SAN JOSE, CALIF. - Got some time to kill at the airport gate before my flight back to Denver, so I thought I'd kill some of it with some observations from the Avs' just-concluded rookie showcase tourney here in Silicon Valley.
I'm glad I came, as it's been a while since I've really been able to focus in on some Avalanche youngsters, and being there in person is always the best way to get to know a team. The tourney itself, and the venue, was a little strange. IT was in the Sharks' practice rink, a mammoth complex with, I believe, four rinks inside. As Avs rookies and those from three other NHL teams came on and off the ice for three days in a round-robin format, moms, dads and their kids milled around too, in public skating sessions or beer-league games or pee wee games, etc., etc. etc.
The "press box" for the games was actually a workout room, with free weights and stationary bikes and treadmills. Players who weren't playing in the game below were right behind us, working out. A lot of them had to do timed "stress test" bike bursts, where a trainer would yell "go" and players would pedal furiously in bikes that had fans attached into the front wheel. So, it sounded like a jet engine taking off every few seconds in there while we watched the games. Weird, but kind of cool too.
Let's get into some free-association stuff that I'll take away from the four days here:
Alex Kerfoot has legit NHL skill. Of any player I saw play in the three games I did, I would say that Kerfoot had the puck on his stick more than anyone else. More often than not, he made something good happen too. He is definitely a pass-first kind of guy, just always looking to dish off in some kind of creative way. Is he going to be big and strong enough to play against better NHL competition? I guess that's still to be determined, but he had a fantastic start to his Avs career, and everybody was impressed by him.
Tyson Jost too - wow. He was just great. He didn't score any goals, but he was dynamic with the puck almost all the time. He does everything reallyfast too. He probably needs to slow the game down a little more in his own head, as his finishing ability wasn't quite there on a few chances. But the Avs absolutely hit a home run getting this kid with the 10th pick overall last year.
Chris Bigras? It's getting better. He was the Avs' steadiest defenseman overall, I thought. He's not lightning fast, not super physical, not supremely skilled. But I think he can be a little bit bigger version of a John-Michael Liles maybe, a guy who will play hard and has a good head on his shoulders and do some good things with the puck.
Andrei Mironov looked nervous at times, I thought, which is understandable for a kid playing his first North American hockey ever, away from home. I thought he seemed a little too stationary at times in his own end, just not moving the feet enough. I thought he looked like a guy thinking a little too much instead of just letting the play come to him. But I think I saw enough that I feel like he can be an adequate 5-6 D-man in this league.
Not much great to see about the goaltending here. Spencer Martin, Petr Kvaca and Francis Leclerc all had problems, especially Leclerc in his one period of play Saturday against the Sharks. Kvaca did settle down to play a decent game Monday, after a rough start, but there could have been a couple other goals against him that he was lucky didn't happen. Martin was unimpressive overall, and that's a concern at this stage of his career. He needs to have a much better regular training camp if he's going to make lasting impressions on management.
I absolutely did not get the sense that Joe Sakic is now, or will be soon, burning up the phone lines trying to make a deal for Matt Duchene, or to rethink the offers to Nikita Zadorov. I don't think I saw Sakic on his cell phone once the whole time, actually.
That's not to say something won't happen in the next two minutes, and people should remain vigilant that something could happen by Thursday morning, when veterans have to report. But, for now, Sakic seems to be unfazed by the possibility of either player not being in Denver Thursday.
Man, it's going to be awkward if Duchene does show up, still an Av. I'm sure he'll do a one-and-done addressing of the situation and that will be it, but it's going to be fascinating to see him answer questions about his feelings about still being an Av, if that's the case. I personally think he'll show up, but I have nothing official about that right now and not at all overconfident about it. I just don't think the player ever wins in a holdout situation, and the fact is, he's under contract and will cost himself potentially a lot of money if he doesn't show. Players don't get paid until the first game of the season, so he won't be costing himself any salary if he doesn't show. Not unless he's still sitting on opening night, that is. But the team can fine him daily for any days he misses in camp, because it's required by their contract to show for them. If he doesn't show, then a lot of people are going to start really calling him a prima donna. It would just get really ugly. But, if he shows, yeah, it'll be real awkward at first, but after a while he'd probably get back into it mentally playing hockey, and he'd be honoring his contract.