Just got back from the Burgundy and White game which was pretty entertaining. Nothing guys desperatley trying to make there mark to jazz up a scrimmage. As the outcome of the game really makes no difference I won't recap it like I would a normal season game. Instead I'll just have a random collection of thoughts for your enjoyment.
First thing I noticed was that the Peter Mueller, Matt Duchene, Milan Hejduk line looked great. Those guys seem to know each other like they grew up playing together or something. Mueller and Hejduk both looked completely recovered from their injuries to me. Duchene was getting a little physical out there, getting nasty with both Joel Chouinard and Adam Foote. In fact, he had two confrontations with the Old Man. Problems at home maybe? He also completely undressed Trevor Cann in the shootout, which was pretty awesome.
The other big line of Paul Stastny, T.J. Galiardi and Chris Stewart looked very good as well. Stewart made a slick pass to set up a one time goal by Galiardi and later on Galiardi assisted on a goal by Stewart. Paul Stastny had a couple of slick rushes, showing off his underrated stick handling. On the first one, a girl behind me asked 'Who was that guy!?' which I found pretty funny. But on the next cool rush, a guy two seats down from me said, "I like number 26. What's his name?" and I was kind of like...seriously? Two people right next to each other at an Avs scrimmage who don't know who Paul Stastny is?
The last line that will be sticking together, Ryan O'Reilly, Brandon Yip and David Jones, looked good as well. Radar scored a sweet goal, roofing it while right in front of the net. Yip was all over the place and Jones was physical. I have to say that I am very excited about the top three lines. If they stay healthy and live up even close to their potential, the Avs should be challenging Vancouver for the division lead all season.
As for the players trying to make the fourth line, Cody McLeod and Daniel Winnik stood out to me. People are right about Winnik, he's big and can move. Should be an excellent energy line player. McLeod was getting in front of the net and was getting in people's faces. Obviously it's too early to say he is back to his old self but I really, really want him to be. Kevin Porter was kind of invisible until the third when he had a couple of decent rushes. It looks like Philippe Dupuis is pushing for a roster spot. He was very noticable all night. In fact I wrote 'Dupuis looks good' early in the first and then he scored the game winning goal off a very nice outside rush late in the third. Porter may want to watch out for him. Ryan Stoa looked okay but I'm not conviced that he is a useful player to have in on the third or fourth line and he is far from breaking the top six or even the top nine.
Other guys that looked good were Zach Cohen and Mark Olver. Olver in particular had great escapability and got robbed of a penalty shot after being hauled down from behind on a break away. Wacey Hamilton is a nasty S.O.B. and seemed to be pissing people off. David Koci knocked him down hard.
On defense, the guys certain to make the team were a mixed bag. Adam Foote was Adam Foote but with a little more propensity to pinch. Scott Hannan was invisible but it's not like he has anything to prove in the preseason. Kyle Quincey was maddeningly inconsistent as he is wont to be. A couple of sweet pinches and a couple what the hell are you doing so far out of position moments. John-Michael Liles...I thought that his play at the end of the season was...not an aberration but just that he was turning on to stay in the lineup for the playoffs. But he looked good out there. Fast, strong on the puck. Maybe he made a serious breakthrough last season or maybe he is afraid that Sacco will scratch him in favor of a rookie. I don't know but I really hope he can take his play to a higher level this season. He did get manhandled by Stewart one time but he shouldn't be playing against Stewarts anyway. Kyle Cumiskey did not play. Ryan Wilson looked okay. He tried a couple hits but they were weak. We'll see what happens during the season but he has to be aware that there is some serious talent right below him on the depth chart. I would have thought that he'd bring it tonight.
Of the young defensemen that are currently trying to crack the Avs, my favorite at the moment is Jonas Holos. The kid does a lot of little things right. He knows how to use his body, he seems to have good timing when pinching and a decent shot, he is sound positionally. He did do that one-time pass that Beachie mentioned, which might be a habit he needs to break but overall I like him quite a bit. Cameron Gaunce is also very good. He showed some meanness and smarts but I don't think he is as polished as Holos at the moment. He might be the better defenseman in the long run but I think that experience in the AHL might be more useful for him than for Holos. Same for Kevin Shattenkirk. He has serious skills (awesome passing ability) and is a slick skater but I'd put him third in line for the team and I think that a bit of AHL would be good for him too. Colby Cohen does have great shot and is big but he will likely be in the AHL all season. The only other defenseman I really noticed was Troy Rutkowski. He looked okay running the powerplay and looked pretty good all night. No shot at making the team but I like him for the Monsters.
Goalies. Craig Anderson looked good if a bit rusty. I'm sure he'll be up to speed by the time the season starts. Our friends at the Avalanche Guild mentioned that Peter Budaj looked more confident and at ease which I would have to agree with. Hopefully that translates into a few more starts... I have no idea how to judge a goalie's potential so I can't say much about the prospects except that Brandon Maxwell looked better than Calvin Pickard or Trevor Cann. He made a few impressive saves in the second for a twenty minute shut out and looked good positionally to my untrained eye. Cann let in both goals against his team and the Matt Ford one was awful. Pickard let in all three goals for his team in just twenty minutes. I couldn't see him very well because I was on the other side of the ice so I don't know how well he played really. All the goals looked pretty but he was down early on the Dupuis one.
All and all the Avs are just more and more exciting. There is going to be a youth movement on defense though it will likely be a little slower and measured than the one on offense. But four of those guys have serious potential and I wouldn't be surprised if all of them are playing in the NHL in a couple seasons, maybe even all on the Avs depending on the play of Liles, Cumiskey, Wilson, Hannan and Quincey. Offense looks seriously good. I am especially excited about the third line which is better than the Avs second line the season before last. I'm even less pessimistic about the organization's goalie depth.
By the way, I realized that there were almost certainly MMH people around while I was standing around waiting for the doors to open but I recognize very few of you by face. I was the bearded guy with the blue and tan Avs hat wearing a navy blue Nuggets shirt. I'd like to start putting faces to names so, if you saw me, let me know because maybe I saw you. And if at a game any of you see a guy in a blue and tan Avs hat that looks like a dog chewed it up (because one did) and a Drury jersey with the number 18, please feel free to introduce yourself.