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It takes a certain breed of person to willingly perch on the metal bleachers of the Family Sports Center at 8AM on a Tuesday to squint through fogged over glass just to watch a bunch of 17- to 25-year-old hockey players practice, but Avs Prospect Camp Day 1 saw a decent turn out. This was the first year the on-ice portion of the camp was open to the public, and at least 50 people filed in to see the future of the Avs.
The young players didn’t disappoint. Today was almost entirely about skating. Even though there is a limit to how much can be gathered from just watching drills, it was easy to see which prospects had pro- ready mobility, balance, and power and which still had some work to do.
Tracy Tutton, a skating coach who has worked with a number of other NHL teams, was large and in charge today. Armed with a couple tablets and assistants Adam Foote, David Oliver, and Brian Willsie, she ran drills and taped each of the prospects as they skated up the ice. Detailed fundamental breakdowns focused on balance and correct form were punctuated by brief on-ice film sessions. Even the goalies skated in each of the drills.
Prospects were divided into 3 teams. The Grey team went first and was also responsible for practicing with the goalies, so I was able to assess their shots in addition to their skating. Blue followed with skating-only drills, and the day wrapped up with the Burgundy squad doing the same.
Here are the main takeaways from what I saw.
#50 Mikko Rantanen: The new kid on the block didn’t fail to impress. His shooting release is a bit slow and could use a bit more power, but it’s still fairly accurate. It’s also clear he much prefers skating in and firing a sneaky wrister than standing still and teeing up.
When it comes to skating, he’s not exactly a speedster, but he has good mobility and decent power. In a lot of ways, his forward stride reminds me of Landeskog’s. He struggled a bit more with the backward skating and when he had to pull Ms. Tutton via a bungee cord around his waist, so he still has room to work on certain details and his power. However, he was easily one of the best skaters on the ice today and probably wouldn’t look too out of place in the NHL as far as mobility is concerned.
#71 Nicolas Meloche: Probably the most hot and cold player today. He has potential in both his shot and his skating. There were moments where everything clicked and he looked good, but there were some pretty rough patches too. He needs to get stronger and continue to work on his balance and shot/skating mechanics, but as he adds strength, he should get better.
#65 Mason Geertsen: Mason Geertsen’s backward skating today was a sight to behold. When he was in the power position, his rump was so low that his eyes were even with that of much shorter teammates and his thighs were almost parallel to the ice. His forward skating was good as well, smooth and very technical in form. He’s not all that explosive and could stand to continue working on his power, but he has a very good top speed, especially backwards. His shot was okay – neither good nor bad – but his skating stole the show in this group.
#62 Kyle Wood: Kyle Wood was the opposite. His shot is beautiful, fast, and accurate. It lit up more than one goalie this morning. His skating however… it could use some work. He moves his upper body quite a bit and loses a good deal of power. His balance is alright, but definitely needs more work before he’s ready to jump to the AHL, and he doesn’t generate the power that he should with a 6′-5″ frame. His top speed is pretty good, especially for someone of that size, but he has more work to do overall. He also just went through the motions on some of the skating drills, which was a frustrating to watch.
#49 Conner Bleackley: He has a refined shot and at least decent skating. Even though nothing really screamed “look at me!”, he netted a few goals with a sneaky and accurate release and got progressively better as the skating drills went on. When he was working with Foote one-on-one, he fell over backwards, indicating that he was pushing himself and breaking away from his comfort zone. He’s going to be a very solid 3rd liner for the Avs some day.
#51 Anton Lindholm: His shot was pretty good, but his skating was pretty choppy and lacked power. He kept overly lifting his feet and expending more energy than he needed to. However, he showed a lot of improvement as the drills continued, and seemed very receptive to coaching. His transition work was solid as well.
#63 Andreas Martinsen: For a big guy, he has pretty decent mobility moving forward. His backward skating was rough, but as a winger, that’s not as much of a problem. He struggled a bit with some of the balance drills and he tends to lead more with his right shoulder, but he has a lot of power and a very solid top speed.
#70 Alexis Pepin: His first few steps need some work yet, and his stride isn’t as wide or as powerful as it should be. He also struggled quite a bit with the backward skating drills, particularly when it came to staying balanced. He still has quite a bit of work to do.
#61 Julien Nantel: The quickest feet of the group definitely belonged to Nantel. His first few steps and his power could still use just a little more work, but his top speed was fast and his balance was good. He didn’t waste energy with his stride, but he could stand to dig into the ice a bit more.
#51 Sergei Boikov: It became clear why the Avs used a pick on this Russian defenseman today. The extremely smooth skating of Sergei Boikov was probably the biggest surprise of the camp. His stride movements are fairly technical, efficent, and graceful, but he really needs to work on his power. Still, it was very clear that moving forward, he won’t have much of an issue with mobility.
#53 J.T. Compher: Compher’s upper body created some issues for him this morning. He moved his shoulders a lot, often leading more with the right than the left, and his arm movements were bigger than they should be. As a result, he lost a lot of power and wasted a lot of energy. Tightening up and stilling his upper body motions would greatly improve his skating. He also could use stronger pushes and dig into the ice more, especially around turns. But, with that said, he still had a lot of power and overall wasn’t that bad. He just has room to get even better.
#58 Raphael Maheux: Left defenseman Raphael Maheux was one of two invites to camp, and he had a pretty decent day. His forward stride was smooth and efficient, and his backward c-cuts were quite good. He was chosen to help demonstrate for one of the drills, and his arm and leg movements were very well coordinated and crisp. He’s not an elite skater, but he is a rather good one. It will be interesting to see how the next couple days go for him.
#57 Chris Bigras: The only person on the ice today with better skating than Chris Bigras was Adam Foote. Everything Bigras did today was beautiful. Even at the NHL level, his skating would be elite. Smoothness, efficiency, balance, power, technical stride… he made these drills look easy. Zero issues there, and an absolute treat to watch.
#54 A.J. Greer: It’s clear AJ Greer is young and still growing. A lot of his movements are somewhat gangly, choppy, and awkward, but his stride has very good power, and he also has a fairly high top speed. There’s certainly potential with him, especially once he gets more comfortable with his body.
#72 JC Beaudin: He was one of the best skaters today. While he could still work on his power and explosiveness, his top speed was very good once he got going. A bit more knee bend, especially when going backwards, would greatly improve his balance and pushes, but overall, he was one of the more natural skaters today.
#67 Nick Magyar: He struggled during these drills. His stride is choppy and lacks power, so the bungee drill proved to be quite difficult for him. He also had some balance issues and didn’t do a very great job of keeping one foot on the circles as he skated around them. A bit more work on his skating would serve him well.
#56 Ben Storm: Storm’s another one who could stand to strengthen his skating a bit. He wasn’t really bad, but his stride was a bit choppy and his balance was a bit off. However, his power was there, and he stayed late to work just a bit one-on-one with Foote. With a bit more time, he could probably clean up into a pretty decent skater for his 6′-6″ frame.
#64 Wilhelm Westlund: He struggled some on the backward skating, which isn’t exactly the greatest thing to see with a defenseman, and he also had some balance issues and could stand to widen his stride. However, his speed was decent and he didn’t look too terrible out there. There’s a bit of potential with him as well.
#73 Justin Hamonic: As the second invite to camp, the 6’4″ right handed defenseman didn’t really stand out as overly good or bad. He has a wide stride, but didn’t generate much power. His forward skating movements were choppy, but they smoothed out as he did the circle drill. Tomorrow will be a better indication of where his talents lie.
Top Overall Skaters:
#1 Chris Bigras
#2 Mason Geertsen
#3 Sergei Boikov
#4 Mikko Rantanen
#5 JC Beaudin