***Author's Note: There were 500 more words to this that somehow disappeared. Until I can out how to find a previous save-point, this will be incomplete. I'm terribly sorry.
The energy in South Suburban Family Sports Center today was palpable. Sixty-four players hoping to make the Colorado Avalanche]and its minor league affiliates gathered onthe ice between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM to run through a number of fast-paced drills. Coach Patrick Roy stood at center ice, leading the activities with his now-famous whistle, clearly heard throughout the complex. General Manager Joe Sakic watched eagerly the action below with his staff. Members of the media filled the press box and photographed the players through the glass. Hundreds of fans lined the bleachers clad in replica jerseys and logo'd hats, getting their first looks at new personnel and returning favorites. Everyone beaming at the prospect of a brand-new hockey season.
Yours truly took a frigid seat among the faithful, notebook and roster on my lap, cell phone in hand tweeting the minutia before me.
After a bit of light shooting to warm up the goalies (Max Pajpach and Semyon Varlomov), the players assembled in the corner to set up a variety of 3-on-0 breakaway drills, mixing up the passing order and movement. The drill would eventually incorporate defenders, first one and then two, and also a breakout component, using the waiting group in the middle to force the action outside and use the boards to hit players in stride up ice. In the morning's first group, Norwegian Andreas Martinsen netted a couple of wrist shots top-shelf in consecutive turns, earning my attention as well as others in attendance. Also standing out in these early sessions was newcomer Blake Comeau. I admittedly have not seen him play much, but he's clearly a veteran presence who is deliberate and patient with the puck. I didn't see him bobble anything, make any hurried or off-target passes, or miss the net very much. The national media reported a quiet offseason for the Avalanche, but I can see Comeau being a valuable free agent signing on the middle-six lines. He appears to have a scoring savvy the team missed last year without PA Parenteau and Jamie McGinn.
Martinsen with another snipe and two off the post since my last offering. If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's because I am.— MHH (@MileHighHockey) September 18, 2015
The play then moved over to a fresh sheet of ice for 3-on-2 drills (also incorporating a breakout component), and once again Martinsen stood out, burying two more goals and hitting two additional pucks off the post. In this format we also got to see more from defensive players, including new acquisition Nikita Zadorov. The big Russian demonstrated plenty of reasons he's so highly thought of in NHL circles. His reach is simply enormous, almost like he could defend half the ice merely by standing on the face-off dot. He's not particularly quick, but he handles the puck extremely well, makes nice passes, and seems to get in good positions to make a difference on both offense and defense.
The final drill saw the coaches move the goals to just a single short-side of the rink -- like the mini-mites between periods during a regular season game. Roy would then dump the puck to the boards and a 3-on-3 group would then chase it and try to score on each other, shifting out for another group every 45 seconds or so. The close proximity invited considerably more physical contact and fighting for the puck, if little scoring. The first group ended their session with a conditioning skate, leaving all involved parties completely winded and begging for the locker room.
(Below should have been 10+ bullet points on various players)