chicago's combine lends that notion some credibility.

He got a little extra exposure this year when Blackhawks' general manager Stan Bowman made an appearance at the camp in Lincoln to watch his son Will Bowman, who played two games for the Stars last season.

"I'm going to go into there (the NHL draft) with confidence," Skinner said. "You have to go into everything with confidence or it won't go your way. Even if I don't get drafted, I'm going to use that as willpower to come in harder next season."

Injury impact:  A few players did not participate, including Ross Mitton and Charlie Schoen, who are both coming off injuries. But that didn't stop them from supporting their teammates this past weekend.

Mitton and Schoen knew they weren't going to play, but they gained a lot of respect from Chupp.

"We don't pay for guys to come to camp or their travel to get to camp," Chupp said. "That's a couple guys that on their own to make the effort and financial effort to be here and spend time around future teammates. 

"Start to develop that culture and that culture that everyone knows that they are cared for and valued and ultimately important what we are trying to accomplish here."

Returners impress: Matthew Barbolini and Josh Lopina walked into camp a little taller, a little leaner, and have hit the weight room during the off season. In fact, many returning Stars players had a different swagger about them as they all have seemed to hit the reset button after last season.

Jacob Mucitelli had a solid camp in net, but Chupp is not expecting the annual gathering to show how the upcoming season will unfold.

"To a man, everyone had something to prove," Chupp said. "They really put pressure on themselves to prove it every single day. That's what we want. We want guys that will do what ever it takes to be a part of something special.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.

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