The main goal of the Rookie Faceoff is to prepare prospects for main camp, winning games is a good way to show progress. The Avs brought a strong bunch of youngsters and Eagles coach Greg Cronin managed to craft a solid lineup and an effective system with only one practice beforehand. Good job on both sides. The rookies dominated the first 40 minutes for long stretches and held on in the 3rd period for a opening win.
Kaut – Bowers – Henry
Lewis – Saigeon – O’Connor
Shvyrev – Dickinson – Beaucage
Barron – Burzan – Mutala
Byram – Timmins
Anderson – Davis
Tischke – Larocque
Scratch: Werner (injured?), forwards Barlage, Kindopp, Lauzon, Mutter, Wegworth and defensemen Kneen, McLeod, Regis
The staff went with all the Avs signed/drafted players plus Davis, Tischke, Larocque and Saigeon on AHL deals. All the scratches were camp invites save for Werner, whose absence is a mystery.
Goals: Henry, Bowers (PP), O’Connor, Burzan, Shvyrev (EN)
Assists: Byram (2), Kaut, Henry, Davis, Bowers
Top Shot Producers: 5 – Henry, Lewis, Tischke, 4 – Bowers, 3 – Davis, Anderson, O’Connor
38 SOG total by the team
Power Play: 1/3 – Bowers (Henry, Davis)
Penalties Drawn: Henry, Dickinson, O’Connor
Unit 1 – Byram/Davis, Lewis, Kaut, Bowers, Henry
Unit 2 – Timmins, Shvyrev, O’Connor, Saigeon, Beaucage
23 SOG against total, 12 in the 3rd period
Penalty Kill – 1/1
Penalties Taken: Barron (interference), Anderson (roughing, coincidental)
PK1 – Kaut, Bowers, Anderson, Davis
PK2 – Lewis, O’Connor, Tischke, Larocque
PK3 – Shvyrev, Dickinson, Byram, Timmins
Miska – 8/9 in 31:05
Miner – 13/14 in 28:55
Kaut/Bowers/Henry – This is a line I’ve been excited to see all summer and they did not disappoint. All 3 guys were born a few months apart in ’99 so this is something that could endure for many years if effective. In the short term, these 3 showing Coach Cronin that they can quickly build some chemistry and compete at the AHL level together is important and this was a great start. Through 2 periods they alone matched the entire VGK team shot for shot and ended with 11 of the Avs 38 while playing solidly in all 3 zones. I love the complementary skills they bring, Henry is a total sniper, Bowers is excellent at moving the puck and controlling the middle of the ice and Martin Kaut looks like a different player after a Summer of conditioning, much quicker and stronger.
Lewis/Saigeon/O’Connor – This was technically the vet line. Lewis and O’Connor’s speed and stick positioning on the forecheck gave Vegas fits. Although they were held off the board as a unit they ended up with 9 SOG total and created lots of chances in the offensive zone off of turnovers and puck battles. Saigeon was the leading scorer in this tourney last year but looked a little rusty at times, I don’t expect that to continue and this was a bigger role than he had a year ago. Lewis really stood out, especially in P1 and P2.
Shvyrev/Dickinson/Beaucage – Coach Cronin used this trio in a defensive role. Beaucage is the youngest player on the roster and the inexperience showed at times in the defensive zone but this line was the one that sealed the game with Igor’s empty-netter at the end. I think Shvyrev and Dickinson showed well defensively, a key to them earning PT this season. What I want to see is them able to generate more offensive chances, something both guys struggled with last year and will allow Beaucage to show his strengths.
Barron/Burzan/Mutala – This was the energy line and didn’t see a lot of ice time until the score allowed the staff to roll 4 in the 2nd half of the game. Like Beaucage, Mutala is one of the youngest players on the roster and had a few gaffes. On the VGK’s 2nd goal he turned the puck over in a bad spot while the D was changing and the result was predictable. Just a young player thing, I liked a lot of his game otherwise. Burzan scored while out with the skill guys on a really impressive shot, I’d like to see him with some PP2 time or an odd shift with the top 6.
Byram/Timmins – All eyes were on this pair from the puck drop. Timmins had a great 1st period, moving the puck easily out of the zone and using his vision to distribute. He and Byram had great chemistry and if the game had been in doubt late would have been major factors. As it turns out they didn’t need to be and Timmins was used sparingly in P3. Byram started the Avs scoring with a fantastic outlet pass to Martin Kaut and picked up another assist on Burzan’s goal. He could have had several more and was making beautiful setups all day. Both these guys see and read the ice so well it’s ridiculous, I’m really interested to see what happens if they stick together in main camp.
Anderson/Davis – With 25 AHL games Davis was the de facto veteran and once the score differential widened this pair did a lot of the heavy lifting. I’m a huge Davis fan so it was good to see that he could handle a 2-way role as well as he did and that the staff piled that on late in the game. It’s also no surprise that he was the key to the Avs power play goal. I’m not a huge Josh Anderson fan but I’ll give him props for a solid performance, played a simple game and even generated 3 SOGs. If nothing else it’s something to build on.
Tischke/Larocque – It’s tough to evaluate guys like this because they aren’t prospects and are the oldest players on the roster. Tischke is around Logan O’Connor’s age and both here and at dev camp has performed fairly well. With the amount of time he’s been around the team last Spring and this Summer he seems like a decent AHL depth option if they needed that, which they don’t. Larocque is a ’94 birthday and given he’s as much as 7 years older than his competition I’m not impressed.
Hunter Miska – Started the game and didn’t see the puck much in a little over 31 minutes. He was tested on some tough chances near the end of the first and fared well. The one goal he did let in was borderline goalie interference so gets a pass there. He’s a known quantity and performed as such.
Trent Miner – This was my first time viewing Miner live and I was pretty impressed. No, he’s not a size guy but he’s a battler and has good mobility. He faced a shot against rate close to twice what Miska saw and kept the game out of reach for Vegas. The one goal he let in was on a breakdown at the opposing blueline which became a 3v2 with speed and the D were scrambling on from a change. Not much to fault on his part. Just turning 18 in February means he’s got a couple more amateur seasons before going pro so there’s still plenty of upside. I keep liking this pick more and more.
Greg Cronin and the coaching staff did a lot with very little practice time. They were aided by some chemistry from last Spring and used that as well as they could. Even so, a strong and coordinated forecheck like they used for the first 40 minutes of the game is a tough thing to pull together on a moment’s notice. If this is a hint of this year’s identity for the Eagles I’m pretty excited about it. Last year the lack of skill on defense limited their ability to move the puck anywhere and that wasn’t a problem yesterday. If they choose the right guys to play every night then it won’t be a problem this year either but that remains to be seen. With a young goalie like Werner instead of Francouz in net, going for a speedy puck-moving style with a strong forecheck should lead to more success.
I’m going to single out a player at each position that stood out with a little bit of surprise and these are tough choices because a lot of guys had very strong games.
Forward – Nick Henry
Hustle Hank was creating offense all game with a goal, assist and 5 SOG. I’m putting him above Kaut & Bowers only because I expected that kind of game from both of them. I expected it from Henry too to be honest but most people have questions about his upside and where he’s going to fit into this year’s lineup. Henry plays a role that the Eagles really didn’t have last year and I really think he’s going to prosper.
Defenseman – Kevin Davis
Don’t get me wrong, Bowen Byram was very impressive as he should have been. Conor Timmins was the Avs best D in the first period and if the staff hadn’t started saving him in the 2nd half of the game he would be an easy choice. It was great to see him healthy and able to influence the game. Davis set up the Avs only PP goal and played heavy minutes to close out the win. This was opposite to the way the Eagles staff used him last year so a great indicator that he could move up the depth chart. His style fits really well with a puck-moving/forecheck system so we want to see him beating out the vet plugs in camp.
Goalie – Trent Miner
Miner was tested much more than Miska and closed out the win. Both played well but Miner was the surprise for me. Great to see.
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The Rookie Faceoff continues this afternoon with the Avs taking on the Kings, two teams with highly ranked prospect pools so another good test.