There were a lot of players I really liked tonight but Drouin stood out among them. I thought, keeping in mind this is still a preseason game and established NHL guys aren’t going all-out, Drouin was great.
His play with the puck popped the way that it should and he came alive in an electrifying way. Watching him find multiple dangerous passing lanes on the power play was very exciting. How can you not be excited about the possibilities Drouin can bring if he ends up paired with some of Colorado’s top guys?
Amusingly, maybe one of his easiest passes on the evening was his touch pass to Ryan Johansen which resulted in Colorado’s first goal of the game. Ultimately, Drouin’s skating and the playmaking that were such selling points upon his arrival were on display tonight. There was a lot to be excited about coming in and Drouin delivered on that hype.
This is the kind of performance we’ve been waiting to see more of since he was drafted. There were a couple of quiet games in Vegas and one really good one but this was a downright great showing from Olausson. He used his size effectively, played with speed and determination and battled for pucks with the kind of intensity that has been too lacking in his career to this point.
Then there’s the goal. It’s a great play by Logan O’Connor and Ben Meyers to slip the puck to Olausson but the rest was all him. He danced the Vegas defender, got inside position as he cut to the net and found space to beat Logan Thompson five hole.
The goal was the goods, but it was all the other pieces of his game that really jumped. This is the kind of performance that makes it easy to dream on this kid taking Tomas Tatar’s spot in the lineup next season.
Maros Jedlicka/Ivan Ivan
These two guys aren’t making the team (neither currently has an NHL contract) but they took solid play in Vegas at the Rookie Faceoff and translated it nicely to their first preseason game. Both guys showed what they can do as Jedlicka rocked up and down the ice with speed and intensity and utilized his size well while Ivan also showcased his speed but all-around skillset as well.
They’ve spent a lot of time together in the last few weeks and Ivan has been Jedlicka’s translator when the young Slovak has needed additional help understanding some of the things coaches are teaching. That chemistry showed tonight. I’m not sure there’s a ton of upside to keeping around two guys you know aren’t making the big club too much longer, but they were both so solid tonight that they might have justified a few more days in camp.
It was hard for me to pick one out over the others because they all had moments but I really loved the defense as a whole tonight. Bowen Byram is the only guy who should be an NHL regular this season but there were a lot of flashes of good things from Keaton Middleton, Jack Ahcan, Wyatt Aamodt, and Jeremy Hanzel. I didn’t catch much of Gianni Fairbrother so I’m leaving him off the list for now but the other four guys all caught my eye with various quality plays, especially in their own zone.
Defense is a team concept so this wasn’t just those guys getting it done, but I thought they played well-connected hockey and it sure looks like the Eagles are going to give teams some fits this season. Only allowing 14 shots on goal is a great night from this group.
Normally I have nitpicks all over the place and I know that in preseason games that can drive people crazy but I thought the Avs played a great hockey game tonight. Their special teams were good, their 5v5 play was great, and their goaltending only gave up goals they couldn’t reasonably be asked to stop.
It was just a good, strong, all-around quality performance from the club. If I absolutely had to find something I didn’t love, it was probably the way the defense didn’t chip in much on the offensive side. This isn’t a great group of puck movers on the whole and it showed. Ahcan and Byram are probably the best at that part of the game and both had good moments, so it mostly went as expected.
I do wish Jason Polin had finished off the really nice scoring chance Ryan Johansen created for him in the first period but it appeared the puck bounced as he was trying to shoot it. Either way, that’s the nitpickiest nitpick to ever nitpick.
You got the full MacDermid experience tonight. Everyone who feels one way or another about MacDermid walked out of this game with some evidence to bolster their argument and some evidence that runs contrary to their argument.
For his fans, you saw a physical forward who forechecked hard and created havoc with his physicality, including what ultimately became the game-winning goal that was started by his own work attacking the puck. It was an ugly goal, exactly the kind he’s going to have to score to stick at forward, when he just went to the front of the net and banged one home from in tight. That’s the goods.
His detractors will point out that beyond the hitting element, he provided very little all game and his penalty with just under seven minutes remaining in the third period of a one-goal game is the kind of self-inflicted case of bad hockey that gets players benched or demoted to the minors all the time (remember Mikhail Maltsev two years ago?).
The conversation remains complicated with him but this was certainly a reminder of the fun he brings to the lineup, especially as a forward where his limitations are less pronounced.