The Avs youngsters have returned to Denver after going 1-2 at the Rookie Faceoff in Anaheim. For what it’s worth San Jose took the top spot and Colorado came in 5th of 6 teams, with their lone victory coming against the winless Golden Knights. Better results would have been nice but the staff stressed the process and learned a few things. I really couldn’t tell you where they finished in the other tourneys, other than winning the first one in Denver, so results really don’t seem to matter. They are worth documenting however, let’s get to it.
Goals – 6 (4 at even strength, 1 power play and 1 empty net)
Shots – 109 (43% coming in 2nd periods)
Shooting percentage – 5.5% (4.6% with a goalie present)
Power play – 1/19 (5.3%)
Outside of the 2nd period of the opening game vs Vegas there wasn’t much going on the scoreboard. Igor’s empty netter and Alex Beaucage’s goal vs the Kings were all we saw afterwards. Shot rate was still solid at over 36 per hour for the tournament but not a lot of finish. Without much practice time and with a contingent of camp invites and new pros the offense was fairly unsophisticated as one would expect. The other clubs were in the same boat so that’s more of an explanation than an excuse.
The power play really struggled. Organizationally the Avs have big problems with the man advantage, mainly what I saw was zone entry and possession issues and I would say the staff spent very little time coaching that up compared to 5v5 play. Given how awful the Eagles PP was last year it’s a slight concern but if they did have some solutions to that they sure wouldn’t want to display them here.
Shane Bowers and Nick Henry were the standout forwards of the tourney. Bowers led the team with 11 SOG in 3 games, Henry right behind with 9. Both had a goal and an assist. Luca Burzan and Brandon Saigeon both had 7 SOG with Burzan burying one. On defense Bowen Byram led with 2 assists in 2 games and had 4 SOG. Kevin Davis had 6 SOG in 3 games to lead the corps.
Goals against – 10 (7 at even strength, 2 on PK and one shortie against)
Shots against – 87
Team save percentage: 88.5%
Penalty kill – 8/10 (80%)
On the surface it looks like the goalies let the team down but that’s not quite the case. Game 2 was a bloodbath for Trent Miner but I wouldn’t fault him for more than a couple and he was probably shellshocked at that point. Final numbers for the 3 guys that played went like this:
Miska – 8/9 in 31 minutes
Miner – 45/52 in 89 minutes
Werner – 24/26 in 60 minutes (but one was more or less while he was off-ice)
I thought all 3 played well relative to their experience levels. Werner was the guy we really wanted to see since he’s going to be in a big role this season and he was fine. Miner battled hard and was better than the numbers indicate with plenty to take back to Vancouver and work on this season.
Shot rates against were quite good at 29 per hour and given the lack of prep time this speaks pretty well of how the D was set up but quality against was another story.
Coach Cronin talked about a style he wanted the players to take on and the more talented and experienced guys complied. He wanted a fast pace, relentless forecheck and a blueline that controlled the game by starting breakouts quickly. The hope is that the Eagles take this and sharpen it up considerably in pre-season because the style played in Loveland last season was ineffective at best.
All 17 Avs prospects that are signed or on reserve list move on to NHL camp starting today. Joining them are Hunter Miska, Kevin Davis, Peter Tischke and Sasha Larocque, who are signed to AHL contracts. None of the invites made the cut, even Felix Lauzon who was probably the best of the bunch and has what is in effect an ECHL contract with the Eagles and Grizzlies. I’m not sure we’ll see any of them for Eagles camp, only a handful are eligible and only Joe Wegworth has nowhere else to play. I liked Wyatt McLeod and the staff seemed to as well but even if he was eligible to play in the minors there isn’t anywhere to put him right now.
The staff got to look at a few randoms and get a preview of some of the new talent in the pipeline. I thought the youngest players looked just that, young, but promising. Luca Burzan will be looking for a contract at the end of this season and I liked his tournament a lot. I wasn’t too sure about the pick when it was made but with his invite to Team Canada’s WJC Summer Showcase and what he was able to do in the Rookie Faceoff I’ve got a much better handle on his ability.
Out of the new pros, Bowers and Henry shined and demonstrated that they could form a strong line with Martin Kaut if the staff wants to try that out. I think everyone should be rooting for that. Conor Timmins took another step towards making his pro debut this season. He had a great opening period and a half before the coaches eased up on his minutes in game 1. Next step is getting some pre-season NHL games and if he continues on the same track he’ll be a huge help in Loveland this year.
The player everyone wanted to see was Bowen Byram and he showed why he was selected at the top of the 1st round last June. He played very well with the experienced and skilled players, a little less so with the more unstructured fellows. That’s not a bad thing or unexpected at all. Good players need to play with good players, demonstrating that you can up your level when placed with more talent is what anyone would want to see. Coach Bednar remarked that he’s going to get an extensive chance in pre-season and I’m dying to find out how he handles being paired up with NHL talent.
Despite the record this tournament went well for the Avs. No injuries that we know of and the top guys played solid hockey. Let’s hope the headstart it gave will show evidence during training camp.