Today saw a ton of hard work and even some nastiness. Scrimmages were fast-paced and filled with interesting moments. Clearly, some conversations happened yesterday with the players as there were some guys whose games changed a bit, and the players on the cusp of making the team were in full show-them-what-I-got mode.
Of those guys, the two that have the best shot at making the roster for opening night are Zach Redmond and Jesse Winchester. Both of them were consistent and reliable, matching up to the NHLers without missing a step (well, as much as one can against guys like Duchene). For a while, Redmond was paired with Nick Holden and his calm and steady play complimented the pinch-wizard well. Could we have seen a look into the future with those two playing together?
Ryan Wilson had a better day today, and certainly solidified his place on opening night. As AJ said, he makes the perfect 7th D, able to step in when needed. Jan Hejda isn't done in this league. Now, whether or not he'll stay this quick and agile for a full season remains to be seen. Duncan Siemens had another good showing, but again, he could use some time in the AHL. First call up should be his, though. A crazy moment came in the final scrimmage when he was playing the body hard on Cody McLeod as the Highliander was moving into the offensive zone. Cody took exception to it and threw some cross checks at Siemens. Siemens stood tall and dished it right back. Before you know it, Cody's gloves were on the ice and Duncan and removed the helmet, all the while chirping and evil smiles passed between them. As soon as Siemens lost his gloves, the refs stepped in and killed the altercation without a single blow being thrown. The animosity didn't end, though, and the two kept going at each other during plays for the remainder of the game.
That same game saw Matt Duchene flying all over the ice. He looked fantastic, and I'm expecting big things from him this season. Stronger, faster, sharper. Another guy who looked totally on it was Gabriel Landeskog. The guy was plowing through people, manhandling them in the corners, and crashing the net like a mad man. His line with Alex Tanguay and Joey Hishon was by far the most electric of the day. The three of them just clicked, and you knew something fun, creative and dangerous was going to happen every time they were on the ice. Such a joy to watch.
For anyone concerned that Brad Stuart is going to suck, please set those fears aside. One of the best players out there today, he maintained a solid, patient, and physical game with every shift. He's a smart player who can still move well. His poise with and without the puck is a breath of fresh air for the back end, something we haven't seen since Adam Foote retired. He will make a great partner for Erik Johnson, really allowing him to focus on his offense. He's another one who got chippy at the end of the final scrimmage. Conner Bleackley totally upended him right at the boards, pissing off EJ to no end. EJ took a swipe at Bleackley's legs with a pretty serious slash and continued to show his displeasure for the remainder of the game.
Jarome Iginla is old, slow, and past his prime. And that is a total lie. Such great stuff from him today. He can play hockey still, folks, and it's going to be so exciting to have him on the team. His nose for the net is insanely good, only bested by his vision of the ice. He will be successful on this team. He seemed to really enjoy himself out there, too, especially playing with Nathan MacKinnon. The guy has been so much more physical this time around. I'm sure it's partly confidence and comfort in the situation, but he's just stupid strong now. I don't recall anyone being able to push him off the puck today.
Reto Berra had a much better day today, and some of my optimism has been restored. Garrett Meurs continues to be a ball of fire with an attitude of a guy twice his size. Really enjoy watching him. Nate Guenin continues to be okay in battles but horrid on the transition .The guy cannot buy an outlet pass to save his life. Stefan Elliott has been so disappointing. Talk about a loss of confidence. You just know he has more talent than he's showing, but he cannot seem to get things to work. It's quite a let down.
Borna Rendulic continues to impress and prove me wrong completely. I picked him to be the guy most out of place in camp (that award goes to Max Iafrate), but he's been such an exciting surprise. Definitely someone to watch. He needs to makes some adjustments to handle the NHL sized ice, but he's smart and malleable enough to do it. Chris Bigras looked decent in the drills, but he shined once again in the scrimmage. The Avs knew what they were doing when they picked him. While he's still a year or two away from making the team, he can only get better between now and then.
Daniel Briere is another guy you need to just stop fretting over. He's just fine. He made some slick plays and hit the twine and looked as confident and veterany as you'd want. He's going to provide some major stability to the third line. Another guy who made an impression for that bottom six role is Tomas Vincour. He's a smart player and regularly makes things happen. I wish he'd use that big frame of his a bit more, but he gets the job done. Given the injuries to Jamie McGinn, Patrick Bordeleau, and John Mitchell, expect to see Vincour opening night.
That's it for me. AJ is going to add his two cents over the next couple of days, with some in depth look into another camp surprise in Samuel Henley. That kid just might have a future in this league.