It was a standing room-only crowd at Family Sports Center, the Colorado Avalanche’s practice facility in Centennial, Colo., as hundreds of fans gathered to see their team take the ice for the second time in as many days. Day 2 of training camp has come and gone, and by all accounts it was another overall solid day of practice.
First things first, for reference, here are the Group 1 and 2 line combinations and D pairs:
Led by the “Blue Line” of Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi and Tyson Jost, Group 2 took the ice first this morning, bright and early. We’ll start with those three.
Kadri is a legitimate 2C, Donskoi and Jost look very comfortable by his side
Of all of the players — both in Group 1 and 2 — I was most impressed with Nazem Kadri. By far. In fact, the entire line, donning the blue practice jerseys, impressed me quite a bit this morning. They look like a perfect match for each other, with each individual’s skill-set complimenting the other two.
The Jost - Kadri - Donskoi line is a keeper. They’re fast, creating plenty of chances during every drill and then after each play, they reconvene and chat. They’re the most organized and vocal line I’ve seen so far. #GoAvsGo— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 14, 2019
In my humble opinion, that should be Bednar’s second line. It’s clear they have plenty of chemistry in the early stages of the season based on how vocal and communicative they were before and after their line’s turn in each drill. Kadri, in particular, stuck out to me the most. He is the leader of that line. On multiple occasions — after almost every play — Kadri would take a knee with his line and (I assume) discuss the play, due to his emphatic pointing at certain areas of the ice, while a watchful Donskoi and Jost listened in. I also saw on multiple occasions where he’d approach coach Bednar, ask questions, and the two would go to the glass between the benches, where coach Bednar would then draw on his whiteboard. He seems to be a very mature player who asks a lot of questions, wants to get better and wants to make an impact on this team.
I know the season hasn’t started yet, but let’s let’s put the “Kadri is a bad guy” narrative to rest for now. Toronto does something emotionally to hockey players, that’s a fact. But this is Colorado now, and at least from the outside, it looks like he’s trying for a fresh start.
What’s up with Nikita Zadorov?
The dude just looks a step slower than anyone else so far, which isn’t great considering he’s supposed to be one of the veteran leaders stepping up this season.
As one of my colleagues pointed out during Day 1 of camp…
Not gonna lie, Zadorov looks slower than anyone else out there— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) September 13, 2019
And what I saw today…
To expand, he just looks tired and sluggish and a gear behind everyone else. He's fanned on a few shots and made some poor plays trying to exit the zone during the 5-on-5 portion earlier.— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 14, 2019
There were a few “Come on Z’s!” and agonized sighs on a few separate occasions from the fans sitting around me on Saturday. He fanned on a few attempted shots and passes and was sloppy when trying to break out and exit the zone a couple of times. He just didn’t look good.
Reading his body language — and this may be reading way to into it — it just doesn’t seem like he’s completely there. I watched him exclusively for probably five minutes and he kind of just saunters around the ice and doesn’t seem to be trying all that hard. It’s disappointing to say the least, but let’s hope he’s just shaking off the rust of a long offseason.
And it wasn’t just Zadorov that struggled a bit today. At one point, Bednar stopped practice during a 5-on-2 odd-man rush drill to tell his team to kick it up a notch. He wasn’t too impressed with his team’s passing and he could be heard saying “drive the [expletive] net.” All-in-all, outside of the Blue Line, it seemed Group 2 struggled today.
A solid day for Group 1
Before Group 1 took the ice, the battle-worn Ian Cole and Erik Johnson had a little skate around for the fans, proving that they are in fact still around.
Proof that Ian Cole and Erik Johnson are alive and well.#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/0IsSmipJFG— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 14, 2019
And while we’re on the note of Avs defensemen, another guy that caught my eye: Mark Barberio. He was all over the ice and was solid with stick-checks and check-checks. He was all around solid defensively and definitely deserves a roster spot on this team.
The top line for Group 1, consisting of Landeskog, MacKinnon and Burakovsky, looked as good as ever.
A nice play by the top line to regain control after losing the faceoff, gain the zone and finish with a nice goal. That line is looking as fast as ever. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/6lg7Xl3DRN— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 14, 2019
Oh, and Burakovsky is fast. Very fast. Dare I say... MacKinnon fast? Maybe not, but he can certainly keep up with him at the very least — I will say that.
- Bowen Byram looked as advertised. He’d bring a nice speedy offensive punch to the blueline this season — if he makes the team. He was also the last D-man to leave the ice during the first session. He was practicing short chip passes over a hockey stick on the blueline until the zamboni guy kicked him off.
- I was very impressed with Josh Dickinson’s shot, and I was also impressed with the rest of his line (Igor Shvyrev and Nick Henry). They were buzzing today and were playing with plenty of confidence. Those guys will all be in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles this season but it was still nice to see them holding their own, and some, against NHL competition. They were also the last to leave the ice after the second session, practicing as long as possible. When the zamboni doors opened, they also helped clean up the pucks. Cale Makar joined them in their clean-up efforts, too. Not sure if it’s a rookie duty to pick up the pucks or not, but it was nice to see.
- Group 1’s “Grey Line” of Logan O’Connor, A.J. Greer and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare stuck out to me, as well. And Greer may have been the best one on that line. Coach Bednar agreed.
- Still no Colin Wilson or Valeri Nichushkin today. The latter will be at camp tomorrow after solving his visa issue, and the former is still being held out of camp due to a lower-body injury of sorts.
- Luka Burzan has some sick moves. This is probably is “worst” attempt of the three — and that’s saying a lot — but this is the only one I got on video so here you go:
Looks like Group 2 is done for the day. Having a little shootout fun to end practice. Luka Burzan has some shifty moves, he converted on all his attempts in beautiful fashion. Here’s one: pic.twitter.com/0MU9OdO3tm— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 14, 2019
Let’s get better tomorrow.