Development camp opened with three mornings of power skating sessions lead by skating coach Tracy Tutton and broken down into three small groups by position. The three afternoon sessions were one big group practice yet still mostly in groups by position. The groups were as follows:
Burgundy: AJ Greer, Ben Storm, Travis Barron, Filip Karlsson, Gustav Olhaver, Shawn Ouellette-St-Amant, and Spencer Martin
Blue: Tyson Jost, JT Compher, JC Beaudin, Julien Nantel, Jackson Houck, Borgan O’Brien, Jeffrey Truchon-Viel and Adam Werner
White: Nicolas Meloche, Sergei Boikov, Will Butcher, Josh Anderson, Anton Lindholm, Nathan Clurman and Chase Marchand
*Cody Corbett joined the defensemen for portions of their skating and practices. Unfortunately, Cam Morrison and invite Griffin Luce were not able to stay and attend the on-ice portion of camp.
There wasn’t a lot to conclude about the first day. Mostly just straight line skating — nothing resembling hockey (they didn’t even touch pucks). However, it is good to see the first day to get a baseline and get used to what the prospects currently look like live.
The first standout in the skating portion was AJ Greer because he brought his signature champing-at-the-bit mentality and intensity from the onset. He made watching even just skating entertaining and gets the guys around him into more of a competitive mode.
A lot has been made of how Josh Anderson looks skating and while he isn’t the strongest — and is still recovering from his injury and therefore not able to participate fully in every drill — he did put in a full effort and showed some decent skills moving the puck. He has a heavy shot as well.
It was nice to see the goalies getting individual coaching during these sessions. Martin was definitely the most polished and quickest. Werner was good using his size but definitely the most raw. Chase Marchand took to coaching really well and would improve as the week went on.
The defensive group started the day and worked mostly on skating backwards and technique — overall they are a group of players who skate very well. Boikov was identified as having the best technique and lead the group on most drills. He even stayed after the session for a couple extra pointers even though he was best during the sessions.
The next two groups were comprised of forwards who worked on a few different skills from the defensemen and were even given pucks for some of the skating drills. The focus for the forwards was edgework and turning to receive passes. Greer lead the Burgundy group and continued to make watching drills fun because he’s so intense and competitive, bringing loads of personality to every drill. He’s a powerful skater, so it’s easy to notice him.
JT Compher looked good early for the Blue group, but by the end Tyson Jost had vaulted ahead as the class of the group. Despite his slow start, Jost was just blowing through all the drills. he picks things up quickly and improved throughout the day. Compher stayed out to shoot some pucks with Beaudin for a few minutes after the session and Beaudin received the extra pointers from the development staff.
The afternoon skills practice brought together all the groups but still split into positions. The defense worked on taking a quick pass for a one timer, battling for position in front of the net, and making quick outlet passes. Nicolas Meloche is a really good shooting defenseman and can really unload a one timer. Clurman showed some nice hands as he batted his own rebound into the net a couple times. The forwards did some stick handing, rapid fire shooting in front of the goalie, and a little mini shootout from just the faceoff dots to the goal line.
The best drill to watch was one where skaters would take a pass, go up ice through some cones, turn around and face some pressure from one of the coaches who would try to force them outside, and then fire off a shot. Many of the prospects had some good moments here. Everyone tends to shoot high glove in these drills but I liked how Beaudin always varied his shots, even snuck a few 5 hole. Barron consistently drove right to the goalie.
Another crowd pleaser was a one-on-one battle for the puck at the face off dots. One player would start on the defense side and another on the attack. From there it was a battle for who could get to the puck first. Greer and Jost were paired in this and it was probably the most entertaining part of the whole day. Those two just went at it — very physical and competitive. They did this drill about 5-6 times and Greer might have had the edge early, but Jost was winning the battles later in. At one point the puck went over to the boards and Jost would have got to it if Greer hadn’t dived so he couldn't. They were laughing it up between whistles, so both were enjoying it.
Beaudin was lined up against Barron. The matchup was quite a bit different as Beaudin uses positioning and his stick to defend and Barron proceeded to break his. I liked Nantel and Compher in these drills too, although they were never paired against each other unfortunately. Nantel was the only one who pushed his opponent to the boards and used the maneuver to pin them away from the goal. He also did really well in the previous carrying-the-puck-and-taking-a-shot drill. Compher was difficult to contain one-on-one — he's very good at driving the play to the net.
The day began with about an hour of skilled practice, with the forwards and defensemen more integrated this time. Players mostly performed drills pertaining to transitioning defense to offense with a possession in the offensive zone at the end — typical for a rookie camp. They followed that up with a double elimination 3-on-3 tournament and a skills competition.
Scrimmage and Skills Competition Results
White: Compher, Meloche, Olhaver, Karlsson, Houck, Boikov and Werner
Blue: Jost, Greer, Storm, Clurman, Ouellette-St-Amant, Barron and Marchand
Burgundy: Lindholm, Beaudin, Butcher, Nantel, Truchon-Viel, O’Brien, Martin
- Burgundy defeated White. Goals from Butcher, Lindholm, Houck, Karlsson and then a long shootout with Truchon-Viel sealing the victory
- Blue defeated Burgundy. Goals from Ouellette-St-Amant, Jost (empty net).
- Blue defeated White and they were eliminated. Goals from Compher and Jost, shootout victory by Jost.
- Burgundy defeated Blue to force a tiebreaker. No goals, shootout victory from Beaudin.
- Burgundy defeated Blue to win the tournament. Goal by Nantel.
The skills competition portion that ended the day’s session began with a cone drill set-up down the length of the ice and engaged in many of the skills the players had picked up over the course of the week, particularly with edgework and backwards skating. It was a little disappointing as the competition wasn’t really a competition, even though the rink was set up for head-to-head heats. The coaches appeared to time the players, so perhaps there was a secret victor. Clurman and Beaudin were very strong in this drill as it required both good skating and concentration. A shootout ended the day with each player getting a couple attempts. Though there wasn’t really a competition with an elimination, it was still fun anyhow. Greer really got the group riled up with his second attempt when he bounced the puck on his stick, offered a little fake out, and converted. After Greer the guys became a bit more loose and creative with their shots. Jost tried a fake slap shot that fooled Werner for a goal and then Marchand tried some big diving saves for stops.
Overall this group worked hard and grew as the week progressed. They seemed focused and serious about the task at hand with a strong feeling of comradery. There’s wasn’t a lot of individual, flashy skill in this group but more than a few of the players appeared solid all over the ice and should be able to contribute at the pro and NHL level in a year or two.
In general, the older players shined in the closing day of camp, using their experience over the camp rookies — especially in the 3-on-3 and battle sessions.
- Lindholm had a nice day defensively and created a number of plays in the scrimmage.
- Compher was very solid all-around this week and brought his competitive nature especially in the 3 on 3.
- Storm isn't the most skilled but showed his maturity in the 3 on 3.
- Butcher was able to play well defensively despite his size and showed some good puck moving and shooting skills. It was a difficult camp for any of the defenseman to stand out however they each had their moments.
- Boikov always impresses with his skating and Meloche with his shot and physicality once he was able to battle and get in some game action and even had a breakaway in the 3 on 3.
- The first year of camp is tough on the youngest players and there usually is a big leap to when they join their second camp. That said, none of the younger players looked out of place and held their own in most situations. Jost and Clurman were standouts — and not just for their age. Jost already has a well-rounded game and is strong. All he needs is the maturity that a year or two of development in college will give him. He has great individual skill and is particularly dangerous around the net. His skating should become more refined and experience will give him an even more aggressive edge, though he is already pretty tenacious on all areas of the ice. Jost’s leadership abilities, however, are already apparent. It looks like he makes an effort to talk with the other players and include everyone. He also stopped to give a young boy an autograph as he was exiting the ice one day — gave him a little fist bump and shook the father’s hand.
- Clurman really seems like the real deal. Not that he was dominant or didn’t look 18-years-old at times but he really seems to have every tool at his disposal. He can move the puck, skate, shoot, and defend well. Clurman has a nice wrist shot which he can get through traffic as well as the hands to bat pucks out of the air. He did very well in the cone drill with swift skating and edgework, was good at defensive positioning, and demonstrated plenty of physicality, even though he will certainly get stronger in that area as he matures.
- Greer was another overall standout in camp with as mentioned bringing the intensity and competitiveness but also an air of confidence and skill. The intensity was there last year but he’s backing it up with confidence and a bit more refined skill. Greer is a true power forward in every sense of the word, a powerful skater with a heavy shot and a very intense edge. Watching Greer live really is a treat as video does not do him justice. I can only imagine watching a full live game of his. Greer had great chemistry with Jost, they both have the same tenacity and their skills compliment well. They are a pair I look forward to watching in the future.
- Nantel was really very good consistently through the week and also a standout. I have always liked his game but it has matured another level. He is always making things happen in different situations and is much more consistent with it. In my view was one of the most dangerous players in the 3 on 3 and competed hard defensively as well as consistently making plays in the drills. Beaudin did a lot of good things too, he will never be flashy but he is smart and makes creative plays. Takes a few risks but got some really good chances too. It was nice to see those two on the same team for the skating practices and the 3 on 3, they really have a great chemistry and both scored the winning goals for team Burgundy to take the 3 on 3 title.
- Barron might be my dark horse. Although he didn’t overly standout, he did several things well. He's got a nose for the net and consistently drove the net harder than anyone in drills and he also was one of the few who hit guys along the boards in the 3 on 3 and showed good forechecking skills. Barron displayed good chemistry with Jost as he has enough skill to compliment skill players. He's raw but with a few years of good development there might be something there.
- Of the invites, Karlsson has some nice moments in the 3-on-3, but for some reason struggled through the skills cones. Truchon-Viel was the best of the invites in the 3-on-3 and Ouellette-St-Amant had some nice little plays in the drills.
All in all, a fantastic week and I hope the Avalanche continue holding development camp on-ice and keep adding elements to refine what the prospects can get out of the experience.
I’m already excited to see their progress in rookie camp!