Training Camp was fuuuuuun.
Between the antics of the unflappable Colonel Mustard (at the hockey rink, with his stupidity) and the general chaos of finally seeing this year's team hit each other a bit, I'd say we're off to a pretty rockin start. I really didn't have an interest in doing a day-by-day report of when I saw so many people doing them so I thought I'd take the lazy route and write up a recap of the whole thing. If you're already tired of talking about imaginary awesomeness and some overreactions to 9 scrimmages in three days, well, stop reading.
It's about to get real up in here.The Studs:
- Erik Johnson: Might as well start at the top. Simply put, EJ is the real deal. The little things he does that look so easy you usually won't see other guys even try because making the perfect backhand saucer pass that lands perfectly flat and hits a streaking player in stride while slipping past the defense is actually really hard to do....except for him. Because he does things like that all the time. Physically, that's his blue line, man. Keep your head up when crossing center because EJ is always looking for a chance to blow someone up. That EJ stood out this much without including any of his ability on special teams was exciting. If he can translate this into games and bring it consistently, he could be in for a very expensive extension this off-season.
- Joakim Lindstrom: Color my surprised. When camp opened, I saw him as a curious commodity but never once took him seriously as a guy to make the roster. Uh, my bad. I know it's training camp and I know it's just intra-squad scrimmaging...but the guy has legit NHL tools. His hands are so soft and his shot just jumps off the stick. I asked myself if Lindstrom looked this good because I had such low expectations or he was just that good. After three days of watching him constantly nearly every shift, well, he had a great camp. His decision-making in the open ice was excellent. He pushed when he had the lanes, he pulled up and looked for the open man (and then hit him with a crisp pass) when his own scoring chance wasn't there and if nothing was there he cycled it. His work along the boards isn't overly impressive but he wasn't hesitant to head to the net when he saw the chance. I'm not sure how many points he tallied throughout but he was a force on the first line. I really hope this isn't some training camp illusion and I look back at this write-up in 6 months and feel like an idiot. If he plays like this for the majority of the season, he should be a 50-point scorer.
- Kyle Quincey: Aaahhhhh. That's what I'm talkin about. He was tough on defense, laying the wood frequently and rarely getting beat. He partnered with just about everyone on his team at one point or the other to varying results. His partnership with Gaunce on the last day produced some excellent defense and one gorgeous goal as Gaunce got the puck at the blue line and immediately whipped it across to Quincey, who drilled the one-timer home. Pretty hockey was pretty. Quincey played a very aggressive game on the offensive end as he was seen pinching frequently and looking for his shot more often than not. It was an intriguing display and I wonder if he was showing Avs brass there was no need to rush Stefan Elliott because he could handle the QB spot of the second PP unit. Speaking of which...
- Stefan Elliott: Here's a guy who got some pub from the Denver Post guys as both said they thought Elliott had a good shot at making the roster out of camp. I thought they were crazy but after seeing him on the ice, maybe they know a thing or two after all. His defense is a work in progress and there's no getting around that. Whether in Erie or Denver, Elliott is going to have to improve his work on the defensive end by leaps and bounds. I think there's plenty of upside to work with and he could definitely turn himself into a league-average defender someday. That offense, though, is going to keep him employed for a long time. Whereas the Liles/Shattenkirk type of offensive defenseman relies on great passing and vision to make the offense go, Elliott relies on a killer instinct and finishing ability you don't find in a lot of D-men. His wrister is straight wicked and he places it like a seasoned veteran. He's going to be a power play dynamo in the NHL. His passing and decision-making with the puck are solid but aren't going to blow you away. Elliott's willingness to take the puck into the open ice (read: center) in the offensive end really opens more options for him to do some damage. I lovelovelove what I saw out of Elliott in this camp. If he makes the team, I hope the Avs put him with O'Brien on the third pairing and exploit their respective special teams skills while protecting them in 5-on-5 situations.
- Jay McClement: He wasn't a stud in the way the other guys were but that's Silent Jay's Way. Stop me if you've heard this before but...this guy is a pretty excellent defensive player. I love watching him work on defense. He's so smooth and is almost never caught out of position. His head is constantly on a swivel, surveying the ice and getting to where he needs to be. So much of what makes McClement good are tiny details that I don't know how to accurately describe. What IS easy to point out was how aggressive he was on the offensive end. He really came to play and was buzzing around the net like he actually wouldn't mind scoring a goal or two this season. He keeps this up and our fourth line just might chip in some points this season.
- Ryan O'Reilly: By now, I expect to be blown away by this guy every time I see him play up close. His decision-making is so good and the tiny things he does on defense and in the neutral zone are ridiculous. Almost always during the Blue team's games I would find myself just randomly saying "He is SO good". His offense is what everybody, certainly myself included, is waiting to see because he's shown he's going to stick in the NHL for many a year with his defensive acumen. His training camp performance was an encouraging sign that he might finally be ready to break out from his 26 point season habit and turn the corner into a more significant contributor. Playing primarily with Gabriel Landeskog, O'Reilly was a hummingbird in the offensive zone, zooming around doing everything he could to pot some goals. Sadly, we didn't draft Adam Larsson so scoring those goals was a lot harder than it should've been. Thanks Landy! But really, O'Reilly looks great but this isn't the first time he's looked great in training camp. He's a guy who it didn't matter what he did this weekend because he's done it before but not in the games. This year is big for him. Is he the guy who scored 17 points in his first 24 games...or the one who scored 35 in his next 131?
T.J. Galiardi: Using the over-the-top internet bashing he received as fuel this summer, Gali showed up in camp built like a tank and brought a matching attitude with him. On day one he made it clear he wasn't screwing around. He was there to prove a point, win a job, and remove any doubt that he belonged in the NHL. Uhh....mission accomplished, dude. All three days Gali was a heat-seeking missile out to destroy anyone who got in his way. He even occasionally played a little hockey when he got bored with annihilating his poor teammates. Offense, defense, none of that mattered. We all know what Gali can do when he's motivated. This weekend he was definitely motivated. He keeps it up all season long and he won't be making an embarrassing return trip to Cleveland this time around.
Chuck Kobasew: Again??
Brandon Yip: His line was productive; he was not. His line contributed positively all over the ice; he did not. His line looked engaged and active; he did not. The whole experience was utterly painful to be a part of. I have no idea what happened to the kid with the unsustainable shooting percentages who played hard and was a factor on nearly every shift because that dude is totally gone now. The four rows of jerseys hanging in Altitude Authentics with his name are going to be there a very long time.
Kyle Cumiskey: There were two distinct sounds during training camp. The sound the boards made when Patrick Bordeleau was crushing someone and the sound the boards made when Kyle Cumiskey was getting touched. Actually, there was one distinct sound during training camp. I Enjoy Cleveland, Kyle! I hear it rocks :)
Ryan Stoa: Stop me if you've heard this before, but Ryan Stoa is really big. As in, he should be a dominant power forward in the NHL really big. Unfortunately, this isn't the alternate universe where Ryan Stoa has the willingness to throw his weight around enough (at all...) to be a factor in the NHL. The only time he went into the boards full of temerity was when Troy Rutkowski was tripping over the puck all by his lonesome. I sure wish he would give a damn against actual NHL players and not the guys he knows for sure he can dominate.
Jonas Holos: He did some things well. He zones out attackers well, plays angles very well, and doesn't get out of position very often. It wasn't nearly enough, though. His puckhandling was god awful, his passing sub par at best and was a complete non-factor offensively in any way. His defense wasn't good enough to make up for a pretty pathetic showing on offense. I think a couple good months in Lake Erie should help him regain his confidence or whatever it is he's lacking right now that's making him play so poorly. Very disappointed in his performance.
Troy Rutkowski/Dillon Donnelly: I feel bad about putting them here because they were late-round draft picks and have essentially zero expectations but I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention how bad these two were. They each had bright spots, with Rutkowski scoring twice and Donnelly making Brad Malone's face break out in blood, but other than those ''blind hog finding the acorn" moments, these two were horrific all weekend long. Skating, passing, shooting, decision-making, offense, defense, mouthpiece chewing. All of it was bad. Bad bad bad.
The Mixed Bag:
Mark Olver: The people sitting with me throughout camp heard me talking about how Olver is perfect. I also mentioned in a thread the other day that no two players were in more dire need of a body switching movie than Ryan Stoa and Mark Olver. You put Olver's ultra-aggressive attitude in the body of Stoa and you have an All-Star power forward. You leave the as they currently are and you have one second round bust and one tiny dude with a ton of fight who did literally everything he could to make a case for securing a spot on the roster out of camp (again). He's creative with the puck, has good vision, and scored himself a goal and was in on a few other high quality scoring chances. His problem, other than size, is he's kind of an asshole. When the puck is away from him, he has this insatiable desire to screw with the guys around him. He's whacking away, or chirping at them, or tugging on skates or SOMETHING. This is all good and well but he doesn't do these things with any subtlety at all. He's blatant about all of it and in a real game, he'd be getting called for penalties left and right. His idea of backchecking is skating behind a guy and tugging on his hands or stick all the way down the ice. It's hilarious to watch such feisty behavior in such a tiny body but it's completely undisciplined and would cost the team dearly when the games actually count.
Gabriel Landeskog: I love his motor. He plays hard on every shift and tries to get involved at all times. He's okay defensively but has a lot to learn (imagine that!). Offense is why we drafted him, though, so I'll just talk about that. Day one he had this tendency to skate down the boards with the puck and never make a move or pass back to the inside. It resulted in losing possession the vast majority of the time, which, you know, is a bad thing. Throughout camp, though, you could see him either figuring it out or listening to his coaches because he stopped being obsessed with trying to get away with the silly nonsense he could in juniors and started figuring out his teammates were there for helping him. Problem is...his passing isn't very good. Neither is his shot. I have no idea how to overcome those things except by being Adam Larsson (FFFFFFF) but here's hoping he figures it out. He does play really hard and it's obvious he's making strides to improve his game all the time. All the Larsson jokes and hating on him aside, I love what this kid brings to the team and hopefully his attitude is contagious. He should definitely start on the third line as he learns about going to the net more, something he did sporadically throughout camp, and gets comfortable with the speed of the NHL game.
Cody McLeod: He did everything you wanted him to do in camp. He threw the body constantly, he played hard, and he played aggressively and angry constantly. His biggest problem remains natural hockey skill. When you look at a guy like Brad Malone who does all of what Cody does but brings more raw ability to the table, you start to realize that this enforcer role we have is due for a nice upgrade. I love Cody and I think he'll make the team out of camp but at the end of the day...he just isn't a very good hockey player.
Tyson Barrie: I know plenty of people are going to disagree with me on this one but I felt there were as many ups as downs for Barrie in this camp. He's a very talented guy and his defensive game IS more advanced than Elliott's right now but his offensive game isn't nearly as mature. The raw ability is there but the instincts are not. He's active and jumps into the play but he has a mortal fear of the middle of the ice. He's strictly about sticking to the boards, which greatly limits the options he has on offense. I love his passing, his skating, and his compete level. He's a feisty hockey player to the core. I don't like his size, his general fear of contact, and his one-dimensional offensive game at the moment. Maybe even a full season in Erie this year will allow Barrie to develop a bit more and grow his game on offense to be a bit more well-rounded and effective.
Daniel Winnik: He scored at least 2 goals and notched at least 1 assist in camp. His play in the corners was solid, his defense positionally sound, and his offense was decent enough. All of that is good stuff. We saw plenty of that last year but what we also saw in negatives are still there. I'm not of the mind that you have to be physical to be effective but when you look at the team being built around him, his relatively passive playstyle paled in comparison to the very aggressive attitudes of Galiardi, McLeod, Malone, and Bordeleau, all guys you would think he's competing with for a spot on the roster. Everytime I saw him out there I just kept thinking "oh, it's Mr. Mediocre" again. He's a poor man's version of the proverbial jack-of-all-trades, does nothing great but everything well player. Replace "well" with "mediocre" and you have the essence of Winnik pretty much nailed down. I think he makes the roster this year but he, like McLeod, should be hearing the increasingly loud footsteps of the Monsters young tough guys.
Duncan Siemens: Really, he has pretty much been discussed to death already but I'm putting him here, anyway. His skating is really solid, his offense is really raw, and his defense is all about raw aggression. He makes the occasional nice play on offense but seems to panic with the puck as soon as pressure arrives. There's no Iceman there quite yet. His defense is all about making people look bad. He does this thing where he goes into the boards leading with his ass stuck out to clear space between the attacker and the puck and then takes the puck while the guy is left to wonder what exactly just happened. I saw him do this several times throughout camp and each time it was Pokemon style super effective.
I don't pretend to know anything about judging goalies and will defer to Justin of the Avs Guild to do all that stuff because he's passionate about the and knows what he's talking about. However, people always wanna know so I'll just give you my basic thoughts on each.
Trevor Cann: A career AHLer if he catches on with the right teams everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if he's out of hockey entirely in the next four years. He strikes me as average at best.
Calvin Pickard: Had a real up-and-down camp. At times he was unbeatable but once he gave up a goal it's like his confidence went into the tank and 1 turned into 3 awful fast.
J.S. Giguere: I thought he looked really good. His hydration was something Dario and I monitored heavily in the last game of camp as we counted at least 4 water bottles he went through in just 40 minutes.
Semyon Varlamov: Started out kind of weak but really came on as camp continued. Dario compared him to a chipmunk in that every action he makes feels so twitchy and reflexive and he totally nailed it. He's lightning quick, though and when he settled in he was dominant. So exciting.
Sami Aitokallio: I'm gonna tell you a short (and cool) story about the saga of Sami. When Rookie Camp began, he was a lonely Finn in a sea of North Americans, long abandoned by his apathetic goalie coach, and was getting absolutely lit up. This continued all through Rookie Camp and at the start of Training Camp is looked to be more of the same. Suddenly, the end of day two came around and jokes about Sami being unbeatable started flying left and right. Sami had caught fire. He picked it up right where he left off for the final game of training camp and pitched a very impressive shutout to close camp on the highest of hinotes and handed Team Black their only loss of the weekend. Thus, The Sami was born.
tl;dr We should've drafted Adam Larsson.