Much like the ice surface, the players weren’t ready to go initially for the second day of Colorado Avalanche rookie camp. An issue with the pond setting properly delayed things for about an hour, but eventually, the players did get out on the ice! Unfortunately, things started off a bit chilly, perhaps due to the arena temperature being cranked down to get the ice to set.
The coaches drew up a transition drill emphasizing passing and breaking through the neutral zone. The players executed a drill of fishing for off-target passes, and fetching sloppily handled feeds from the boards. A quick whistle and huddle set the tone for the rest of the practice. The coaches expected things to be done cleanly, quickly, and with attitude and aggression. The players responded to the challenge. The coaching staff, including Adam Foote, weren’t shy about stopping drills throughout the practice to give pointers, or correct things they weren’t happy with.
It was fun. The pace was up today. Obviously the big boys upstairs were watching closely today. The compete level was up there. -Troy Bourke
Yesterday’s rookie standouts Borna Rendulic, Conner Bleackley, and Chris Bigras continued to show-off skill-sets beyond most of the other rookies. A guy I didn’t talk about yesterday is Duncan Siemens. The dude looks like he is on the verge of being NHL ready. Very strong positional skills in the d-zone. He holds his ground against the fowards, and is a very strong skater. He still needs to show me something with his passing before I declare him ready to jump into the burgundy and blue, but like I said… he’s close.
Much of the day was spent doing a lot of 3-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills in the zone, with an emphasis on cycling the puck around and getting to the net. Here are a couple of videos, and while they are pretty short and aren’t the same as being there, they at least give you a little taste of the action.
This video showcases Avalanche 2014 first round draft pick, Conner Bleackley (49). Bleakley has showcased a very accurate shot, and has found the net on a much more regular basis than almost anyone else on the ice. His skating is still a bit of a work in progress. He will never have wheels like Duchene or MacKinnon, but Bleackley could stand to improve his skating speed. He looks a little sluggish through the neutral zone at times. In the offensive zone he handles himself in traffic pretty well. In the video above, he puts a pretty nice move on the defender to get a shot away.
Another player I’d like to point out in this video is Mason Geertsen (65). Geertsen has a big frame, but he is also pretty mobile. Surprisingly so, in fact. And he is in shape. The rookies did a bag skate to end the day, and while most of the guys looked like they were skating at altitude, Geertsen looked to be in cruise control. A very intriguing prospect who has a reputation as a big-time body banger.
Borna Rendulic (71) has garnered quite a bit of attention for his performances so far, so I tried to capture a few videos of him in action. Naturally, he didn’t do a whole lot in either of them. The video above gives you an idea of the physicality the players brought. It was intense out there, and guys were giving 110%.
Third and final video shows off Rendulic again, as well as Duncan Siemens (16). Siemens has looked really strong through the first two days of camp. He holds his own against everyone on the ice (as he should frankly), and dominates and takes command of the critical positions on the ice. Forwards have a difficult time driving the net on him, and if they go into the corners, they need to prepare to get dunked by Duncan! Siemens has an opportunity to make the Avalanche if he shines throughout camp and preseason. He has had no trouble showing up the rookies, but we’ll see if he holds up against the A-team.
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To wrap things up, a quick hitter list of today’s studs and duds. Keep in mind, this list is somewhat relative to expectations.
Chris Bigras – Footwork and passing are excellent. Bigras is easily the best passer on the blue-line.
Duncan Siemens – Stylistically, he is a completely different player than Bigras. Siemens has looked imposing at all times on the ice.
Conner Bleackley – A sneaky wrister, and good command and polish to his game. Needs to improve his skating. He isn’t NHL ready like some prior Avs 18 year olds, but that doesn’t mean a bleak future for Bleackley. I like his game a lot.
Mason Geertsen – I am always looking for Bigras and Siemens to see what they are doing, but Geertsen is a guy I noticed doing things well, even when I though I wasn’t really looking for him. The defense really stood out today overall. Stick tap to the blue-liners.
Colin Smith – After a shining performance yesterday, Smith laid a bit of an egg out there today. He muffed the puck several times receiving passes, and seemed to be in a fog. Smith excelled in open ice transition drills, but with today constricting players to tight spaces, and exposing them to more physicality, the diminutive Smith struggled to get things going.
Cody Corbett – Corbett showed flashes of talent yesterday with a good shot, and good passing, but he struggled on defense a bit today. He needs to improve his 1-on-1 defense and overall positioning. Corbett got burned a few times, for some high quality scoring chances. I’d be interested to see what he can do in a power play type setup. Haven’t seen anything like that yet at rookie camp.
The final day of rookie camp is tomorrow, once again at Family Sports Center in Centennial, CO at 9:45 am.