The 2013-14 edition of the Colorado Avalanche will begin to take shape on Thursday morning, as the club opens its annual training camp. Joining the veterans will be the 28 participants from rookie camp earlier this week. So, before we dream about potential line combos and who will be paired with whom, a brief look back at some of the youngsters who stood out and who to watch out for over the next three days.
Lets start with the obvious here and that would be 2013 top pick Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon seemed to have a target on his back during rookie camp; particularly on the final day in which he was tripped twice during drills and received an inadvertent high stick to the face from Duncan Siemens.
Despite the attention, MacKinnon's infamous skating was on display and he wowed the fans with his puck handling, but he didn't stand out as much as expected. He seems to be easing himself into his first training camp and he has the confidence from head coach Patrick Roy. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him step it up a few notches as he skates with the veterans.
Another first round pick trying to make an impression was 2011 draftee Duncan Siemens. Siemens has filled out his 6'3" frame and showed aggressiveness and toughness that was lacking in some of the Avalanche defenders last season. Colorado has had difficulty in developing defensemen recently. Siemens shows signs of changing that recent history. With Patrick Roy's plan of having the Monsters and Avs play a similar style, starting Siemens with the Monsters will be the best for his continued development.
The Avs brass were over the moon when they selected Chris Bigras in the second round of the 2013 draft, and if rookie camp is any indication, they have a right to pound their chests a bit. It is premature to expect Bigras to make the opening night roster, but to have a defenseman read the ice so well makes one take notice and he has a bit of fire in his game to boot. Watch over the next three days how he is quick to adapt. The Avs veterans will be an interesting test for the Ontario native.
Rookie camp wasn't all fun and games. For one, Joey Hishon was a no show due to a groin injury. Secondly, both Monday and Tuesday's sessions ended with a bag skate. Monday's session was more notable as assistant coach Tim Army was clearly displeased with the lack of crispness in the passing during several of the drills.
Karl Stollery had a tough camp to say the least. He was consistently beat in one-on-one drills throughout camp.
If Stollery was the most "disappointing," a tip of the cap to a couple of players who had an underrated camp in Paul Carey and Joseph Blandisi. Like his Boston College days, Carey was a tough player to defend around the net. Blandisi's puck handling skills sneaked up on a lot of fans unexpectedly.
Perhaps the top performers overall were the goaltenders; particularly in the first two days of camp. Sami Aittokallio and Kieran Milan particularly stood out; Aittokallio with his rebound control and Milan with some tantalizing athletic saves. Spencer Martin had a particularly rough day on Tuesday morning. What didn't hit the post or crossbar, more often than not found its way to the back of the net.
It's difficult to determine how a player will pan out based on three days of drills, but players can stand out based on their effort. Still, the 28 players who suited up earlier this week now face a greater challenge with the addition of the Colorado Avalanche veterans. Let the games begin!