ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24: Second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog by the Colorado Avalanche poses for a photo portrait during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Avalanche hockey is back, yo.
Let me preface everything you're about to read by saying there was only about 45 minutes of drills (run by Lake Erie Head Coach David Quinn) from which I felt I could draw some reasonable information. The rest was some 5v5 on one rink and 4v4 on another rink. Because there are three days of this I felt like honing in on a couple of specific players each day instead of just waiting for someone to make a play and scrambling to write his number down.
After the jump, a couple of thoughts about some of the good and bad I saw on the ice. I look forward to other observers chiming in to even out the thoughts a bit more <3
Might as well just start with the big kahuna first...
Gabriel Landeskog: Since people seem to love knowing this, Landy was indeed the first guy on the ice today. He spent the first several minutes working with Lake Erie coach David Quinn and Tyson Barrie taking shots at Sami Aitokallio while the rest of the skaters slowly filed onto the rink and began warming up. Landy was far and away the most polished skater and it showed nearly every time he ran a drill. His skating was clean and crisp and he showed good burst when he wanted to. He had zero problems handling the puck and looked comfortable in every drill. I was a little surprised by how small he looked, though this might have been an expectation-created disappointment. That said, his frame was nicely filled out and is probably close to being maxed. He still takes up plenty of space on the ice to create problems for the opposition.
Stefan Elliott: While Dario and Matt were busy fawning over the showing Tyson Barrie was putting on, I was watching the other WHL Defenseman of the Year put on an impressive display of his own. His skating was decent as he had fluid hips transitioning from skating forwards to backwards and showed an impressive short area burst. His passing was crisp and for the most part he received the puck well. His big showing came in the form of a wicked wrister that he consistently abused Aitokallio with. He found a soft spot high on the glove side and kept going back to the well as he unleashed at least 3 nasty wristers that made the young Euro goalie look pretty bad. Elliott locked onto the puck a bit too much when skating with it for my liking but this did improve as the day wore on and he settled in. In some of the scrimmages later (and definitely take this with a grain of salt because guys were only going about 60%), Elliott showed some nice stick work on the defensive end as he found himself in the middle of a couple of nice passing lanes to stop offensive rushes.
Troy Rutkowski: This is a guy who became a bit of a sleeper prospect as the season wore on so I wanted to see what he was all about. Sadly, his day was far and away the worst of the prospects I watched closely. He showed up more frequently in my notes than anybody and none of it was good. His skating was very mechanical and choppy, at times looking like he was constantly on the verge of tumbling to the ice. He showed little to no explosiveness and was frequently far behind his teammates in the drills they ran. He fought the puck all day as he left passes to teammates well behind them, allowed pucks to deflect off his stick as he received passes, and frequently lost control of the puck in open ice with nobody around. At one point, I had become so frustrated watching him I just wrote down "He won't stop being bad". He was the biggest letdown for me on the day. I'll keep an eye on him the next two days to see if today was just 'one of those days' for him.
Garrett Meurs: I arbitrarily picked him to watch as I was seeking somebody else to watch when the above three weren't busy. Things started out well for young Mr. Meurs as I immediately noticed the quick release on his shot and how strong of a skater he appeared to be. Sadly, this would be the high point of his day as the drills wore on, the more he fought the puck in open ice. His passing wasn't an issue but he struggled greatly to receive them cleanly. He struggled an awful lot carrying the puck while keeping his head up. Nearly every time he tried to look ahead, control the puck, and change direction it resulted in the puck skittering helplessly away from him. He began trying to compensate for this consistent failure by looking down longer, a bad habit that he'll need to break as his development continues. While his skating looked fluid, he wasn't a burner out there today. There was almost no explosion in his skates as he tried to gain speed and his first step was essentially non-existent.
Some guys who I watched a bit but not sufficiently enough to give you a detailed breakdown were Tyson Barrie, Brad Malone, Duncan Siemens, and Stephen Silas. Barrie was impressive every time I managed to catch him running around. He's bigger than I expected but size is still going to be a problem for him against the big boys. He's been well-coached in his skating as he looked smooth and confident. Malone similarly looked very comfortable in his skates and showed the kind of burst he's going to need in the NHL. He's a guy whose skill set will best be measured in the way he plays in actual game settings because of his physical/agitation playstyle but just running the drills today he looked a guy who was going to make a case for a roster spot. Siemens is a guy who I'll be featuring tomorrow quite a bit more but from what I saw, he's a guy with a ton of room to grow physically. His frame is far from being maxed out and when he bulks up he's going to be a real physical force. Silas is a guy who I was pretty excited to see but if not for Rutkowski's abysmal performance today, Silas would be the guy getting the majority of my criticisms. He had many of the same problems as Rutkowski but not as consistently.
So that's it for most of the player 'evaluations' for today. Anybody who wants me to keep an eye on specific players tomorrow just let me know in the comments and I'll watch them like I did the four today. Siemens is already on the list, though I'm sure the rest of the observers today can tell you all about him.
Some random thoughts from the day that I noticed but weren't really relevant to anything going on:
-Cody McLeod is kind of hilarious. He spent the last several minutes of the 4v4 scrimmage giving loud, obnoxious play-by-play commentary that had several of the guys on the ice smiling as they skated by him, culminating in him celebrating a goal scored against his team for whatever reason.
-David Quinn is an imposing guy. Not in stature so much in the way he commands attention on the ice with a loud, heavy voice.
That's all for today!
Beachie here. Some videos of the day by our very own Dario (since you told Jori it was okay, I went with it):