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Development Camp 2012 July 6th-10th
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07-07-2012, 10:50 PM
Enjoy the chaos
Join Date: Jul 2003
So today was day 2, but my first day of observing development camp. It began with the defensemen and goalies, then the forwards were the second group. A few hours later, there was a combined group. I took notes on what drills were done, but otherwise, specific player performances and looks are all kept in my head (the more time I spend looking down to write things, the less time I am actually watching). So... take these mental notes for what they're worth.
The goalies drill were pretty straight forward: practice lateral movement, and practice taking up the bottom of the net effectively when you lose position. Then they had junior Kings do cross ice passes to take shots on net.
There are only two goalies, but Berube, to me, was a lot more impressive than Gibson. The problem with Berube is that shots seemed to go through him. However, he was focused and intense on stopping the puck. Gibson's timing was well off with the cross ice passes. He has a Bernier-like approach to goaltending, but the lack of intensity in drills may be what stops him from being successful even at the AHL level, let alone the NHL level.
Defensemen had a series of drills. The first drill, they were just skating from wall to wall with the puck. When the whistle blew, they had to chip the puck off the wall back to themselves and skate the other way. Rinse and repeat. The second drill had more of a haphazard "goof around between serious drills" look; the defensemen just skated in circles and passed back and forth to each other. No apparent rhyme or reason. Third drill was simply to retrieve the puck behind the goal line, circle around the strong side, and pass to the next player in line, who was around the face-off dot. The fourth drill I like to call the Jack Johnson drill... because every player was practicing head and shoulder fakes before passing to the other guy. Finally, they practiced one-on-one drills.
As you can see, there wasn't a whole lot of showcasing of skills, so it was really hard to differentiate the players. To add to the complication is the fact that three players were wearing grey, numberless jerseys (Deslauriers, Forbort, and Miller) and the only numbers were the small numbers on the back of their helmets. However, the player who stood out the most was Deslauriers; year-in, year-out, he finds a way to work hard, but make his movements look natural and effortless. Even though it was a no-contact session, he managed to hit one player along the boards during the one-on-one drills. No player beat the other in the one-on-one drill, as should be expected. Ebert came the closest, as he had some nice moves. Paul Ladue looks like his stick is a little too small for him. I'm assuming it's so he has an easier time retrieving pucks in tight; it sacrifices reach but raises his effectiveness in moving the puck in tight spaces. Forbort's puck skills, with what I saw, were limited to his ability to look down at the puck, which to me is a problem. When they were practicing the Jack Johnson drill, there were a couple times he would mis-fire the puck or have the puck roll off the heel of his stick. There is something about Ebert's swagger and how he handles the puck that tells me he could be very dangerous, but he needs to bulk up more than most of the players.
Finally, on to the forwards. They started off with skating around the rink, with sprints when the whistle blew. Then they did a series of stickhandling drills from goal line to goal line. Afterwards, the coaches stood behind the goal line and shot the puck along the boards, with the forwards practicing a series of breakouts after receiving the puck. At first they practiced skating out and passing to the next forward. Then they practiced chipping the puck against the boards around a cone (the cone was to represent a defenseman standing up at the blue line). The next breakout drill was broken up into two parts: one half of the ice had sticks resting on tires, and the other half had sticks laying on the ice. The forwards then had to practice the breakout, either passing the puck under the elevated sticks or over the lower sticks to another forward on the other side. Finally, to put it all together, they removed the obstacles and had a third forward join in. The coach would chip it up the boards, and there was one forechecking forward, with two forwards trying to break the puck out. The recipient either had to decide to skate the puck out himself or to pass the puck over to his partner.
The most standout in a negative way was Michael Schumacher. Particularly during the final drill, when he had a forechecker on him, his line had to redo the drill numerous times because he would give the puck away at the first sign of pressure. He wouldn't look. His passes would get intercepted numerous times. Michael Mersch, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. He got praise a couple times, not only for his decision making and looking with the breakout, but also because when he would lose the puck, he stayed with it, won the puck back, and still got it out. Another standout was Tanner Pearson. Not so much because of the final breakout drill, but he had the most amazing, hard, and accurate saucer pass when he had to elevate the puck. He also had a natural fluidity to his body movements, particularly when he was waiting for the "defenseman" to pass the puck along the boards; he would have one hand on his stick as if expecting a need for a burst of speed. Most players just held onto their sticks with both hands every time, which inhibits that burst of speed when necessary... the only other player with the same form frequently was Jordan Weal.
However, Jordan Weal struggled a little with the stickhandling drills. For a smaller player, speed is a factor. He was always the last player of his "line" to stick handle from end to end in the earlier drills. He looks like he's added a bit of weight, though, so I'm not ruling out the possibility it's an adjustment to his body mass for him. Conversely, Robbie Czarnik was the fastest player in the stickhandling drills, with Toffoli a very close second.
Nikolai Prokhorkin was more impressive with controlling the puck in stride, though that wasn't as apparent with the specific stick handling drills from goal line to goal line. Nick Shore was only really visible when the passing drills were done, and he made some nice passes.
Contrary to most reports, I was underwhelmed a bit by Hyka. Barclay Goodrow, the invitee, has bouts where he skating form is clunky, but he has a good frame for a young guy.
The afternoon session was a variety of drills before a scrimmage. Ebert did not participate, and I don't know why. Among the drills included some stickhandling drills, like the ones during the forward practice. Then the players in black jerseys were on one blue line, and the players in white jerseys were on the other blue line. One at a time, one player from each side would pass from blue line to blue line. He would then have the puck passed back to him as he skated in on the goalie for a breakaway. Finally, the teams would take turns with passing drills; the team in white jerseys stood in specific locations along the length of the ice, and four players from the black team would then pass the puck to each other, skating down the length of the ice, coming back around, continuing to pass around the white players, and shooting the puck on net. The white players, by design, just stood there, acting as mere obstacles for the black team. After a few times around, the two teams switched roles, and the white team passed around the black team. This is where Linden Vey got injured. Him and Nicolas Deslauriers were looking at the puck and they collided with each other. Deslauriers was fine, but Vey limped off right away and did not return.
A couple standouts for the afternoon were Pearson on the positive and Lowry on the negative. Pearson almost had a collision with a white player who was standing still; the puck was passed into his skates and he looked down to his feet, all while skating towards the opposing player. He managed to kick the puck out, and with one hand redirected the puck around the player, before shifting away. It was an otherwise ugly play that he turned around to look nice, and he still managed to get the puck to a linemate. Joel Lowry's passes were frequently off the mark; however, to his credit, he probably has some of the best acceleration among the players. Michael Mersch, form what I saw, had the nicest snipe of the group, roofing the puck short side against Gibson.
After the drills, they finally did a short scrimmage. No referees, and after a certain amount of time playing, the coach would blow the whistle; play was effectively dead, both teams had to do line changes as fast as they could, and then play would resume wherever the puck was. Moreover, there were random times it was 4-on-4 and random times it was 5-on-5.
No goals were scored in the scrimmage (the only time the puck went in, I believe it was knocked in with a high stick. It was either Tanner Pearson or Michael Mersch who knocked the puck in, if it was legal).
It was a pretty defensive game, and there weren't too many chances. Prokhorkin broke up a cross ice pass that would have been a good scoring opportunity. Kurtis MacDermid, an invitee broke up another good scoring chance from Toffoli. Tanner Pearson had an open net, but the puck was out of his reach and he couldn't get a good handle on it. Mersch wasn't as impressive in the scrimmage as he was in the drills. I don't know if it was fatigue, but he was extremely sluggish in his puck pursuit. Michael Schumacher, while having a rough day with drills, showed some filthy hands on numerous occasions, stickhandling around a few players. On the other hand, there was one moment where Colin Miller one-hand shoved him down to the ice and took the puck away.
Overall, keep in mind these were mostly drills, and the skills weren't on display with the types of drills... so take these impressions with a grain of salt.
Overall, the most impressive players throughout the day were Deslauriers and Pearson. There's nobody I'd really categorize as "having a bad day." They were either not standouts, or they had good moments and bad ones.
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