Colorado Avalanche: Standouts from Day 1 of 2019 Training Camp

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 20: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon #29 an Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard #49 during practice before game five of round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena April 20, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 20: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon #29 an Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard #49 during practice before game five of round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena April 20, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche’s first day of training camp was relatively informal, though some players started answering questions about their play.

The Colorado Avalanche held the first day of their training camp. I arrived five minutes early, and I barely got a seat. Two seasons ago, I was one of five people watching Day 1, and Mikko Rantanen sent a puck over the glass to me.

Times have a-changed. Training camp was awful packed for a Friday morning, and we had no Rantanen.

Yet. The first domino has fallen with Mitch Marner, and we can hope all the RFAs still pending will topple over as well.

So, training camp. The Colorado Avalanche split their players into two groups:

With each group, there were five colors the players could be wearing. Blue was the top tier. Burgundy the second, gray the third. White followed by red rounded out the selections. Blue and burgundy usually denoted NHL players. Gray were usually top-tier AHLers, while white were prospects. For the most part, red was the tryouts.

Most importantly, in Group 1, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Andre Burakovsky wore blue and skated together. Burakovsky was obviously trying to find his legs with those two, especially MacKinnon. He doesn’t have chemistry yet with either of them, but… with dominoes poised to fall, it’s doubtful he needs it.

In Group 2, Tyson Jost, Nazem Kadri, and Joonas Donskoi wore blue. They showed so much chemistry together. Jost and Donskoi flew. In fact, when it came to his endurance testing, he was the fastest skater. (Donskoi and Kadri were also on that line.)

Thanks to Ryan Clark for getting some nice video of the three skating together:

Everybody really liked this trio. Here’s Nathan Rudolph, now of BSN Avalanche, with some video that resulted in a Jost ping:

Bad ping. Anyway, that trio really stood out. It might be a little awkward when Rantanen signs and Burakovsky takes over for Donskoi, but Burakovsky flies, too. Plus, Donskoi will be a good complement to JT Compher.

Compher was one of the players in burgundy in Group 1. He skated with Matthew Nieto. Professional tryout Colin Campbell skated with them. I liked the jump in Compher’s step, and he looked good with Nieto. That was a surprise combo, but one I don’t mind seeing carry through at least to the preseason.

In Group 1, we got our first look at Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who was in gray. So was AJ Greer, which was interesting. They’re too very different players, but both can play with some grit. Logan O’Connor was also on that line.

From Group 1, I was most interested in the defensemen. The staff paired Cale Makar with Samuel Girard, and it was a delight to watch. They skate around each other and in the zone like they’re weaving out an elaborate tapestry.

Both are such strong skaters and puck movers. They don’t look the same at all, but, boy, do they complement each other. I’m a big fan now of this pairing carrying through to the season.

In Group 1 we also saw what I think could be a more than adequate third pairing — Mark Barberio and Ryan Graves. Remember, I surmised that with d-men, the chemistry would be especially important. I never would have guessed that this pair complemented each other, but they did.

In Group 2, we all got to see the man we’ve been waiting for over a year now — Conor Timmins:

Once again, I liked what he had to offer. He also looked really good with Nikita Zadorov out there.

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That said, Zadorov was supposed to be paired with Erik Johnson, who are probably going to be the team’s shutdown D this year. However, Johnson has some lingering tendinitis in his shoulder, so he’s not skating with the crew just yet.

Just a quick bit of Z love — he’s fit and raring for action. He kept his positioning strong, and I really feel he’s taken a step in his maturity.

Some mishmashing because the Avs dressed so many people, Matt Calvert skated (in burgundy) with Vladislav Kamenev and Jayson Megna. You never know but Kamenev might make a push for that fourth line spot, likely with Calvert and Bellemare.

The other mishmash was Bowen Byram skating with Calle Rosen. Byram looked good out there. He’s got the little things down, and he really didn’t look small or out of place on the ice with NHLers. That was one of my questions, and he answered it today at least.

Training camp or even practices isn’t the place to evaluate goalies, so I’m going to move on to some funny tidbits from camp.

One, at one point MacKinnon was on the ice with some Team Red guys — Brandon Saigeon, Travis Barron, and Nic Meloche (wearing black, but he’s Team Red) running defense on him. Well, I don’t know which one did the deed, but MacKinnon ended up flat on the ice. He got up and glared at the group in what can only be described as junior-high-level crusties.

Slightly less funny, Martin Kaut seemed to really struggle after completing the endurance testing. He lay on the ice for a long time, and Mike Chambers of the Denver Post caught it:

Now, he did lay prone for quite a while, though I didn’t really notice it. And now the Post is reporting that he “collapsed.” However, later on, I watched as Alex Beaucage lay prone on the ice for much longer. He was on his back for a long time before he even moved an arm. Burakovsky also sprawled on the ice, though he kept part of his body upright:

Russian Machine Never Breaks released their own version:

So, I’m not sure why so many people piled on to Kaut even to the point that he apologized and reporters asked Jared Bednar about it. (He said he expects players to empty the tank, though he hoped Martin’s times were ok.)

Anyway, I’m sure the young man is just fine and it was much adieu about nothing.

On to something much funnier. After his own skate test, Jost lingered near the benches seeming to catch his breath, albeit while skating. Well, as the endurance tests continued, he proceeded to amble across the ice with the juggernaut of about seven skaters bearing down on him.

Indeed, he took his own sweet time to just cross the ice to speak to a trainer about his tests. Luckily for him, the skaters were gassed, so they didn’t get to him before he made it across the ice.

Next. Kadri's Adjustment to his New Team. dark

Day 2 of the Colorado Avalanche’s training camp takes place tomorrow, same time same place. We’ll get to see the Avs play proper hockey on Tuesday when they host the Vegas Golden Knights in their first preseason game.