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The third day of Colorado Avalanche training camp finished up this morning as the coaching staff continued to split sessions between system installation and conditioning work. It was an interesting morning as different faces made marks after being quiet for the first two days of camp.
Let’s get to the takeaways from the day!
First Round Flash
It was an underwhelming rookie showcase in Vegas for Colorado’s most recent first-round selection, Martin Kaut, and he followed that up with a tentative first two days of regular training camp. Being given a shot next to Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot, Kaut finally looked confident and comfortable on the ice. He was skating as well as he has in either camp and his forecheck pressure during drills was relentless and effective.
What really changed for Kaut today was his confidence with the puck. Tentative and unsure of himself previously, Kaut was flying around today making quick passes and even firing some pucks past goaltenders. For such a fun-loving young man, this camp experience had been a humbling experience up until this point. One puck gets past a goalie and suddenly that smile returned, he relaxed a bit, and the game he’s so good at started coming back to him.
It was great to see Kaut settle in because it appears the coaching staff is looking for an excuse to give him meaningful playing time. If he’s able to capitalize, he may crash the party on the opening night roster. The Avalanche can take a nine-game look at him before they have to decide to keep him or send him to the AHL and essentially get a free year on Kaut’s entry-level contract.
It’s been a very quiet first couple of days for Dominic Toninato but he finally started to show out a little bit today. Granted, playing alongside Travis Barron and Cody Bass is going to create an uphill battle for a player trying to make the NHL roster but today he showed the separation that needs to take place. He’s in a battle with a large pool of players trying to make the forward corps.
His size, faceoff ability, and strong defensive game will be what really defines him in his quest for a roster spot and the systems-heavy work today showed off his smarts and ability to take coaching on the fly. The team was busy working on defensive zone coverages on breakouts and Toninato was rarely out of place and showed he has a strong understanding of what the coaches are asking for from a player at his position.
He’s going to need to carry that over into games, of course, but today was a good step forward for a player who is on the bubble.
‘G’ Stands for “Great”
Sam Girard has been solid the first couple days of camp but I really liked what I saw from him today. One of the things I’m looking for from Girard this year is a significant step forward in his offensive decision-making. Too frequently last year he’d get across center ice and look shell-shocked. His ability to create time and space opens opportunities for doing more than simply rimming pucks around the boards and hoping a teammate wins a battle along the wall in order to keep the offense moving.
Girard did some of that today with his trademark spin move but the follow-up still hasn’t been there. Still, he’s keeping the offense moving and that’s all kinds of encouraging. Once he really finds his footing with the puck, it’s on the rest of the league to figure out what to do with this kid.
Much has been made of his added size over the summer and he does look like a mini-Hulk compared to when we last saw him in April but the size hasn’t negatively impacted his skating at all. He still looks as quick and shifty as ever and his edgework remains immaculate. He’s got an insanely bright future ahead of him and the coaching staff’s desire to see him paired with Erik Johnson off the hop means they aren’t messing around trying to slow play his development. They want to see what the kid can do right now and that’s a refreshing approach to a league full of an attitude that young players must be brought along slowly. For the most part, that is not the case in Denver right now.
Coaching, Coaching, Coaching
Today’s session was less about the players for me than it was paying close attention to the coaching staff and listening to what head coach Jared Bednar was conveying to his players. There were frequent stops as the players would run a drill and Bednar would blow the play dead and skate over to the players, explain what he’s looking for and what they need to do differently to accomplish the goals of the system being put in place.
A great example was when the Jost line gave up a quality shot on goal to Travis Barron after Barron’s linemates had cycle the puck before finding him for a one-timer in the slot. Bednar explained to everyone what their role should be in that situation and explained why the wingers needed to collapse further down to provide puck support instead of sticking to covering the points. Bednar’s basic point was “Which is more dangerous? A shot from the slot or a shot from the point?” Kerfoot and Kaut were the wingers Bednar was talking to and both immediately took the coaching, adjusting on the line’s next run through the drill.
It’s that atmosphere of coaching and constantly teaching that makes this a different environment than previous years. We knew from Bednar’s first camp that he wanted to spend more time explaining what he wanted and why but the previous preseason schedules were condensed in such a way he wasn’t able to accomplish all he wanted. In order to make room for the amount of on-ice time he wanted, they dropped the Burgundy & White Game this year in favor of an extra day of training camp. That freedom has allowed the coaching staff to take its time when installing the systems and thoroughly explaining what goals they are trying to accomplish in each situation.
It’s obviously too early to tell what the long-term effects of this increase in coaching will be but it’s hard to imagine a world where this is hurting the team more than helping them.