I had the opportunity to attend the Colorado Avalanche's rookie camp today and here are some observations.
Key players that stood out:
T.J. Hensick- Hensick heads the class of rookie camp. He is the second fastest skater to Kelsey Tessier (the guy looks like a young Pavel Bure). He has a shot that can be either hard or accurate but rarely both. He has great instincts for where to go in the offensive zone.
David Jones- Andrew who? Either Jones or Stewart (see below) will make fans forget about Andrew Brunette. He protects the puck really well and his passes are pretty good. He is a solid player in both ends with a bit of a physical edge. However, his shot is still wanting. He will be the one to get the dirty goals in the crease but not the pretty ones.
Nigel Williams- He is the standout of the entire camp, honestly. He is the complete package. He is physical, has a great shot, passes well and moves well for a big man. He stood Stewart up, knocked people off the puck and punished them in the corners. If any of the top 6 from last year's Avalanche club struggle or (please no) get injured, he'll be able to step into the sixth slot.
Chris Stewart- He could push Jones for a roster spot. At development camp. He plays with a grit, like Jones. They play similar styles but Stewart has a bigger offensive upside. His shots are good and he excells at standing in front of the net. His defensive skills aren't especially polished but he makes up for it in the offensive zone.
Peter Delmas- The Avs' second round draft choice looks like Ryan Miller. He is tall and lanky. He moves well and has good instincts. His only downside is his glove side. Relies a little too much on the pads but he should get better in the next couple of years.
Codey Burki- AHL ready at last. Good reads and good offensive instincts.
Michael Vernace- Has the skills to be a good AHL defensman.
Darcy Campbell- A poor man's Liles.
Derek Peltier- Can't wait to see what he does this year. Solid defensively and has the potential to grow into an NHL defenseman.
Tom Fritsche- The guy just is tenacious. He never gives up on a play.
Jack Combs- He is at camp on an Amature Tryout Contract. Wasn't expecting much but he was above average in every drill, has a good puck presense and scored two goals in the scrimmage
Kelsey Tessier- Great speed, good shot and above average passing. Will be insteresting to watch his career.
Surprise of the day:
The regulars all showed up to practice among themselves on the other rink (the Avs' practice facility has two). They did about a 10 minute warm-up skate, then spent about 20 minutes doing drills. They finisied by scrimmaging 5-on-5 for about an hour. Here are some notes on the action:
Svatos was wearing an Orange jersey. It's not the powder blue ones that signify an injury but I'd assume its something similar.
Arnason showed up looking pudgy, slow and dispassionate.
Per Ledin looks good. He has decent speed and plays a lot like Cody McCormick, only he is faster and has a better shot.
Andrew Raycroft looked shaky to begin with. A lot of easy goals were scored on him in his first stint but he got better in every stint afterward. He looks like he has all the skills still but lacks the confidence. It might have been that he was playing for his new team for the first time.
Peter Budaj looks like he's ready to take the next step. He moved well in net, had good speed and made some spectacular saves. However, none of the regulars were going 100% today so it was hard to judge how ready he is.
Darcy Tucker is looking like a great addition. Brought a lot of offense and speed to the scrimmage. Will be hard to judge his grit since they didn't have very many hits, though Scott Parker had a few.
Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski have both increased in ability and will be the cornerstones of this franchise.
Liles looked faster than I have ever seen him.
Smyth came off the ice limping at the end of the session.
Last but not least...
Sakic had a wry smile the entire time. He was joking with Adam Foote in the warm-up skate. His shot is still as good as ever and he has regained the step he lost because of his injury last year.
Anyone who went yesterday, today or will go tomorrow, please comment on what you saw.