This year’s development camp roster might possibly have been the best collection of talent ever seen together in the summer. The likes of Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost were participants and now graduates since the camp introduced on-ice sessions but never before have three first round selections been on ice together for the Avalanche in Martin Kaut, Cale Makar and Shane Bowers. The list of exciting prospects in attendance didn’t just end there as skill was seen throughout the lineup.
The standard caveats apply and should go without saying that the fact development camp is basically a collection of teenagers and 20 year-olds practicing drills in June. Nobody is making a roster or earning a contract just based on what was witnessed on the ice. However, every impression is all part of the job interview and there’s certainly some who made a larger one than others.
The first session of this year’s development camp followed a similar patten to last year’s. The 29 attendees, 18 forwards, seven defensemen and four goalies, were split into four groups with one starting with Tracy Tutton working on power skating and then another group at the same time on the other sheet of ice working some position specific drills. The two groups would switch after an hour and then leave the ice for the second collection of two groups to do the same.
The first selection of participants was the most intriguing with all defensemen collected into one group, although missing Conor Timmins unfortunately still dealing with a concussion he suffered in the OHL finals. Igor Shvyrev and Martin Kaut did not participate in the morning either but they would each eventually hit the ice later.
Travis Barron led the first forward group of the day with just weeks after playing his last game and winning a championship for the Colorado Eagles. He had a few rough puck handling moments early but settled in and looked like a pro as expected. The players did a lot of skating with the puck, shooting drills and accepting passes type work. Josh Dickinson showed a well-rounded game and Brandon Saigeon has a sneaky good shot. Nick Henry looks healthy and produced a number of nice goals in the drills. Josh Anderson had a good showing in the defenseman portion looking ready to play pro next year.
The afternoon session is where things really turned up when all groups were put together to run through a session coached by Jared Bednar. More one-on-one, two-on-two and even three-on-three situations were employed and then some two-on-two matches on shortened ice. This is where the most game type situations were seen with battles and opportunities to make plays. The speed of the group was evident, this collection of prospects can really fly. There’s also more collective skill than has been seen in the past.
Tyler Weiss was a little quiet in the morning but when the game situations started he was able to hold on to the puck and use his skill making a couple filthy plays with his hands for goals. Shane Bowers also looked great in game environment but he showed poise and polish at all times in the drills, he’s not far off from being ready for pro hockey.
Martin Kaut was finally able to participate in the afternoon and it was so good to see him on the ice. He looked a little rusty at first but started warming up and getting comfortable especially in game situations. He had magic in particular with Ty Lewis as they connected on several highlight reel variety goals and looked to have created some quick chemistry. This could be a dynamite duo in Loveland for the Eagles should the organization choose to employ it. Kaut looked surprisingly large for someone who supposedly is only 180lbs, he has a large thick frame to compliment his 6’2 height and looks like NHL size already. He has a presence on the ice and with soft hands it’s just clear Kaut is going to be a NHL player and has all the tools to become a smart, modern power forward.
The afternoon session ended with a shootout game where each team tried to score 10 cumulative shootout goals before the other one. Sampo Ranta won the contest for his team by shooting the puck through the net with his wicked hard shot. Kaut didn’t manage to score one during this game so he was determined to get one and took several shots on Petr Kvaca after the session was over until he finally got one and was the last player to leave the ice. Kaut’s love for the game is definitely one of the infectious parts of his personality.
The same groups of four alternated between more skating focus with Tutton and drill sessions by positions with coaching and development staff. Several members of Colorado Eagles staff were on the ice including possible head coach Aaron Schneekloth. This day was more precision oriented and more difficult to have individual stand out moments. One emphasis was recieving a pass and shooting in one motion, all part of “playing fast”.
Igor Shvyrev made an appearance in this session and he did not disappoint. He was one of the few who really was able to flash skill while performing some technical drills. His skating, hands and passing ability was all on display and looks like someone who could make an impact for the Eagles.
Ty Lewis was perhaps the number one standout of the two on ice sessions I saw. He was someone who would try extra things in drills including at one point faking out a coach applying pressure for a snipe and then brought that same game with him to the group sessions. He was electric on the ice in both days and really crazy to imagine this is someone who was just a tryout a year ago. Lewis looks ready for pro hockey and one of the potentially most dynamic forwards in the system.
Cale Makar would get the other nomination for standout as he pretty much showed every tool that was expected of him but was still great to have the reminder that he is indeed a special talent. Makar at one point looked the most dangerous offensively from anyone. The second day in the technical drills he was just smooth, swift and consistent.
Nikolai Kovalenko was the standout of the incoming draft class, aside from Kaut of course. He’s not always noticeable but there were moments he showed his tenacity and skill in a big way. He’s physical especially for his 5’10 175 lbs size and tough to get the puck away from. One impressive moment was when he handled Makar well during the two-on-two drills. He has good skill and made several skilled plays in both the drills and group session. Day two were more technical drills so Kovalenko didn’t have as big of a day then but made some slick passes in the drills. Don’t let his sixth round selection take away from the fact that Kovalenko is a legitimately talented prospect and whenever he’s ready to come over to North America from Russia he will have a great chance to make an impact wherever he plays.
Of the invites, Cole Reinhardt had some moments including a couple slick backhands for goals. Turner Ottenbreit doesn’t look like a camp invite and showed good defensive and puck moving ability with a surprising level of skill. He had one of the filthiest goals in the shootout. As someone who is likely to get an AHL deal and act as depth this coming year he really should be in higher consideration moving forward.
But really the story of the invites is Vladislav Kotkov as someone who went undrafted from the QMJHL but is someone who could earn a contract similar to how Lewis did with a good camp showing. He’s a big 6’4 206 lbs right wing who has a bunch of skill including a great shot but his overall game is a bit raw and his skating needs major work. Kotkov is slated to join San Jose Sharks development camp after leaving Colorado and an aggressive offer might need to be made now or before he chooses a camp for the fall. Kotkov showed improvement as the sessions went forward and at one point was scoring in each drill. There’s enough ability there that it would be a shame to let him go.
It’s very difficult to focus on goalies with so much going on in drills but Pavel Francouz certainly showed his experience and polish. Petr Kvaca easily grabbed the most attention as he would do anything to make a save from diving to swatting at pucks in the air and loves to use his stick to make poke checks. It was nice seeing them and Justus Annunen plus Adam Werner all on the ice together which has the start of a nice goaltending pipeline again.
The observations end here as unfortunately I was not able to make it to day three including the three-on-three tournament. Rudo has some practice observations from the morning session on his Twitter (@AvalancheReview) and Vlad recorded a stream of the tournament on our Burgundy Rainbow YouTube channel. Still, even in two days there’s enough to take away from heading into rookie camp in the fall to be very excited and encouraged by this class. Can’t wait for rookie camp!