The Colorado Avalanche wrapped up training camp this afternoon in relatively relaxed fashion, focusing solely on special teams work during the two sessions. The practices were only a little over an hour each, while the previous three days practices lasted two hours.
The big news at the start of today’s practice was there was no Nikita Zadorov on the ice. He apparently injured himself in yesterday’s scrimmage and was held out today. After practice, coach Bednar confirmed he’s day-to-day.
Nikita Zadorov is day-to-day with a lower-body “tweak”, per Jared Bednar. #Avs— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) September 16, 2019
For reference throughout, here were the lines that were used today on the power play and penalty kill:
Group 2 lines look like this today:— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 16, 2019
Donskoi - Jost - Compher - Nichushkin
Greer - Tynan - Kaut - Kamenev
Dries - Henry - Burzan - Megna
Condra - Beaucage - Mutala - Barron#GoAvsGo
Group 1 Power-play Units:— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) September 16, 2019
Kadri - Burakovsky - Landeskog - MacKinnon - Makar
O’Connor - Joly - Bowers - Lewis - Rosen
Bellemare - Calvert - Renouf - Connauton
Nieto - Davis - Tischke - Campbell
Lindholm - Saigeon - Dickinson - Larocque
Alt - Shvyrev#GoAvsGo
Good lookin’ top unit
Nazem Kadri, who is quickly becoming a fan favorite here in Denver, moved from Group 2 to Group 1 today, slotting in with the likes of Landeskog, MacKinnon, Burakovsky and Makar on the top power-play unit. And, boy, did they look good.
They were fast, efficient and converted on a decent majority of their chances against any given penalty kill that Bednar threw at them. And for those of you hoping Bednar would move on from the signature neutral-zone-drop-pass-to-MacKinnon play, I have some bad news for you... they practiced this quite a bit.
Either way, the addition of Burakovsky and Kadri on the PP1 worked beautifully. You have to start to wonder when Mikko Rantanen comes back, does he still get his spot on the top line? Probably so. But there’s a lot of great chemistry starting to develop in his absence.
Also, Joonas Donskoi looked phenomenal on the penalty kill. Multiple times, he’d stop the rush at the blueline with a nice pokecheck, and he has a real knack for getting in the right passing lanes and disrupting any puck movement. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was also pretty great on the PK in Group 1.
Bowen Byram belongs in the NHL
Maybe it’s because I want to notice him (and therefore I see a lot of him) or maybe it’s because of how skilled he is, but Bowen Byram has not failed to catch my eye during camp.
It’s obviously hard to judge how well a player will perform when all you’ve seen is him in training camp drills, but the one thing that sticks out the most to me is how confident he looks on the ice. He knows what he’s doing on the ice and it’s obvious. He’s crisp with his passes, swift with his movements and sharp on his skates. He’s always smiling, chatting with his teammates and he just looks like he’s having the time of his life out there. He’s really stepped in as a leader, too.
Bowen Byram has been taking on that leadership role so far. He's currently at the top of the blueline organizing a one-timer drill. He's also the one feeding the one-timers. He's also usually the one picking up the pucks after most drills too. It's the little things, ya know— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) September 16, 2019
He wants to be in the NHL this season and he’s making his case everyday at camp. Given his situation, Bednar and the rest of the Avs brass are going to give him every opportunity to make this team. He’ll play every pre-season game and there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll get the nine-game stint of regular season games to make his case, too.
For those of you unaware what the nine-game stint is: teams can play a rookie, who is on an entry-level contract, for up to nine games before burning a year of his deal. So if Byram plays in 10 or more games, the Avs will be forced to use a year of his three-year contract, whether he stays on the NHL team for the entire year or not.
Like Byram, a lot of teams will give its rookies the full nine game trial period to try and prove they deserve to stay for the rest of the 73-plus games. But Byram’s situation is a little bit different. He’s not eligible to play in the American Hockey League with the Colorado Eagles this season because his contract with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. If you’re Sakic, you’d probably like him to spend his rookie season be in the AHL this season, where there’s a higher level of competition, rather than back in juniors playing with teenagers. Since that’s not an option, however, I’d bet he stays with the Avs this season. It’d probably be best for his long-term development that way. We’ll see how he does in his first nine games first though.
The first cut is the deepest…
As expected at the conclusion of training camp, the first cuts were made.
The Avs reduced its roster by six, trimming the fat down to 51 players. Travis Barron, Brandon Saigeon, Josh Dickinson, Josh Anderson and Igor Shvyrev were all re-assigned to the Colorado Eagles while goaltender Trent Miner was sent back to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, where hopefully he won’t be seeing his teammate Bowen Byram.
Expect more cuts to be made a day or two after the Avs’ first preseason game on Tuesday.