Saturday, September 20, 2008

Training Camp: Day 1

Hockey season is upon us once again. And I am extremely ecstatic about it!

I attended Day 1 of training camp today, at the Pierrefonds Sportsplexe. It was, indeed, open to the public, which is not usually the case for Day 1. Usually the open practices at Pierrefonds happen later on during camp, starting on a Friday and ending on Sunday.

Instead of writing a long long paragraph about my overall impressions on each player, I decided that I would take quick notes on the guys on the ice and share them with all of you.
I watched Groups A and B - which means I missed out on Group C and Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins, Ryan O'Byrne, Georges Laraque and other storied names.

So here goes...

Keep in mind: there were only drills today, no matches.

Group A:

Shawn Belle (D) - I was really impressed by Belle. He's strong and fast and has good hands. Definitely noticeable on the ice, and not because of his skin colour ;)

Josh Gorges (D) - Solid as usual... Nothing new to report, nothing old to report.

Yannick Weber (D) - A bit weak at times, needs to work on anticipating plays, but has soft hands when he wants to.

Robert Lang (F) - Looked easy going, comfortable on the ice... At first, wasn't pushing too hard but seems to be a highly intuitive player, with creative passing, which includes a good use of the boards.

Alex Kovalev (F) - Got right back into it, so ready for the season to start... Hands are soft as ever.

Alex Henry (D) - Always gave a second effort, but needs a lot of work.

Tom Kostopoulos (F) - So full of energy... I think he can be a real player this season. He's already working hard, and looks ready to start pounding the opposition.

Ryan White (F) - Solid top shelf shot. He'll definitely be a leader in Hamilton this season. His shot is pretty hard, but he needs to think faster in sticky situations, ie behind the net.

Guillaume Latendresse (F) - Trying hard but I'm not sure it'll be enough. Still needs to work on his speed. Basically, the same Gui we all know.

Loic Lacasse (G) - Wow. Impressive. He sees the puck very well, has good, quick reflexes and is very intuitive. He has good composure and looks solid in nets.

Carey Price (G) - Good reflexes/reaction time. He's much quicker on his feet and faster reaching with his stick.

Olivier Latendresse (F) - He's strong and aggressive in front of the net. Needs to work on skating backwards. Thinks well in offensive and even defensive situations, but doesn't react well in 1-on-1s.

Mathieu Aubin (F) - Plays the man well, has good speed and positioning.

Kyle Chipchura (F) - A way different player from last year. He's not into it at all. Needs to work on skating backwards. Still thinks well, but doesn't read the play well in 1-on-1s.

Brock Trotter (F) - Good positioning. Is missing that spark that really gets you noticed, but is a hard worker and seems to provide a solid, constant effort. Should fit in well in Hamilton.

Gregory Stewart (F) -A strong player with good passing. He thinks and sees the play well, but needs to get more involved at times in defensive play.

Group B

Andrei Markov (D) - Looked decent. Not in season shape yet. Mostly going through the motions, even seeming bored at times. Will probably have a slow start to the season if he doesn't pick it up soon.

Benjamin Maxwell (F) - Good hands. His shots are clean and he gives a second effort. Definitely a finisher.

Mathieu Carle (D) -Very impressive. One of my favourite guys to watch so far at camp. He aims well, has a strong shot and is a good forward skater. He's got those seeing-eye passes. He should be the number 1 D in Hamilton and the first to be called up to the big league.

Chad Anderson (D) - Good backwards speed, but sometimes commits to the play too soon in a 2-on-1 situation. He's pretty good defensively in the zone, and has good positioning.

Tomas Plekanec (F) - Hasn't lost his spark at all. Looks like he never stopped for the summer. He knows how to pace himself though, giving a solid effort when needed and relaxing when not. Will, once again, be great.

Mike Komisarek (D) - Strong skating from Mike. Looks his opponent right in the eyes... with a freakish amount of intensity. He is ready to be fantastic and was very focused throughout practice.

David Deharnais (F) - Impressive, just like last year. He has a solid shot and good hands. Knows how to deke, and when not to. He's small but smart - reminiscent of Koivu.

Sergei Kostitsyn (F) - As fast as ever. The finesse is still there, as is the intensity and grit.

Alex Tangay (F) - He's got really soft hands. He sees the plays well, knows how to make those key passes in front of the net. Also has an uncanny ability to find the holes in the goalie's stance... and hits net more often than not.

Ryan Flinn (F) - Was very average. Didn't stand out much, but has good positioning. He should be a good veteran in Hamilton.

Max Pacioretty (F) - Consistently made good clean shots, but needs to work on passing - both making them and receiving them, especially in motion. He doesn't seem to like passing very much, in fact. He has good speed and nice hands, but doesn't seem to be able to finish when chooses to deke.

Thomas Beauregard (F) - Needs to work on his aim. He's got strength but only average to poor skating... Much like Guillaume Latendresse. Also has trouble staying up to speed when skating backwards.

James T. Wyman (F) - An average skater, with an average shot. The kind of player you don't dislike, but don't necessarily like either because he doesn't stand out positively or negatively.

Cedrick Desjardins (G) - Has solid positioning. Makes the key saves and sees well when his net is crowded.

Jaroslav Halak (G) - Needs to work on cross-crease movement when he's doing the splits. Looks a little slow and out of practice, and didn't seem to be focused enough.

And now, some random observations:

- Carey Price was wearing white pads again. In fact, the only goalie I saw with a bit more colour than white with some accents was Lacasse.
- Ryan Flinn had some kick ass facial hair
- The Plekanec - Kostitsyn x2 line looks like it's ready to take over the league... They're sparking and sparkling!
- Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn had a nice little 2 on 1 with Pleky in D... Andrei roughed him up a bit but they laughed about it later... That's good chemistry!
- Halak was being really hard on himself... I wonder if he's sick or injured, or just out of it. Personal issues, perhaps?
- Similarly, Markov didn't look like his head was all there... though it got better as we went along.

Looking forward to intersquad matches tomorrow... if I can make it!

Stay tuned...