The second day of Avalanche training camp is in the books! The first day was a bit of a slower day but the first thing I noticed today was that the competitiveness ramped up quite a bit more today.
There was a lot more hitting, a lot more communicating (read: yelling), and a lot more hard work going on as the team shifted its focus less on basic system installation to a little more 5v5-focused work.
I’m going to give a quick rundown of the guys who caught my eye today and empty the notebook a bit from some of the things we’re hearing around the rink so far.
Fresh off me calling him my darkhorse to make an impression this preseason, Tufte got an immediate promotion as Nathan MacKinnon flew to Halifax as the Mooseheads are retiring his #22 jersey. Ryan Johansen moved to MacKinnon’s spot and Tufte slipped into the center role between Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen.
Tufte has been a wing basically his entire life and seeing his 6’6″ frame hulking his way through the middle of the ice was a bit jarring. You could tell it was uncomfortable for him as he spent a lot of his time being told where to go on the fly by Nichushkin.
Tufte’s skating ability certainly stood out but the rest of it remains a major work in progress. The Avs really like him and any chance Tufte has to show versatility is an opportunity for him to carve out a spot in Colorado’s lineup.
The “fourth line”
For the second straight day, the likely fourth line for the Avalanche of Cogliano-Meyers-O’Connor played together and my goodness did they look like they fit nicely as a trio. Cogliano was still in the non-contact sweater but he went all-out, per usual for Cogliano. What really jumped out to me was Meyers, whose speed is a wonderful fit next to the wheels of both Cogliano and O’Connor.
Meyers was attacking with the same kind of aggression as his veteran linemates and the trio looked wonderful as a unit. I called them a proper chaos squad and I think that is still appropriate.
The two veterans are well-established at this point and everyone is familiar with what they bring to the table, but Meyers is still trying to prove himself after a disappointing season in which he scores just four points (all goals) in 39 games in the NHL a year after being the most highly-sought after college free agent on the market.
If Meyers can develop a little more of a physical edge to his game, he will be a wonderful fit and can hopefully have closer to the type of impact the Avs were hoping for from him last season.
I don’t have a ton to say here other than he looks big, quick, and boy was he shooting the roof off of the building this morning. He put on a show.
He took MacKinnon’s spot next to Rantanen and Drouin and he sure looked comfortable for the day. I liked his skating and his work ethic. Engagement has long been the biggest downfall of Johansen’s NHL career so seeing him bust out of the gates like a man possessed is encouraging.
It’s obviously early and you can’t take too much from training camp but to see a 32-year-old Johansen giving the kind of effort he did in the second official practice of the season lends a little credence to the idea that he has taken to heart the reality of being paid by Nashville to play for one of their division rivals.
He’s going to have a ton of opportunity this season to set himself up for one more big payday if he plays to the max of his abilities.
I didn’t love Stienburg’s weekend in Vegas last week but I sure did love his day today. Working alongside Peter Holland at Kurtis MacDermid, Stienburg used his trademark physicality to be effective in board battles, especially in breakout drills in which he won 50-50 pucks and moved them to the sticks of the players ahead of him in the neutral zone.
He did this multiple times and made several very good decisions with the puck along the way. This was the kind of encouraging performance that should get him into at least one preseason game to see where he might fit into the pecking order.
I have long been an admirer of Ahcan’s game so when he signed in Colorado over the summer I was naturally excited to get to see him up close. I didn’t make much of a note of him yesterday but I saw him do several standout things today, including beating Justus Annunen cleanly on two occasions during rush drills.
His gap work wasn’t great but as a smaller defenseman his stick was predictably disruptive in passing lanes. I really liked what I saw on both offense and defense from Ahcan and I thought he had a much stronger day than, say, Brad Hunt.
Much was made of our crew out in Vegas over the weekend as Malinski was exceptional in Game 1 in his matchup against Logan Cooley. He cooled a bit after that in Game 2 and then didn’t play in Game 3 and we waited for training camp to see how he would do in a potential battle with an NHL job on the line.
I didn’t notice him much yesterday (that’s not good or bad, he just didn’t catch my eye) but today I really was left wanting with his performance. He lacked some of the same aggressive tendencies that made him pop but it was his defensive details that were lacking for me. He got beat badly on multiple sequences and then struggled to handle the physicality along the wall at times. He’s competitive, but still looks overmatched a little too often for my personal liking.
News & Notes
- Jason Polin returned to practice today after suffering an injury in Vegas. Glad to see it was just a short-term injury and he can resume his chase for a roster spot.
- I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by a lot of the guys in contention for Colorado’s available forward spot(s). Some small things here and there but not a lot has stood out in that overall group.
- Jared Bednar said after practice that right now Justus Annunen is the team’s backup goaltender as they still have no timeline on a return to health by Pavel Francouz. We’ll see if that remains true as the league begins making cuts and sending goaltenders through waivers over the next three weeks.
- Josh Manson has been a full participant in both days of camp but he needs to get into a preseason game sooner than later to truly test himself. I’m just guessing but I bet he plays one of the games on either Sunday or Monday.