Welcome to the Day 2 recap of prospect camp, also known as Mohawk Day!
No, the prospects didn't get fun new haircuts (unfortunately). A mohawk in hockey is a move that involves turning one's feet so that the heels are both facing in and the toes are both facing out. When done correctly, the feet line up Mary Poppins style and the player can either glide sideways or gently lean on their inside edge to turn. This allows them to keep their body mostly upright and open to making plays while efficiently transferring momentum into their next move.
It's a useful tool when transitioning from forward to backward skating or protecting the puck (as seen demonstrated by Sidney Crosby here), but it's also a very difficult and counter-intuitive move on the ice that requires a lot of flexibility in the hips, balance, proper knee bend, and good weight transfer. It's an effective tool when done correctly, but it's a high level skating move for even professional hockey players.
Some of the prospects today rocked the mohawk well, but some of them... let's just say they found a skill to work on. Since it's one of the last skills taught in classes, it really separated those who have done power skating before from those that could use more work. It also showed which prospects were willing to apply what they were being taught and which ended up cheating their way through the drills.
Just like yesterday (recap here), one team started out the day working with the goalies. The Blue Crew were the lucky 8AM bunch today, so I was able to see some of their shooting skills. I've been taking some notes on goaltenders as well, but I'll summarize those thoughts tomorrow in the final recap.
#63 Martinsen: It was very clear that he was the oldest and most developed player of this group. During an early passing drill, he was slinging pro-level passes to the other Blue guys, and they were having a hard time handling them. When catching passes, he receives the puck well, and he's great in front of the net. His 6'-3 frame is used to its full advantage when screening the goalie, and he's extremely quick to grab rebounds and fire them back again. In one drill, he and Martin had a sequence of about four shots and rebounds in a row before Martinsen finally put it in.
His shot is pretty decent and accurate, and he has a very smooth slapper. He's also very good on his inside edges - some of the half-cirlces he made while going north-south down the rink took up most of the ice east-west. He had absolutely no problem with the mohawk and was definitely one of the best forwards overall in terms of skating technique today.
One memorable moment happened near the end of the Blue Team's time on the ice. Players were supposed to use the mohawk to screen the puck from Adam Foote, who was coming at them near the halfboards from the middle of the ice. Instead, Martinsen preformed a perfect toe drag around Footer, zipped in, and went bar-down on Martin. It was completely out of nowhere and completely awesome, even if it technically wasn't what he was supposed to be doing. For a big guy, he has a nice set of skills.
#70 Pepin: Pepin's shot is actually pretty nice. It's very strong and lasered past more than one goalie this morning. However, he definitely need to work on his release time. If it takes him that long to wind up for even a wrister in games, he's going to have a hard time getting it off at any pro level.
His day began to fall apart as soon as the skating drills began. He struggled mightily with the mohawks, and his edge-work and quick turns around cones could use some work as well. When the puck was added, his issues got even worse, and he was caught on occasion cheating his way through drills or skipping cones. It's fair to say that he's one of the prospects that could work on his agility a bit more.
#61 Nantel: Another one that struggled with the mohawk was Nantel. He did get a little better as the day went on, but even when he got what his feet were supposed to do, he looked very awkward and uncomfortable. Quick turns weren't his forte either. He was surprisingly decent at screening the goalie, even if he did kick one foot up relatively high when any shot came down from the point. His hands were also fairly soft at receiving passes, so he did have a little to show from today. He may have quick feet as demonstrated yesterday, but his footwork and agility still needs some attention.
#51 Boikov: I want to be friends with Boikov. Any time he scored a goal today, he let out a "woo!" and did a small celly. It's very easy to tell that he loves the game and was having a blast today. The smile didn't leave his face the whole time, and he brought a really fun vibe to the morning session.
It helped that he's a boss at skating as well. His mohawk was great, his edge-work solid, and his quick turns were some of the best in the group. He's very comfortable with the puck, and he has an explosive first step. All are wonderful things to see from a 6'-2" defenseman. If he can actually play defense, he could turn into a really solid prospect.
#53 Compher: It was easy to see why he's Michigan's new captain. Between drills, he was always working on something, and during them, he was often used to help demonstrate. He and Boikov definitely bonded today (Compher hit him in the butt with a puck and got a laugh), and he was a bastion of energy for the entire first session.
He's also a hard worker. During the goalie drills, he was one of the first to figure out how to keep his feet moving up until the very moment he shot, and he got a few nice snappers away during the stand and shoot drills. However, once the skating started, he began to have some issues. His left foot is fine, but he doesn't like putting much weight on his right. As a result, he was off-balance during the mohawk drills and had a difficult time getting his feet into the correct positions. To his credit, he kept working on it. During the tight turn drill, he chose to do mohawks around the cones instead of the normal feet facing forward turns. He really made an effort to get better, even if he does have a long way to go.
#68 Maheux: Maheux had a bit of a meh day today. To start things off, he struggled to receive passes. Instead of actively catching the puck and softly cradling it back, the pass bounced off his stick loudly, making it difficult for him to quickly gain control of it. His shooting was okay but didn't stand out, and his skating and edgework still needs a lot of attention. He really struggled once the puck was added, and he cheated a lot on the majority of the drills. By the end of the day, he did show some improvement, but he still has a lot to work on if he'd like to earn a contract.
#57 Bigras: Unlike yesterday when Bigras looked like a god among mere mortals, he struggled a bit with the mohawk today. He did figure out where to put his feet, but he looked pained and uncomfortable with the unfamiliar move. When going to the net, he either used a nice deke move or took a forehand top corner shot, making it seem as though he doesn't like using his backhand very much when attacking the net. Today was good for him because it proved that even the Avs' top defensive prospect still has a little to work on.
#54 Greer: Holy intensity, Batman! He really pushed himself all day and banged his stick or the puck off the boards when he messed up or was told to slow down. He looked comfortable using the mohawk and his inside edges, but he still pushed himself to the point where he lost an edge and wiped out. The ice crackled beneath his skates all day as he dug in to get more power, adding to the go-go-go feel of all of his movements. He also has a laser of a shot that he beamed behind the goalies during drills, and he did a between the legs shot and in at least once.
While the intensity was nice to see, it was almost a bit overpowering. He was one of the main reasons the burgundy session had a much different feeling from the Boikov Blue one. He's still young and almost overly determined to prove he belongs. Deep breath, Greer. It'll be okay.
#72 Beaudin: Beaudin was probably the most disappointing player today. Either he couldn't do it or just didn't get the concept of the mohawk. He cheated his way through drills, skipped going around cones, and stopped doing what the coaches asked of him. Although he was good at protecting the puck from Foote, he dropped his shoulder instead of turning his back into a mohawk like he was supposed to. After the practice, he got a bit of a talking to. I don't know what was said, but he definitely has a lot of work to do with his edges.
#67 Magyar: Very meh today. I didn't get many notes on him because he just didn't stand out at all. He started to do okay with the mohawk as the day went on, but he was slow, awkward, and concentrated on his form. He also lost his edge at least once. There just wasn't much there to really bite into or comment on. He was just... there.
#56 Storm: One of the biggest surprises today was Ben Storm. He was actually pretty darn good at these drills, which is saying something for a 6'-6" defenseman dubbed by the people around me as the "Khal Drogo of hockey players". While he started out a bit slow, he looked graceful and controlled on his edges and in his mohawk. As he added the puck and speed, he struggled a bit at first, but he recovered and took instruction well. He also practiced a bit while standing in line or when he had a free moment. Very good day for him.
#64 Westlund: He's another player that I have few notes on because he didn't stand out at all. He had some struggles with the mohawks, but he got better as the day went on. During the quick turn around cones drill, he was practicing what he had just learned, trying to improve his footwork. He still had problems with it when Adam Foote came his way, but he made an effort at least. Just a hard player to keep track of on a team of 7.
#73 Hamonic: I'll give him this- he's a hard worker. He struggled with the mohawk, but he pushed himself out of his comfort zone to try to get better. At the end of practice, he didn't do a shoot-around; instead, he hovered near center ice and continued to work on his edgework. He's certainly trying to make the most of his camp invite.
#50 Rantanen: The Avs top draft choice of 2015 looked pretty good out there. Mobility and agility won't be an issue for him. With that said, he did seem to do better when attacking the mohawk from the right side of the ice. He also cheated a bit and often forgot to use the move when going around defensemen (he dropped his shoulder instead), but overall, he looked fairly comfortable all day. Even when he didn't have a puck on some of the early edgework drills, he practiced like he did, and he was extremely fast when doing quick turns around cones. He even got in some very nice shots at the end. It's clear he has a lot of upside as a skilled player.
#71 Meloche: He cheated today. A lot. He also managed to turn to face the defending coach during one of the mohawk drills, completely defeating the purpose of using the move to shelter the puck. It was obvious that he's not done this much before, and he didn't push through it very elegantly either. By the end, he abandoned trying to do the move at all and opted to drop his shoulder to get around the defensemen. Not a great showing for him today.
#65 Geertsen: Geertsen doesn't need your skating drills, mortal. He's absolutely got this. It's abundantly clear that this isn't the first power skating instruction he's had because everything he did today was efficient, confident, graceful, and fundamentally sound. He even managed a good lean into the middle of the circle when using the mohawk to turn. Near the end of the day, he tripped over something, sprawled out along the goalline, and still managed to get a shot away. Just another great showing for Mason Geertsen, who is shaping up to be one of the most refined skaters at this camp. Not too shabby for a massive workhorse blueliner.
#62 Wood: Here's another huge defenseman that absolutely owned it today. Wood's inside edgework was really, really good. He transferred his weight really well, always got a good push off, dug into the ice on his way around, and maintained momentum through the entire semi-circular single foot path. His mohawk was pretty good as well (even if he did have a couple mishaps), and he handed the puck through the drills with poise. On one of his drives to the net past defensemen, he tripped and gracefully recovered in time to get a shot off. He was another highlight of the day.
#49 Bleackley: The struggle was real for Bleackley today. It was pretty obvious that he hasn't done much with mohawks before. It took him a while to figure out how to move his feet, and when he did get the motion, he bent his chest down towards the ice, completely defeating the purpose of the mohawk in the first place. He did work at it though, so he deserves some points for that, but his agility could certainly use some attention over the rest of the summer.
#59 Lindholm: Another guy who just didn't get it. He cheated through most of the drills, and I'm not sure it ever really clicked for him. Unlike Bleackley, he didn't really put in the effort to figure it out either and gave up on doing what was asked by the end of the day. Disappointing showing from him for sure.
Top Overall Skaters:
#1 Mason Geertsen
#2 Sergei Boikov
#3 Andreas Martinsen
#4 Mikko Rantanen
#5 AJ Greer
Honorable Mention: Kyle Wood, Chris Bigras, and Ben Storm
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