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The first official day of full training camp for the Colorado Avalanche is in the books as 50 of the 54 listed players took the ice on Friday morning. The most notable omission from the ice was Tyson Barrie (more on that below).
A very important caveat for breaking down today’s action is that day one is always more hype than substance. In each session, there’s really only about 30 or so minutes of hockey being played. That’s a very limited amount of time to draw strong conclusions from so just be careful about reacting too strongly to day one.
That said, here are the main takeaways from the first day of Avalanche training camp!
We’ve talked all summer about how the goaltending situation in Colorado is as promising as it has been in a very long time. Both Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer had strong starts and looked healthy and happy. Those two guys are going to be at the center of our daily goaltending updates so beyond them, I was very impressed by the work from Pavel Francouz today. While Joe Cannata and Spencer Martin had to split reps in the day’s first session, Francouz had a net of his own in the second session and he looked good.
Francouz is definitely smaller than his counterparts and it’s a noticeable difference but his quickness really jumps off the ice. I watched him closely today and he really stood out this morning with a strong effort. There was one save in particular in which he pushed post-to-post moving to his left and shut down a beautiful backdoor feed with a kick save. If he proves the be the real deal, Eagles fans are going to be in for a very fun season in net.
Kids impress early
Fresh off a rookie showcase weekend that gave them a head start on their veteran counterparts, several young players looked very solid today. The three who stood out to me were Ty Lewis, Logan O’Connor, and Vladislav Kamenev. Lewis proved he was in fantastic shape by destroying the conditioning portion of the morning and coaches absolutely love when a young player puts in that kind of work over the summer. O’Connor continued to look good and his place on a line next to J.T. Compher and Matt Calvert suggests they might be giving him a serious shot to make the opening night roster. Kamenev had a roller coaster of a rookie showcase but he was centering a line between Colin Wilson and Sven Andrighetto and those three very different players had instant chemistry together. Their line clicked as well as any line outside of the MacKinnon-led monster at the top.
MacK attack is back
Speaking of that top line, the Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen trident of terror appears to be back together this season. They absolutely destroyed the morning practice session, scoring on any of the goaltenders pretty much at will. They were dominant together and apart, suggesting this is no one-man show. Nathan MacKinnon appears to be in amazing shape as he annihilated the conditioning portion of his session. I’ve been skeptical about bringing this line back together but day one was successful enough that I’ll just shut up about it and let these three keep rocking.
Second line questions
There were questions all summer about what the Avalanche were going to do in terms of secondary scoring. With Carl Soderberg seemingly firmly entrenched in the defensive stopper role, the Avalanche need to find a second center to get consistent point production from. At least early on, it appears Tyson Jost is going to be given the 2C job. He certainly looked quicker today than he did at any point last year. Also in that category is Jost’s linemate and fellow sophomore, Alexander Kerfoot. Kerfoot came out flying and looked like a new man out there. My biggest takeaway from the first day was just how good Kerfoot looked. He looks like he took his summer training seriously and he looked, well, awesome. I’ll be very excited to see what those guys do together, especially if Martin Kaut stays on that line.
Which leads right into one of the next interesting situations of the day. Despite just an okay rookie showcase, head coach Jared Bednar is wanting to see what he has in his young Czech winger. The 16th pick of June’s draft, Kaut got dropped next to Kerfoot and Jost. That’s a pretty significant amount of trust early on and while the lines could easily be something else, if Kaut continues to see time next to the NHL guys, it’s a pretty clear sign the team is looking for him to make the team immediately. Remember, Kaut can play nine games in the NHL before being sent back to the AHL and his contract will “slide” to next season. If Kaut outplays that situation, such as we saw Sam Girard do last year, then better for the Avalanche in having another young talent producing in the NHL already.
The two Avalanche defensemen who had offseason shoulder surgery took the ice in non-contact jerseys today. Patrik Nemeth and Nikita Zadorov both said after their session they are feeling healthy and it’s just an extra precaution. Zadorov specified that he’s likely a week away from putting on a regular practice jersey and is only expecting the play the final three games of the preseason. Nemeth did not elaborate on a plan for him.
Every year you get a guy who dramatically altered his look over the summer. Last summer, it was Mark Barberio who came to camp with short hair and no beard, causing all kinds of questions to be thrown his way. This year, A.J. Greer came out sporting the kind of beard Charlie Blackmon would approve of and Mason Geertsen’s hair had grown to a ridiculous length. Turns out Geertsen chose not to cut his hair after a bet with his sister. He began growing it out in April and has to wait to until September 21st when summer is officially over to get it cut. The trimmed hair will be donated to a charity that provides wigs for children with cancer.
Odds and ends
Mark Alt laid the first big hit of training camp when he drove Matt Nieto wide of the net and hard into the boards. Nieto was slow to get up and Alt skated off to run the drill again. Alt got beaten badly by A.J. Greer just seconds later. Carl Soderberg’s goal-scoring has always been sporadic because of his pass-first mentality but he was out there sniping today. He was one of the few who beat Varlamov cleanly, getting him with a short-side snipe that seemed to surprise the Russian netminder. Of all the conditioning work I’ve sat through over the last couple of years, I’ve never seen a goalie handle the bag skate as well as Spencer Martin did today. He just crushed it.