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Colorado Avalanche Development Camp: Takeaways from Day One

Cale Makar showed why he was selected fourth overall last season.

Colorado Avalanche prospects huddle during the afternoon session of development camp on Friday at the Family Sports Ice Arena in Centennial.
Skyler Gilbert

Mile High Hockey has acquired the rights to NCAA Women’s Lacrosse writer and editor Skyler Gilbert, a sought-after talent who is attempting to become a two-sport athlete. Please welcome him in the comments and tell him how great his Dev Camp article is! - Associate Editor Hardev

The Colorado Avalanche took the ice on Friday for the first day of their 2018 Development Camp on-ice activities (the camp technically opened with in-house physicals on Thursday), and it was the first time that some of Colorado’s most touted prospects ever donned an Avs sweater on the ice.

Here is the full list of invites to the camp, which was held at Family Sports Ice Arena, the Avalanche practice facility in Centennial:

Some brief housekeeping before diving into the action: Defensive prospect Conor Timmins, the 32nd overall pick in 2017, didn’t participate in Friday’s camp activities due in part to a concussion suffered last month in the OHL playoffs. The team also indicated that Timmins is battling a minor ankle injury.

Russian center Igor Shvyrev didn’t participate because he hadn’t arrived from his home country in time. The team hopes he’ll get into action tomorrow.

Lastly, first round draft choice Martin Kaut missed the morning skate for undisclosed reasons but looked totally healthy and able during the full team practice in the afternoon. A little weird, but whatever. We will have updates on him as information comes out.

He did do this in the morning though:

In the morning session, the camp broke into four groups — a defensive grouping and three separate forward groupings — that rotated between skills-based practice and skating practice on the facility’s two rinks. These groups were only five or six skaters each, which allowed for a ton of individualized coaching and instructive time betwen the Avalanche developmental staff and the players.

Tracy Tutton, the team’s technical skating coach, led the session on the second rink, giving advice about hip and arm placement while skating (a lot of acceleration, stopping and turn work).

Cale Makar was visibly a step ahead of his defensive peers in the skating drills; speed is a critical part of his game (more on the UMass blueliner in just a bit). Tutton was very vocal throughout the skating practice. One cool thing that she did was that after every exercise, she’d bring the players over to the bench and playback the video to them to show their specific errors in form, in order to correct it.

Over on the main rink, the morning session consisted of some passing drills, cone drills and a bit of board play. Goalie Petr Kvaca, a 2017 fourth rounder, really rocked the morning skate with his aggressive, sprawling style. I am not a goalie scout, but his side-to-side movement stood out.

During the full team session in the afternoon, the team practiced at a blistering pace. Here’s the drill the Avs opened with.

For the first hour of the main practice, the team was going full speed, down the ice, nonstop. It was as much of a conditioning exam as a hockey practice. They worked on a couple of different types of breakouts, then did some rush work with 3-on-0’s and 3-on-2’s. Pavel Francouz looked like the season professional that he is in goal.

At one point, the 28-year-old Czech signee stopped 30 to 40 shots in a row. His KHL track record speaks for itself and he doesn’t have to prove himself to the organization like the teenagers do, but it was nice to see him establish himself as a premium netminder. He looked NHL ready.

During the second hour of practice, the team had some fun. They realigned the nets and played a couple of different mini-games within a single zone on the rink.

Check out this 2-on-2 action in the neutral zone. It was fast, it was tactical, and it held a premium on teammate communication.

Here are the players that stood out most in Day One:

  • Cale Makar — He’s incredibly gifted on offense. Makar, despite being a defenseman, seemed to have the best wrist shot of any of the prospects. His straight-line speed is outstanding, as it his acceleration. He made smart passes in the mini-games and crisp passes on his breakouts. It was good enough of a performance that I left the practice mildly annoyed that he’s returning to the NCAA for another season.

The biggest question marks for Makar are in the defensive zone and dealing with NHL physicality (he’s still undersized). Admittedly, there wasn’t a lot of activity on Friday that tested him in either regard. It was a lot of puck work, passing and shooting. If his performance in those disciplines on Friday is any indication, he has the potential to be a superstar.

  • Pavel Francouz — We finally saw him and he seems to be the real deal. The Avalanche are in a really solid position right now in terms of goaltender depth.
  • Cam Morrison and Shane Bowers — I had trouble putting together distinct opinions on these two collegians, but they can both skate really well. Bowers showed a few flashes of razzle-dazzle during the shootout scrimmage at the end of the day. Both these players look like they’re tracking to be solid NHL players in two or three seasons (Morrison perhaps a bit sooner).
  • Martin Kaut — A lot of eyes were on Kaut, the first round draft pick last week. The first thing that sticks out when you watch him is his size and his ability to possess the puck (especially in the 2v2 and 3v3 drills). He’s 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 and might have another inch left to grow due to being only 19-years-old. He hasn’t filled his frame yet and could use another 20 or 25 pounds, but his broad frame seemed to give him that bit of Joe Thornton DNA where he can kind of use his shoulders to box out the defender and keep the puck alive along the wings. He’s not going to blow by anyone with his blistering speed, but he has a quick release on his shot.
  • Tyler Weiss — Want to feel old? Weiss was born in the year 2000. The Raleigh, North Carolina native might already have the best handles on the team. In one of the mini-games, he scored on back to back ridiculous dekes he tried and turned some heads in the seats.

These were the players that stood out the most, but if you’re wondering my thoughts about any other prospect, let me know in the comments.

Stick around tomorrow for takeaways from Development Camp Day Two!