A whirlwind week after the draft continued with the new draftees convening in Denver from June 25th through 29th for their first introduction to the Colorado Avalanche organization, staff and a taste at what pro life entails. It is important to keep in mind to take everything observed here with a grain of salt but every second is an opportunity to make an impression.
Joining the 2019 draft class, which all eight were in attendance, a collection of previous draftees with mostly younger players from Europe and a larger than usual selection of invites. It seems the Avalanche are getting a good look at some of these older players in consideration for AHL contracts much like Peter Tischke and Sasha Larocque already hold.
Unfortunately Nikolai Kovalenko never showed up and Tyler Weiss was kept off the ice entirely due to an injury. Sasha Mutala, Nate Clurman, Nicky Leivermann, Denis Smirnov and Cam Morrison all missed some portion of the group work but each participated in the 3-on-3 at least.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 24, 2019
With the departure of Director of Development David Oliver and also the curious absence of skating coach Tracy Tutton this development camp had a little different feel. While forwards and defensemen were still separated and split into two small groups of around six or seven players each, it was skills coach Shawn Allard who took over the bulk of the individual detail work on one sheet of ice while Greg Cronin and the rest of the Colorado Eagles staff worked with the other group on the second sheet and then the groups would switch after around an hour.
Day One was the most energetic of the week as the players wore down over the course of the rigorous schedule but saved some spark for the 3-on-3 game in Ft. Collins which capped the on-ice portion of the camp. Shane Bowers made a statement especially in the first day of these drills as he looked poised, polished and with a focused determination. Martin Kaut also had a new spring in his step and scored at will certain times in drills. These are the individuals who should stand out but still they held up their end of the bargain.
The afternoon of the first day was the most entertaining as all groups combined together for a more NHL style practice with head coach Jared Bednar leading the session. Bednar loves to use his transition drills and expects a high pace of play. Matthew Stienburg had good moments in this session including a nice power drive to the net. He also showed off a slick backhander and some vision on his passes.
Bowen Byram was placed in a group with the bigger and older defensemen in what seemed to be a test of his strength as the drills Cronin focused on were battle and positioning focused. Byram held up well and then showed off his skill and skating in the sessions with Allard. As seen below is an example of one of the skill drills where Byram uses his hands and feet to combine into one smooth package. In the 3-on-3 he pushed the pace offensively and contributed two assists on his use of skating into space and passing ability.
Day Two offered the same set-up with some more focused aspects of the drills. Those such as Drew Helleson took advantage when he’s able to show off his stick work when defending. He is an intelligent player who will need to get a little more aggressive but also uses some offensive instincts well. Sasha Mutala’s first session on the ice was during this day and showed his hands and shiftiness. He is a quick player who could get even another step with some improved footwork.
Day Three began with another morning session of group work but everyone was looking forward to the grand finale 3-on-3 game in the evening. Several players really took advantage of this game type setting to shine and is why it is such an important part of these camps to allow the players the opportunity to show aspects such as hockey sense, passing ability and competitiveness which are more evident.
Nick Henry, Luka Burzan and Alex Beaucage were some of the standouts as they scored two goals apiece in the contest. Henry showed maturity and readiness for pro hockey (and of course hustle). Burzan really didn’t wow drills but came alive in the game with his hard shot and high energy motor which tied the game for Burgundy at the end of the third period. Beaucage had his fantastic shot working in drills but had it at another level during the game as he used his hands to curl away from defenders and placed two absolute snipes. Beaucage combined this with his smarts and defensive ability into an impressive first showing especially for the youngest player in this camp who is still 17-years old.
Despite not scoring Brandon Saigeon had a lot of good looks and shots on goal during the game and should go without saying that he does not look out of place among the other signed prospects and deserves a contract.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 29, 2019
Alex Newhook might be the most interesting prospect in the Avalanche arsenal with his lightning quick skating and agility combined with shifty hands and great vision. All these aspects of his game stood out during the 3-on-3 culminating with this nifty shootout move seen above. Newhook needs some refinement to put all his tools and talent together but the upside is immense.
Perhaps the best part of this development camp was seeing Conor Timmins as a full participant. The final hurdle seems to be playing in a full game but he was involved in everything the whole group engaged in over the week and did not look like someone who missed an entire year of hockey. While he ran out of gas a bit in the 3-on-3 he also scored a goal off the rush on a great wrist shot.
Sampo Ranta won the game for team Burgundy with the only goal scored in the shootout on a very slick backhand seen below. He showed his athletic skills well all throughout the week and kept up with all the first rounders as far as standing out, which is an encouraging step for him heading into next season.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 29, 2019
As as far as goalies, a camp setting isn’t the best evaluation for goaltending since most drills are set up to thwart the netminder. It was a fantastic surprise to see Shamil Shmakov in attendance. He is even taller and larger than advertised. He uses a more standup style to take advantage of that height and keep pressure off his lower body. No doubt the intense coaching he received during the week will help in the future. New draftee Trent Miner fit in to the group well and had a tremendous assist on a pass for a Bowers breakaway goal. Adam Werner looks ready for pro hockey and Justus Annunen is primed to take advantage of a big year ahead.