Saturday, July 13, 2013

Scrimmage Features Notable Performances

I spent Saturday morning at the Calgary Flames Development Camp and after the high tempo, full-length game, I caught up with several players to hear how it went from their perspective. Here are links to separate sidebar stories I cobbled together from post-scrimmage conversations with Sven Baertschi (read story here), Laurent Brossoit (read story here), Ben Hanowski, Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk and Linden Penner (read story here).

Also, here are some of my general observations from the inaugural scrimmage, which came on the fourth day of the week-long camp.

Dozen Thoughts on Scrimmage No. 1

1. Keegan Kanzig’s Big Presence – This dude is big, no denying, but if you can somehow imagine it, difficult as it is considering he’s 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, I thought he actually looked pretty slim out there.  Seriously, he could be 255 with that body type but his 240 is svelte-like and he gets around better than I expected. He’s also not shy to roam off-leash either, frequently winding up in front of the other team’s net. He did face Johnny Gaudreau on a one-on-one down the side boards and was second best in that match-up but of all the guys to be beaten wide by, I think you get a free pass if it’s Gaudreau.

2. Shootout Deja Vu – If anything looked ‘same old, same old’ for long time Flames observers, it was the lack of execution when it came to penalty shots. Just like the failings of the 30-somethings in years past, the 20-somethings didn’t have much luck lighting the lamp either in the so-called skills competition. Playing pond hockey rules with every penalty whistled by the two referees resulting in a penalty shot, there were six penalty shots during the game and no goals were scored with Gaudreau, Kenny Agostino and Ben Hanowski among those thwarted. After the game, a five-player shootout was held with Reto Berra and Joni Ortio stopping four out of five each, Morgan Klimchuk and Markus Granland the lone two to successfully convert.

3. Captain Crunch – What we saw over three periods was Patrick Sieloff’s game in a nutshell – plenty of physical and nastiness defensively, lots of board-rattling hits also, but no panache whatsoever offensively. No gloves were dropped on the ice in the game but there were a couple of testy exchanges with Sieloff in the middle of both. In one incident, it was big Michael Ferland that exchanged whacks of the stick with the surly 2nd round pick. Lanky Tim Harrison exchanged shoves with Sieloff in another minor confrontation. The knock on Sieloff’s game is it’s one dimensional, which he reminded us of when he failed to bury a neat set-up in front from Sven Baertschi.

4. Nearly Flawless Between the Pipes – When talking about the Flames crowded goal crease, don’t forget about Laurent Brossoit. The young WHLer played extremely well in his two periods of puck-stopping with the only blemish a Sean Monahan shot from the slot that beat him under the arm. Brossoit admitted afterward, he was not happy about that one, but was pleased with his game otherwise, which included stopping three penalty shots. Brossoit can potentially return to the WHL as an overager but in talking to him, he feels he’s proven all he can at that level and is anxious to take that next step into the pro ranks.

5. Johnny Be Really Good  – Johnny Gaudreau is electrifying to watch, there’s no other way to say it. His skillset and creativity with the puck is something to be seen and he reminded everyone of the sheer talent he gushes, skating on a line with Monahan. In a possible look into the Flames future, the two connected for a neat tic-tac-toe goal and Gaudreau set up a bunch of other chances as well. Afterwards, I asked Monahan if any of the other prospects stood out to him and without hesitation, he said Gaudreau. Every time I see him, it feels less and less possible that this guy can’t be a success at the NHL level, he's just too talented.

6. Is that Kris Letang? – Now we know why defenceman Trey Lewis of the Halifax Mooseheads got himself an invite to the Flames camp -- he looks just like Kris Letang on the ice.  Or at least, he looks just like Letang from behind anyway. They’re of similar stature, and with the long hair flowing out the bottom of the helmet, that part is similar also. While Lewis wore No. 78, it was easy to envision him wearing Letang’s No. 58.  It was a solid game for Lewis if by no other measurement than he wasn’t noticeably caught out of place, which is often a sign of a good game for a blue-liner.

7. Non-Roster Invitees Looking Good – In addition to Lewis, the line featuring Flames prospect Turner Elson alongside invitees Josh Jooris (US college) and Linden Penner (AJHL) was one of the better trios all game with Penner scoring twice. They had the puck a lot, took it to the net with some urgency and were a presence all game. And that’s mission accomplished when you’re here on a tryout basis as is the case for Jooris and Penner. Penner, genuinely excited about his productive game, will be looking to make Everett in the WHL next year, which is coached by former NHL coach Kevin Constantine.

8. More Energy Than Chemistry – There was plenty of speed in the game, which had a few of us wondering mid-game how some of the Flames veterans would be fitting into game with that kind of tempo.  All players were fully invested in the game with the boards rattling on a regular basis. But while raw offensive talents like Gaudreau and Baertschi made some dynamite plays with the puck, it felt to the players and looked at times like a a bit of a “cluster” as one player remarked post-game.  And that's to be expected with players playing with new linemates, etc. It was nonetheless entertaining.

9. So Far, So Tall, So Good For Reto Berra – While beaten twice in his one period of work, it should be noted he was under siege immediately after he entered the game. Berra made numerous sharp saves as well and that massive wingspan of his – he looks taller than the 6-foot-4 listed on the roster, is certainly an asset. Berra doesn’t give you much space and for a big guy, seems calm and in control all the time. In the post-game shootout, he took away any opening forcing Mark Jankowski to shoot wide, then after getting beaten by Granlund, he followed up by stopping Baertschi, Jooris and Emile Poirier.

10. Roman Horak, looking like an NHLer – Listed as No. 51 in the program, Horak took to the ice in jersey No. 21 instead, a ‘real’ NHL number if you will. He seemed to rise to the opportunity and play like an NHL player, too. With Hanowski on one wing and Ferland/Ryan Howse alternating on the other side, Horak was noticeable all game and in a good way, showing veteran poise, looking calm with the puck and making smart and simple decisions. Opportunity is certainly there for anyone resembling a centre and early signs show Horak is up for it.

11. Fans Psyched for the Future – The scrimmage was held on the NHL-sized Joan Snyder rink at WinSport, one arena down from the main international-sized ice surface that Hockey Canada calls home, and the place was absolutely packed. It was impressive to see with several players commenting afterwards how cool it was too see the stands jammed as well as people two or three deep pressed up against the glass. I’m guessing there was around 1000 people in attendance. While the main rink would have been a better venue for accommodating the enthusiastic spectators, an NHL development camp obviously needs to be held on an NHL-sized ice surface

12. Perfect Pairings – There were no duos of (Brett) Hull and (Adam) Oates calibre, nor was there any combos with the chemistry of (John) Hall and (Daryl) Oates for that matter, but several centre/winger duos stood out for me -- Corban Knight/Harrison, Horak/Hanowski, Jankowski/Agostino, Granlund/Baertschi and Monahan/Gaudreau.

Alright, check back later tonight and Sunday for further player reaction from Saturday's scrimmage.

Related Reading:

1 comment: