Hokay. A bit later today on the write up as everything got pushed back when the rink was in pretty terrible shape upon arrival and then the NHL guys showed up for some informal practices so my apologies on the delay. Onwards.
Biggest difference today was the increase in intensity and physicality in general. From the players to the coaches, it was a much more business-like atmosphere today as the coaches halted the day's proceedings multiple times to lay into the position groups. They ended the day rather abruptly when working on drills morphed into a bag skate, which produced the shocking result of tiring everybody out...except Mason Geertsen, who didn't even seem remotely phased by the additional work. Kid is in outstanding shape. Anyway, following the same format I always use, here's the Good, the Bad, and the Sometimes Ugly, Sometimes Not of Day 2.
Mason Geertsen - I am continually impressed with the growth of this kid. His skating will never not impress me as long as he's moving like he has been the last two days and remains 6'5". As I mentioned above, his conditioning is apparently top-notch because he was flying through the bag skate and while players around him were sucking wind and on all fours on the ice trying to catch their breath, he stood there barely breathing hard like it was no big deal. Impressive for a guy that young and not even in the NHL to be in that kind of shape already. Combined with the growth you can see in his game from last year, it's clear Geertsen takes this whole NHL thing seriously and he plans on doing everything he possibly can to kick down the door to a career in pro hockey. He's a very physical defender and today he did a great job of separating players from the puck, especially during the one-on-one drills where he was defending guys on the rush. His one big mistake of the day came during that same drill where Dennis Everberg set him up with a head fake and got Geertsen to bite to the inside while Everberg kicked it into high gear and cruised right by him. This has been an issue both days now as Geertsen has gotten caught looking and not moving his feet, causing him to panic and try to reach to recover. With some additional coaching, this is something that can definitely be cleaned up but his lack of foot speed sure was exposed by Everberg. I'm very curious to see how these limitations manifest themselves when he's going against the NHL guys this weekend. He's going to have to make some big adjustments but right now I'm in his corner. I think this guy is prepared to rocket up our prospect list and push Will Butcher for the top D prospect behind Siemens. He's clearly a very hard worker and I really love how his game is developing. This weekend can't get here soon enough!
Duncan Siemens/Chris Bigras - I'm just dropping them in here together and telling you to read what I wrote yesterday. While Siemens struggled a bit with the puck early on, I chalk that more up to the shoddy ice conditions than anything else as everyone was dealing with crazy puck bounces before the ice really set and pucks started to calm down. Beyond that, both guys consistently dominated all of their drills, rarely giving an inch. Siemens did receive some additional 1-on-1 coaching from Foote after working a drill in the corners. Bigras was too busy dominating every chance he got to get any coaching. Lol.
Samuel Henley - This guy has developed into the most fascinating player for me to watch. During the passing and skating drills, Henley looks almost out of place and certainly doesn't do anything to stand out but when they match him up against defenders, it's like a switch is flipped for the kid and suddenly his game comes alive. His work down low is simply overpowering for most of the kids he's going against to handle. He absolutely worked over Cody Corbett on a handful of occasions as they matched up a couple times and he consistently got the best of him. He's a really powerful, big-bodied kid who clearly needs to be matched against some AHL/NHL defenders to get a gauge on how good he really is. Still, for a kid who went undrafted and is trying to make talent evaluators take notice, he's leaving the kind of impression you want. He's exactly the kind of hard-working, grind it out kind of player the Avs love rolling the dice on.
Conner Bleackley - Every year, there are one or two players who make small plays that you really have to be paying attention to catch but serve to separate the players above the rest. Bleackley consistently made those smaller plays that lead to bigger results later on and this kid really rewarded me for deciding beforehand to spend so much time watching him. His hands are damn good as he was able to take the errant passes from lesser players all day and corral them on the fly without missing a beat. Our 2014 first rounder is clearly the most developed and most talented forward at Rookie Camp and I think his NHL timeline is about 2 years. I wasn't expecting him to really jump out at me in this type of setting because the stuff that made him a first round talent was his intangibles, the hockey IQ and leadership qualities that aren't really on display during these skill competition-esque drills. Still, he has shown a wicked shot and great hands. His skating is still pretty mediocre and he honestly reminds me quite a bit of Ryan O'Reilly during his first Rookie Camp but he's done well for himself the first two days.
Nate Condon - I'll admit...I completely forgot about this kid yesterday and then today he showed up and was the only guy to beat both Siemens and Bigras in different drills. His beating of Bigras was more because of Bigras misplaying the situation but Condon deposited the puck top shelf behind one of the goalies so he still gets credit. In beating Siemens, Condon saw he had a step on him and put his head down, barreled past him wide and cut inside just in front of the goalie to slip the puck into the net. Beautiful work, loved the confidence. Definitely a play that stuck out in my mind. Outside of those two plays, I honestly don't remember seeing him again all day but those two plays were the kinds of sparks you love to see for a guy who barely got himself to this camp in the first place and his beating of Siemens was my play of the day.
Colin Smith - Really unimpressive outing from him today. Really, really unimpressive. Pucks were escaping his stick all day, coaches were making him run drills more than once because he wasn't getting them right, and all of the explosiveness he showed yesterday was simply not there today. More than anything, it looked like Smith lacked focus. He seemed...completely unaware of what was going on around him most of the time. At one point, he had a puck deflected up in the air and it landed next to him and he...didn't really react at all. He was physically overwhelmed when working on drills in the corners and even when he found space, did little or nothing with it. Not sure what the deal was today but considering the large uphill battle Smith is fighting against to make the NHL, a day like today is exactly what you did not want to see. Definitely the biggest disappointment for me today.
Max Iafrate - While he did have a couple of nice stops late in the day when he was using his size much better, it was largely more of the same from yesterday. I'd refer you to that post because I really don't want to tear the kid down again. I sure hope he's better during scrimmages this weekend
Spencer Martin - I'm putting Martin on here very cautiously and with the caveat that I didn't watch any of the individual goalie drills when they were working on moving post-to-post and puck handling but I was definitely watching as Martin was giving up soft goals during 3-on-2 drills and you could see him rapidly losing confidence and starting to beat himself up. It was a tough morning for Martin and I hope he does the weird goalie voodoo memory thing to come back tomorrow with a clean slate.
The Sometimes Ugly, Sometimes Not
Garrett Meurs - I had to find a place to put this kid simply because I wanted to write about him. This is the third time I've seen Meurs in a Rookie Camp and I feel the same today as I did upon first watching him - a few inches taller and he would have been a modern day Richard Park type. I referred to him on twitter as a stick of dynamite because he's so explosive and yet so tiny but he's ultra aggressive and plays with a constant chip on his shoulder. I don't think he's ever going to make an appearance with the Avs but I absolutely think he has a long career in pro hockey ahead of him. His skating, hands, and vision will probably be best served on the big ice in Europe but for now, I'm cherishing watching him play. He's got all the heart and try hard attitude you could want out of someone his size. Still, there's a reason I didn't put him in "The Good" and it's because when they ask him to match up defensively, he just can't hang. He works his ass off and is a hell of a pest but he's unfortunately beaten far too often by players I feel are less skilled. It's disappointing to see him still having these struggles 3 full years after his draft year. Still, Garrett Meurs is the kind of kid you can't not root for.
That should be just about all I've got for Day 2 of Rookie Camp. The vets came out and skated around and reminded everyone just how big the gap in talent between the NHL and juniors really is. Joey Hishon looks great, people. I'd love to set up a huge cheering section for him this year because he's finally healthy and able to participate in a full camp with an outside shot at cracking the NHL roster and he deserves to have a bunch of random strangers from the internet cheering him on.
Anyway, that's a wrap for Day 2. See you all tomorrow!