Friday’s Colorado Avalanche rookie skate offered plenty of interesting tidbits. For those who did not get to attend, or lacked the opportunity, here are some observations from the stands, leaving the expert analysis to A.J. Haefele and Adrian Dater. Warning – this is the first official day of observation. There was too much happening of for one person to catch it all. Nothing mentioned should be taken as anything other than general impressions and background information.
The rookies began with a full ice skate, practicing their passing and shooting skills. Eric Veilleux, head coach of the San Antonio Rampage, stopped the drills to go over objectives and strategy at the far side of the rink.
RANDOM MOMENTS FROM PLAY
1.Newly acquired forward prospect Alexander Kerfoot quickly drew attention with how quickly he adapted to the directions. He also seemed to please the coaching staff as later in the skate he ended up on line combinations with fellow forwards J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost.
2. It didn’t take long for forward A.J. Greer to get physical with defenseman Anton Lindholm, as the two ended up shoving and pushing each other as Greer’s group pushed the net Lindholm was defending. Pretty intense for the first day.
3. The first 45 minutes consisted of the forwards in blue playing against the defenseman in white. They set a good pace going three on three and it wasn’t long before some of the players were sweating.
4. Goaltender Spencer Martin looked solid in net although he occasionally dropped his shoulders when moving towards the side. Recent draftee Petr Kvaca showed some real promise as well. Camp invitee Francis Leclerc looked huge in front of the goal posts and while his stick work looked good, his glove work could use some improvement. Since he just turned 19, though, there’s plenty of time for development.
5. At one point the staff changed the drills to 3-on-2 on half the rink. During this period, forward Julien Nantel outmaneuvered defensive prospect Connor Timmins, who lost the puck and ended up pushed back to center ice.
6. After taking a break to run the Zamboni to refresh the ice, the rookies returned with different jersey colors and the drills moved to a four on four on one half of the ice while the goaltenders took turns stopping shots on the other end. Eventually the goaltenders returned to opposite ends of the ice and the team started playing with different line combinations facing off against each other.
7. One of the more consistent 5-on-5 line combinations included Jost, Kerfoot and Compher on offense with Andrei Mironov and Chris Bigras feeding them from the defense.
8. Another line combination included forwards A.J. Greer, J.C. Beaudin and Shawn St. Amant playing with defenseman Anton Lindholm and Nicolas Meloche.
9. The drills eventually moved to 5-on-4 across the whole rink, where the Compher, Jost, Kerfoot, Bigras line added Greer and seemed very effective on the power play. A few times they ran against forwards Travis Barron and Julien Nantel with defensemen Gage Ausmus (another camp invitee and former teammate of Tyson Jost) and Sergei Boikov. While the defenders played well, they were frequently pressed against the goal by the Compher group.
10. At one point, the Compher-Jost-Kerfoot-Greer-Bigras line faced off against forward Hugo Roy, and defensemen Ben Storm, Josh Anderson, and Nolan De Jong. During a quick break in the action, both ‘teams’ were getting a little coaching, and after the assistants left, Compher added his own input, directing his group. They subsequently scored on a scrum in front of the net and Jost threw his hands in the air and yelled “goal!”.
11. Near the end, the staff put out a line of forwards Ben Storm, Barron and Nantel along with defensemen Tom Gregoire and Sergei Boikov against a four person line of Greer, Compher, Mironov and Bigras. That four person line pushed the play and dominated the five player group.
12. Near the end of practice, Greer owned Ben Storm in the corner ice and later on, Jost ended up with a breakaway shot on goal.
13. As practice neared it’s end, Martin stayed later to work with Storm and De Jong taking shots on one end of the ice while Compher Bigras, Lindholm, Barron, Josh Anderson and Tom Gregoire scrimmaged on the other end.
14. One of the most amusing moments happened at the very end, when an assistant coach, Storm and Martin tried to corral all the pucks into the bucket. The pucks kept escaping from their gloves and refusing to go into the bucket. Apparently, rounding up pucks off the ice with hockey gloves resembles herding cats.
15. Ben Storm was the very last person to leave the ice.
1. The coaches seemed to like the Compher-Jost-Kerfoot line, and played with who was center versus who was a wing. They played together most of the time, occasionally adding Greer into the mix. This line played fast and aggressive hockey.
2. The favorite defensive pairings looked to be Mironov with Bigras and Lindholm with Meloche. Both sets looked good, which is promising for a team that lacked quality defensive depth in past years.
3. Mironov appeared solid but not dominating. Hopefully, his strengths will be revealed in actual game play.
4. Greer definitely brings a toughness to his play which could prove useful to the Avalanche. He played every shift full out and didn’t shy away from physical contact.
5. Compher and Jost appeared comfortable with each other and seemed able to anticipate where the puck was going and how to worth through opponents.
6. Kerfoot looks like a quality addition. He kept up with Compher and Jost while making crisp, clean passes and pushing the action.
7. There are some physically very big guys on this roster and a few of them looked slow.
8. The Rookie Showcase should prove interesting as fans will probably get an idea of which players are likely to make the big club based on their playing time and line combinations. Fortunately, the Avalanche announced on Twitter they will be streaming the showcase so everyone will be able to watch and form their own opinions.