Surprise! With Beachie doing all the hard work this week and me leisurely getting to sit back and just watch some hockey, we did a sweet role reversal. Beachie's contributions will be filtered in throughout as I did all the writing in her adorable little notebook and with her bitchin' purple pen.
It's important when reading this that you take into account I love defensemen and spent the vast majority of the time watching our young D prospects and some of the vets who were standing out in some fashion. If you want a lot info on the forwards, you're probably not getting it here.
Jump with me!....land with me?
Wottles. Liles is a top 150 fantasy hockey player. This was apparently important at some point. We nicknamed one of the Zamboni drivers "Crimson" for his erie (lololol) similarity to MHH member TheRed. Cheers, buddy!
Warm-ups started like every warm-up ever has started but it was noted that the goals were not yet on the moorings and on the side I was sitting on, all the players were just shooting into the crooked net until Matt Duchene rolled across the crease, got down onto the ice and did it his damn self. Seeing as how everything he does is electric, this was oddly fascinating. Cody McLeod looks really old. Peter Mueller still looks like a pirate (which is awesome, btw). Jason Bacashihua gave me his second head nod this week. <3 you too but mostly for your bad ass mask, playa.
Ryan Wilson - For a guy with a shaky hold on a roster spot, he certainly wasn't playing the lights out kind of hockey he needs to be to instill any confidence in him. He had poor passing and was caught out of position on multiple occasions. He was very prone to turnovers and seemed to lack consistent focus in both games. His two big highlights that I have written down were a great breakout pass that allowed a 2-on-1 to develop at the other end which Matt Duchene cashed in and him turning one of his negative plays into a positive when he facilitated an odd-man rush against his team but hustled back to break it up. Still playing a lot like post-concussion Wilson. Count me in the camp that's nervous about him.
Jonas Holos - A lot of internet ink has been spilled talkin' about this cat and the potential he has to be this year's 7th defenseman. Conflicting opinions about his play yesterday should be able to converge into agreement today that he was leaps and bounds better. He plays a very sound positional game, makes good decisions when he has time, and uses his body very well. This was most evident when Chris Stewart came breaking into the zone and Holos stopped him in his tracks and send the puck the other way. While a very positive showing overall for Holos, a trend I noticed was his tendency to go into the corner and lose possession of the puck. This happened enough that when it didn't happen, I wrote it down. It took nearly 2 full games for him to win a battle in the corner. The other hiccup in his game seems to be his decision-making when under pressure. Instead of making an easy chip play up the boards or cycling the puck around, too often Holos was trying to corral the puck, stop, and look around. You simply don't have that kind of time, kid. Make a decision and go with it. Swiss Neutrality is not an option. Also written down in my notes are specific plays in which Brandon Yip picks his pocket on one and where Holos makes Kevin Porter look like a scrub on another. So, there's that.
Kevin Shattenkirk - The team's top prospect the last several years (at least in my mind because Duchene and O'Reilly never got the chance to be prospects =p) has been the other big name floating around the internets in this great battle for which defenseman will be spending evenings in the press box chillin with Koci. I'll just start with a direct comparison to Holos because it's easy and I'm lazy, yo. Shattenkirk often wanders into the corner and either he comes out with it or makes the play that results in the puck leaving the zone shortly thereafter. He's not as physical as I would like but at 5'11'', I won't gripe about it too much. His passing continues to be very solid and while not a lot of great outlet passes were made today, he consistently made the easy play and didn't try to do too much with the puck. His biggest asset I noted today was his vision and movement without the puck. Time and time again Shattenkirk would pinch in at the perfect moment. He was almost always open and rarely was he giving the opposing team a chance to take it the other way. This instinct jumped out today as no other defenseman out there outside of Liles was as aggressive or sound at picking his spots to jump into the offense. Something that bothered me was his consistent bobbling of the puck at the blueline. It's only one day we're talking about here so I'm not making any broad generalizations about this but it did bother me. Multiple offensive possessions were lost because he couldn't handle a pass to the point. Not cool, dude. Shattenkirk also has a tendency to be very timid with the puck. He frequently holds the puck a bit too long and seems very hesitant to let one rip. Can we GET this man some killer instinct, please?
Scott Hannan - I only have two things written down about him. "Sucks at offense. A lot." and "If he grows his hair back out, I'm going to refer to him as The Invisible Woman from here on out. Where is he?". Cough.
Joel Chouinard - I have no idea how to actually pronounce his name, so I've just started calling him 'Chewy'. Clever, amirite? Sadly, this bit of positivity in terms of giving him a nickname will be all for not because this guy is nowhere near the NHL. He was atrocious all day. Only Stephen Silas was consistently worse. Not surprisingly, those two were literally anchoring the Grey Team that got facerolled in both games. I have written down 7 times "lazy turnover" and one note that says "too winded to get back and cover the odd-man rush he just gave up. oh look. they scored". I was stoked to see how he did in this camp because of how much I had read about him. Yeah, excitement gone. He and Silas were the only guys to elicit strong feelings backed by reasoning the entire week and none of those feelings were good. I'll finish Chewy's write-up with the last note I wrote about him: "Cannot touch the puck without making a mental error. Dude is the plague."
Stephen Silas - See: Chouinard, Joel but without the insanely original nickname.
Troy Rutkowski - "Bad pinch on offense leads to odd-man rush the other way. Instead of hustling, he adjusts the chain he's wearing. I knew I hated him for a reason."
John-Michael Liles - Holy mother of whatever you believe in was this man on fire today. Thankfully, he stretched at center ice today and I wasn't sitting right in front of him. I was pretty stoked about this. Hockey wise, he was fantastic. Easily the fastest defenseman on the ice today (Remember Cumiskey didn't play at all) and was a fantastic facilitator in both games. Scored a magnificent one-handed backhander that made whoever was in net just look flat silly and caused Beachie to nerd squee. His goal came after splitting the lackadaisical Ryan Wilson/Stephen Silas pairing and was a result of him just blowing by everyone in the area. Sexy, sexy goal. Defensively, he didn't make any colossal errors that made me want to ram the adorable purple pen into my eye sockets but his team was so good offensively they didn't really HAVE to play much defense in either of their games.
Colby Cohen - Well, they weren't kidding about his shot. For the first time since the opening 10 minutes of Rookie Camp on Tuesday, Cohen let one rip and even though it (barely) missed, it was a rocket. Exciting as hell to see an Avs prospect with that kind of shot coming up through the system. While fun, that was never the big question with Cohen. The actual DEFENSE portion of his game is still suspect in my mind. He never really was challenged and I figured playing with Liles he would definitely get a chance but it just never came. Again, the team he was playing on was very good offensively so he didn't have to do a lot on defense. He is very aggressive in pushing tempo and attempting to make things happen on offense. This aggressiveness did lead to a couple of silly turnovers on offense but none of them translated to any kind of offense the other way so that's good. Still, process is more important than result in this kind of setting. His one big defensive stand came on a rush by Philippe Dupuis and he kept him to the outside until Dupuis ran out of room and had to take a weak shot on goal with no real angle. I was pretty lukewarm on Cohen before this camp but coming out of it, I am definitely excited. I would say of the 4 guys we have pegged as in contention for the last spot, he's a distant 4th.
Travis Gawryletz - "Enjoy making those plays in the minors your entire career". Great hair, though.
Kyle Quincey - Coming into today, I felt like Quincey had been the most visible of the veteran defenders, both on the ice and vocally. I started feeling like the BAMF had come out to play and that our money was well-spent this off-season. His day started out strong with him making crisp passes, throwing the body around a little bit and generally being the blowfish (glovetap, homie) troll on defense every good team has. And then it all came undone in a 5 minute (real-time) span that was horrifying to witness. Extremely soft defense in front of the net leads to a chip-in rebound goal by Michael Bournival and WHILE I WAS STILL WRITING, had a chance to get his pocket picked 2 minutes later behind his own net by that same Bournival and left David Jones all alone in front of the net to net another easy one. I was appalled at how awful the whole sequence was. Even worse was the casual attitude he had about the whole thing. At some point, he also got into a bit of a scrum with Dan Winnik at center ice that escalated into gloves dropping and a fight breaking out. At least we have SOMEONE who can fight this year as Winnik dominated Quincey in the way Hulk pimp-handed Omega Red in Hulk vs. Wolverine.
Cameron Gaunce - Now THAT is what I'm talking about, dude. Some of y'all probably already know he was my pick for that last spot before the camps and throughout I've maintained the "Ehhh...it's gonna be close" stance and while I still think we can't go wrong in the 3 man running of Gaunce, Shattenkirk, and Holos, Gaunce is still my pick to be that guy. His defensive positioning was rock solid all day, his decision-making with the puck spot-on, and he covered the frequent pinches by Adam Foote (btw, wtf Adam???) like a seasoned vet. He plays a physical style of hockey and punishes guys behind the net who take a little too long to give him the puck. His offensive game didn't jump off the ice much today, despite making several solid reads and pinching in, but he didn't make any mistakes and as a defenseman, I'm always ALWAYS giving the edge to the guy who plays the most consistently sound defensive game. Gaunce fit that bill for me and then sealed the deal when he got into a serious scrum with Justin Mercier late in the day. It ended with with non-PG words being shouted across the ice after having Foote and Mike Carman get into it a little bit and Cody McLeod entering the fray as the token angry red head. Welcome back, hockey season! Gaunce was the big key in this angry cog and a little mean streak is always a good thing in your defense. His pairing with Foote looked natural and was by far my favorite pairing of the day. He also looked amazing going back to touch up the puck on one particular icing ;)
You mean we have forwards, too?
Matt Duchene - Awesome as always. This isn't as much about Duchene as it is the Mueller/Duchene/Hejduk line, though. Those guys look like they have spent the entire summer drinking beer and skating around a pond somewhere together. It's almost bizarre how in-tune they are right now. Very, VERY excited for this line.
Kevin Porter - Holy crap what happened to you? Being invisible would have been a step up, dude. Trying to do too much with the puck in front of your own net and turning it over and following that act of brilliance up with being unable to clear it along the boards 15 seconds later is not how you make a pro hockey team. My note is as follows: "Channeling Koci =(". Get it together, kid.
Brandon Yip - Scored multiple goals, all of the sexy variety, threw the body around, played fantastic offense and didn't suck on defense. He was the best forward on the ice today, imo. Not sure what else to say about him other than "Yes, do more of that, plixplox".
Zach Cohen - The Other Cohen is a guy I've really enjoyed watching over the last week. He's a very physical forward with a little jump in his skates and loves to mix it up. Consistently puts himself in good offensive positions and ends up with scoring chances frequently. I'll be keeping a closer eye on his development after this week.
Mark Olver - This kid can skate, create, and d-d-d-dominate! Kind of. A very active presence on the ice on nearly every shift, I found myself writing his number down constantly. Very creative with the puck, excellent passer, and has a helluva shot. If only he was bigger and tougher on the puck. Sigh. Still, a bright future could be ahead for this mighty mite as his offensive game definitely shines.
David Jones - Not much has changed. He's healthy, at the moment, he's physical, and he keeps finding ways to score. I saw exactly what I wanted to from him. He didn't shy away from contact, didn't favor any particular body part, and just kept putting pressure on the defense. His wrister is a thing of beauty, yo.
Dan Winnik - TY, Phoenix. TY. I'm actually excited about our 4th line this year, if only because of this enormous chunk of man. He's active, he's physical, he skates hard, he has some offensive skills and he isn't a hopeless headcase on defense. He just keeps chuggin' along and I feel we're all going to really enjoy his contributions this season. He might even make us forget about Hendricks (qq) not being here.
Ryan O'Reilly - This is kind of amusing, seeing as how I'm likely his biggest detractor around. If he keeps playing like this, I'll stop drinking the haterade or whatever you wanna call the anti-koolaid. He's a monster nearly every time his skates hit the ice and he's still excellent on defense but with an improved offensive game, maybe he'll actually score more than 6 points in the last 4 months of the season this time around. With Yip and Jones as his linemates at the moment, I don't anticipate this being a problem at all.
Ryan Stoa - This kid really, REALLY does not want to go back to Cleveland. While I certainly can't fault him for that, I think the top 9 is just too good right now. He's knocking on the door with all 6'3'' of his frame, though. I am hereby declaring myself Ryan Stoa's biggest supporter right now. All that's been said about him the last few days (a lot of it by me, go figure) held true today and as soon as someone gets hurt, this guy's phone is ringing.
That's about it for all the notes on the players. If you have any questions on a particular player that isn't on the list, I'll try to remember what I can since I know I definitely missed some stuff.
Individual Game Recaps can be found at the team site as their information is probably more accurate than mine as hearing all penalties and goals/assists was pretty difficult.
EDIT: All the folks I met at the rink over the last few days, just wanted to give you all a shoutout and say it was a pleasure meeting you all and talking some puck. It was really a great time!