The first and only day of rookie camp was like a crash course in drills and systems to prepare for the Rookie Showcase beginning today in San Jose against the Sharks at 5pm MT. There were two 45 minute sessions with about a 15 minute break between. The first session the forwards and defensemen were split by color, blue and white in their new Adidas practice threads. The second session was more grouped into teams with one being more the primary offensive grouping and the other more defensive.
The first session began with rushes and transition drills of 3v2 and things of that nature. The intensity cranked up as some hitting started with some 3v3 forecheck. AJ Greer didn’t hold much back as he set the tone physically pretty much right form the beginning. Some pairs of interest started to show in this portion such as Alex Kerfoot centering JT Compher. Tyson Jost and Greer were often together and sometimes centered by JC Beaudin. Nicolas Meloche and Anton Lindholm were often seen together and that continued through the day.
The second session was a bit more interesting as they began more game type situations with transitions and entries. Some of the anticipated top lines for the showcase began to emerge such as Jost-Kerfoot-Compher and Greer-Beaudin-St-Amant. Lindholm and Meloche remained a pair and the Bigras-Mironov pairing started to become obvious. We’ll see if these combinations hold true during the games.
The last area of focus on the day was two power play units alternating vs. two penalty kill units. The top PP group consisted of Bigras QBing Greer, Jost, Compher and Kerfoot and the second unit was Meloche QBing Lindholm/Mironov, Beaudin, Toninato and St-Amant. All the others got a try on the PK with some standouts being Barron, Nantel and Anderson. The final drill had the PP and PK units switch roles with a little different grouping to make it 4v5, which was fun to see the more skill unit defend and the defensive unit try to score.
Rampage coach Eric Veilleux vocally ran much of the day’s sessions and he was helped by Rampage assistant coach Randy Ladouceur, who focused on the defensemen. Avalanche development staff were on hand as well including Brett Clark, Brian Willsie and David Oliver. Jean-Ian Filiatrault focused on the goalies, although new goalie coach Jussi Parkkila was spotted working with the veterans on the other rink.
Speaking of, around 20 veterans gathered for about an hour to skate and work on some light drills while rookie camp was ongoing. Most notable who were present are Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. It was good to see them out on the ice warming up for main camp next week.
It’s tough to make strong impressions from camp drills particularly when real games are forthcoming but a few general thoughts are fit to share. Kerfoot was given a pretty big role at center most of the day with top guys and didn’t look out of place. He is feisty and quick with a good amount of hustle. He looked especially good on the power play. Hopefully the skill group can mesh together to create some offense. Dominic Toninato looked like he had a safe and solid defensive game, which is tough to evaluate in drills.
One of the standouts on the day for me was Meloche. In the second session he just really came out and took control of the puck every opportunity he had and wanted to be first on the puck in every situation. He looked good controlling the power play with a hard accurate shot and good reads to keep the play alive. One of the best moments was when he was on the PK at the end of the session and he was able to get the puck out, chase it down and hold it on the boards, which resulted in the day ending breakaway Jost had but was stopped by Petr Kvaca. It was really nice to see the gains Meloche has made in puck handling and movement on display in camp.
As expected, the most experienced looked the most polished and ready for the next step in Jost, Compher and Lindholm. While some of the younger prospects like Conor Timmins weren’t given a very big role in the team situation portion of the practice. Everyone seems ready to move on to the games portion of rookie camp, which will give a lot more information for us heading into main camp next week.