Last night the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks prospects teams both officially took the ice for the first time kicking off this training camp/pre season campaign for their respective teams.
There is all ways tons of intrigue surrounding these games as it’s the first real chance to get a look at some of the young talented draftees from the recent draft, as well as a chance to see if anyone has drastically improved over their work in the off season.
The game itself got off to a fast and physical start with A.J Greer dropping the gloves with Jake Middleton just over a minute into the contest. You knew coming into this 3 game prospect showcase tournament that tempers would be high as many of these players see this as their last shot to show a team that they might just have what it takes to make it at the next level. Last seasons first prospect game there were multiple fights throughout the contest.
The overall game continued to be a pretty fast paced physical game. That was a good sign for an early contest. Hopefully, the prospects can help to set the tone early and then continue that through camp and pre season when that gets started for the Avalanche later this week.
The Avalanche seemed to get a bit winded midway through the 3rd period, (especially on defense) but overall they gave it a really good effort for the first game. The game itself was a very closely fought contest until Spencer Martin was removed from the net and replaced by Francis Leclerc, who we have to say just plain struggled letting in 4 goals in the 3rd period alone. He was drafted just this year though and could have just been feeling butterflies a bit getting his first chance to play in front of the NHL team who drafted him. I am sure that we will get a better
He was drafted just this year though and could have just been feeling butterflies a bit getting his first chance to play in front of the NHL team who drafted him. I am sure that we will get a better outing from him next time out.
Players who stood out
As far as players who stood out in the game itself you have to say that Shawn St-Amant sure looked like he was hell bent on doing all that he could to show the coaching staff he was ready to take his game to the next level. I put him at the top stand out for me personally, not because he was necessarily the best player on the ice, but because he was someone I did not know, or expect much out of. He made a few very impressive reads and was pushing the puck down the wall into the o zone with speed and determination every chance he got. He looked especially impressive when he was shifted to the top line. He seemed to have gained some confidence by that point as well and let us get a look at what he can do. I am expecting this guy to be a late cut from camp this season and be sent to the AHL affiliate Rampage and be one of the top couple of call ups when injuries hit. That being said, I also expect that he is the kind of player who once he gets his shot in the lineup, he might just make the most of it and claim and full-time NHL roster spot.
Another player in that same vein who I knew little about before last night and showed me enough to pique my interest was Ty Lewis.
We should watch both of these kids as this prospect showcase continues and we get into camp and pre season.
Defensemen that stood out
Nicolas Meloche was another player who I have personally really been excited about for a couple of years now. I admittedly thought that he would need another year or 2 before he was ready to start getting some consideration for the Avalanche as far as the NHL goes, but if there is one thing that we learned last night it is that the young defencemen that the Avalanche have sure seemed to work hard in the off season. Meloche, Lindholm, Bigra, and Mironov all look like they are going to bring all they have to the table this pre season and camp. They all had varying degrees of success and failures in last nights game, but they all seemed to give it all they could. Knowing that there are potentially so many moving pieces on the blue line this year seems to be bringing out the best in the young defencemen. Looking at the prospect skate and drills that happened a day earlier and looking at the game last night it’s clear to me that Meloche is a bit ahead of my predicted schedule.
Bigras seems to have taken the suggestion from the Avalanche that he might want to put some more meat on his frame to better be ready for a chance at an NHL spot this season as he looks to have packed on some serious muscle. Comparing the kid we saw in the NHL a couple years ago to who we see now is quite the thing to see. Now, if he can just start to learn to use that frame a bit more physically and lay the body on opposition players a bit more I think that he could have a real shot of making the team this season. He played a lot more how we would like to see him play last night. Seems like he had a talk with a friend of mine and fellow writer Patrick Mifflin who told me before the game that he would like to see Bigra play more physical and if he could do that he has a great chance of making the team and being solid defensemen as he continues to develop
Now, if he can just start to learn to use that frame a bit more physically and lay the body on opposition players a bit more I think that he could have a real shot of making the team this season. He played a lot more how we would like to see him play last night. Seems like he had a talk with a friend of mine and fellow Puck Planet writer, Patrick Mifflin who told me before the game that he would like to see Bigra play more physical and if he could do that he has a great chance of making the team and being solid defensemen as he continues to develop because from the drop of the puck last night he was doing just that.
The defense is going to be one of the most intriguing stories all through camp and pre season for the Avalanche, and I for one am much more excited and encouraged by what I saw from all of them the last couple days then I was a couple weeks ago.
Forwards who stood out
Tyson Jost, JT Compher, Kerfoot, Greer, St-Amant all looked very solid in the game as well when it comes to the forward group. with Lewis as an honorable mention to keep an eye on. I, as well as most Avalanche fans probably were excited to see how the 2 new NCAA UFA signings would look for the Avalanche. Kerfoot gets the nod by me early on after one prospect game, but we have to remember it’s only one very early game. Dominic Tonitino has very favorable comparisons to Sean Couturier by many scouts so Avs fans don’t go giving up on him just yet! The more you see Jost the more you can just see that this kid is going to be something very special sooner than later. The comparisons to Toews have been thrown around a lot, but you can’t help but see Toews in Jost’s game when you watch him absolutely dominate the play as he did last night. He did not finish with a goal to his name, but every time he stepped foot on the ice he took over the play. Another thing to note about Jost is to pay attention to the way he goes after steals. He has got to be one of the best young players I have seen in a long time when it comes to just sticking a guy to borrow a soccer term and coming away with the puck and he’s off to the races in the transition game before the player who had the puck can even turn around. That was showcased in a huge way in his first ever NHL game when he did that and everyone was thinking.. wow, did you just see that??
The more you watch Jost the more you can see that this kid is going to be something very special sooner than later. The comparisons to Toews have been thrown around a lot, but you can’t help but see Toews in Jost’s game when you watch him absolutely dominate the play as he did last night. He did not finish with a goal to his name, but every time he stepped foot on the ice he took over the play. Another thing to note about Jost’s game is the way he goes after steals. He has got to be one of the best young players
He has got to be one of the best young players I have seen in a long time when it comes to just sticking a guy (to borrow a soccer term) and coming away with the puck. Once he does he is then off to the races in the transition game before the player who had the puck can even turn around. That was showcased in a huge way in his first ever NHL game when he did that and everyone was thinking.. wow, did you just see that??
That was showcased in a huge way in his first ever NHL game when he did that and everyone was thinking.. wow, did you just see that??
Kerfoot showed off his great hockey IQ and playmaking all night. There was at least one point when he made a great pass and the scouts in attendance all looked around at each other in amazement at what they just saw him pull off.
Did we learn anything interesting?
Ben Storm is HUGE! okay, but really… did you see him out there last night? If you aren’t sure what number he is just watch for the guy who makes everyone else look like they are midgets, yeah him. He is the 6’6/6’8 (depending on what site you believe ) without skates on a kid who was playing forward last night. Is he skilled enough to complement that size and make it to the NHL one day? That is left to be seen, but the kid is just flat impressive to see how massive he is out there. Anyways, onto more hockey-related items…
The new power play coach actually changed up the way the Avalanche moved and played the puck on the man advantage. Imagine that! All kidding aside though, I was very much enjoying the way that they were moving the puck and attempting to play the power play. This kind of a system with the Avalanches full roster is one that could lead to a much-improved power play percentage from last season. I was very thrilled about the new coaches impressive power play pedigree when we signed him. You can check out my article here.
The biggest thing that we can take away from this game is that for the first time in quite a while this Avalanche team is going to have some pretty impressive depth all the way down to their AHL level of players who not only could step in case of injuries this season, but once they do they might just make it impossible for you to take them out of the line up once they get their shot.
The Avalanches next prospect game will be on Monday, then they will have one final prospect showcase game on Tuesday before training camp officially opens for the full team. Last season the Avalanche won this prospect showcase tournament, and with 2 games left, they still have a chance to repeat if they can get a couple wins. Not that it means too much at this point, but all players prefer to win, so you can bet that Monday the players will be giving it their all to get the win and showcase their skills for the coaches.
Duchene/ Zadorov Update?
So far there isn’t too much new to report here, Joe expects Duchene to be at camp on the first required date to report as he does any player who is currently under contract. Channel 9 news reported a couple of days ago that Duchene would likely be holding out of camp if there was not a trade before it starts. If we learn anything of substance or significant that we can confirm we will let you know, in the mean time here are a few quotes by Joe about the situation.
Joe, when asked about the Duchene situation, had this to say…
“He’s under contract and I expect him to be here on the 14th. He doesn’t have to be here ’til the 14th. Not everybody always come to camp early. It’s not for me to (say), but I assume on the 14th, he’ll be here.”
And, what if he doesn’t?
“Well, I don’t have to worry about that right now. Training camp is Thursday. There’s nothing to think about right now. Training camp isn’t until the 14th and we expect everyone that’s signed to be there, like every other year.”
These quotes and others can be found in the great article over at BSN Avalanche. Here is a link to the article. Please be sure to give the full article a read as BSN Avalanche continues to be one of the great sources for all things Avalanche in the Denver area!
What did you think of the first prospect game of this season? Who were you impressed by? Who let you down a bit? Do you agree with us or disagree? Either way feel free to drop a comment and we can continue the discussion there!
Unitl next time,