With 2018 Avalanche training camp now half over it is an appropriate time to take a look at what happened on ice in the first two days of organized practices.
Make no mistake, head coach Jared Bednar runs his camp very much like a practice by installing his system piece by piece in focused drills. The first day started on the basics which allowed for a bit more loose and wide open play to show off some skill. Conversely, the second day was more structured, physical and focused therefore it was more difficult to see obvious standouts. Each day is divided into two sessions for roughly 90 minutes each. The forwards are grouped by color into lines and generally at least two are together in all drills, thus it is easier to evaluate them as a group.
There isn’t much to to say about this trio other than they are obviously the cream of the crop. Everyone knows what they can do and they have no trouble reminding us. Mikko Rantanen has pulled off some incredible moves in some of the drills hinting that he has yet another level to reach with his skill. They have all executed very well and done what’s asked of them but there’s been an air of impatience with getting through camp if there’s any drawback at this time.
The other “top line” in camp, Tyson Jost has been an animal through the first two days of camp and if anyone could be declared a winner thus far it’s him. He showed up faster, confident and hungry which is a deadly combination. There was a move that Jost pulled on Erik Johnson which was the buzz worthy moment of day two. Alexander Kerfoot also looks fast, energetic and ready to take the next step but just hasn’t had the room to shine on his own being opposite of Jost.
It seems Martin Kaut is miscast in this trio as someone who doesn’t look ready to open the season in the NHL on the right wing of the “second line” but it hints as his role in the future. Kaut seems to have some expectations held against him as a first rounder who should flash. No doubt he’s having a tougher time adjusting than many would like but he is improving and looks particularly good when he can focus on the strength of his game in forecheck, defense and playmaking which was a bigger part of the structure in day two.
Not much intrigue with this group, which are all known quantities in the NHL. They know their role and play to it. Carl Soderberg was having a bit of fun sniping some goals in day two. Matt Nieto always looks more skilled than he’s perceived to be in camp settings. Gabe Bourque still scores ridiculous goals even in camp practice.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of day one was the instant chemistry these three had. A line of completely different players just clicked and if it works in a real game during preseason might hint at what a possible fourth line could entail on opening night. Colin Wilson did look particularly rejuvenated on day one and Sven Andrighetto’s speed was a welcome sight.
One of the biggest storylines in camp is what becomes of Vladislav Kamenev and if he can grab a job in the NHL to begin the season. At this point his performance hasn’t lost the spot but he hasn’t seized it either. Those looking for try-hard intensity with Kamenev aren’t going to find satisfaction, that’s just not his game. The chances he’s had to show power and playmaking have been there but he hasn’t been as crisp with the structure execution.
There hasn’t been much noteworthy with this group, as one would expect. JT Compher isn’t flashing the offense many were hoping for but he’s not really in the position to either. Logan O’Connor continues his quest to show he’s a viable NHL depth option in keeping up with these two NHL players.
On the flip side, this trio has been one of the more entertaining to watch. Shvyrev is just pure fun with the puck when he has the time and space for it. He was bogged down a bit with the heavier structure of day two but he flashes the talent and ability he possesses. It is going to take a bit of time but no doubt Shvyrev is going to be worth the wait.
Ty Lewis is probably the most consistent prospect in the organization. He just shows up to work and plays hard every day and is usually very visible. Lewis also “won” the conditioning skate in his group on day one. His skill is always on display and it’s crazy to believe he once was an invited player. He’s found chemistry with multiple groups from rookie camp on through now the first half of main camp. Scott Kosmachuk has kept up with this dynamic duo at least even if his finishing ability hasn’t presented itself.
AJ Greer has done his part by showing up his linemates but needs a better challenge to see if he can push for a NHL roster spot. He’s been smart and tenacious plus showing his playmaking ability. Andrew Agozzino rapidly aging remains a concern and camp thus far has not placated those fears.
The good-but-not-great trio has held together well but haven’t had any standout moments. JC Beaudin looks more comfortable and confident but camp drills are not the venue where his game shines the most. Brandon Saigeon can still put the puck in the net.
Another group which doesn’t flash much, which the hope was Dominic Toninato at least would display some hope of offense at the NHL level. Given the line construction here it’s just not fair to hold expectations high right now.
Josh Dickinson has flashed some pesty qualities and a good defensive game, particularly with one drill handling the MacKinnon line all himself. However, the offensive game just isn’t shining through. His linemates don’t help that cause either but the organization seems to see him ticketed for a fourth line role until he proves otherwise. Matthew Boucher has done everything asked of him as an invite and would be decent AHL depth if he’s signed.
This group is tougher to evaluate because there aren’t set pairs as much as with the forwards and so many defensemen are missing (Conor Timmins, Nicolas Meloche, Sergei Boikov, David Warsofsky and Tyson Barrie for day one) due to some presumed injury. The defense isn’t as heavily involved in the structure at this point in camp either.
Samuel Girard has looked very good and especially on day two with more structure in place he really worked off of it and got some of his (tornade) moves working. Girard also “won” the conditioning skate for his group, calming any fears that he bulked up too much over the summer.
Nikita Zadorov also showed well despite wearing a red no-contact sweater for precautionary measures. He too looks like the offseason was good to him and is moving with a better pace through the beginning of camp.
The rest has been a mixed bag, there’s quite a bit of talent missing after the top dogs. Kevin Davis continues to show he’s at least a decent depth option as a puck mover at the AHL level as has looked better than his prospect peers.
Can’t leave the goalies out although a camp setting is the worst time to evaluate them as they constantly see odd man rushes against them in drills. Semyon Varlamov, Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz all looked sharp for what it’s worth.
Special shoutout to the Avalanche for removing jersey numbers and contributing to massive eye strain