Development camp for the Colorado Avalanche kicked off on Monday, but a some of the top prospects for the team were not available to skate.
Callum Ritchie, Sean Behrens, and Jean-Luc Foudy were just a few of the players on the roster, but not available to skate. All three of them are currently rehabbing from injuries, and in town for treatment.
Ritchie, who the Avalanche selected 27th overall last week, is hoping to be ready by the time the rookie tournament rolls around.
“For the injury, it’s basically three months until it’s fully recovered,” Ritchie told the media. “And then after that, it’s just maintenance to make sure you’re ready for full contact. I think it’s 4-6 months is the timeline. I’m two months in now.”
On the ice, there just isn’t much to talk about, to be honest. These camps are not really built for fans or anyone who comes to watch. A camp like this is for the Avalanche to get their eyes on these prospects, work with them on and off the ice on very specific things, and prepare them for the rest of their summer. You aren’t going to get much from the drills.
As for observations, here are a few…
- Ivan Zhigalov is in town for camp, even though he’ll be playing in Belarus next seasons. That’s a good thing, though. “He’s gonna play in Russia this year,” Avalanche Director of Player Development Brian Willsie said. “He’s got a net over there, so that’s a good spot for development for him, with men.”
- Jeremy Hanzel, who the Avalanche drafted in the 6th round last week, is an impressive skater. At 20 years old, he can either turn pro or go back to the WHL. Colorado hasn’t decided yet. “We’ll use time,” Willsie said. “We have this camp, he’s got all summer. We’ve got the rookie camp, the rookie tournament, where he’s playing amongst his peers, and then you kind of go from there. A lot can change in 2-3 months for 19 year old kids.”
- Speaking of Hanzel, I talked to him after the skate. In addition, I’ve got something lined up to speak to his coach in the WHL, Matt O’Dette, about his rapid development this past year that led to him getting drafted at the age of 20. That should come soon.
- Mikhail Gulyayev was a late arrival, showing up for the full team skate later in the day. Just an incredibly impressive skater, but English is not his first language, so he was hovering around Zhigalov for help with translations. After one of the drills, he fist bumped Steven Reinprecht and the former Avalanche forward gave him a big pat on the head. He seems like just a happy-go-lucky young man. We couldn’t speak to him after practice because the team wants to find a better translator for him, as opposed to just using Zhigalov.
- Taylor Makar’s skating looks a lot better than it did a few years ago. No surprise, he’s a Makar. He took a step in his second season in the NCAA, and will likely have a bigger role next year.
- In addition to Richie and Hanzel, I spoke with Ondrej Pavel and Sam Malinski, and will have more on them later this week. There’s a realistic shot both play NHL games this year. Malinski knows what he needs to work on after a hot start with the Eagles, and Pavel said the same. Pavel is an incredibly impressive young man. He’s been in North America since he was 16, and while he was a little worried about his English, he sounds great to me. He was a straight shooter with his answers as well. He fits a very specific role in the bottom six, but he also knows what his strengths are.
- Both Kim Weiss and Kelsey Cline were on the ice for camp, helping out with the drills, and will be here periodically throughout the season.
- The team brought in a psychologist on Sunday night to work with the players, and set up a “Shark Tank” event for the players, where they had to sell a product they just made up on the spot to Weiss, Cline, and Avalanche legend (and current scout) Sandis Ozolinsh. “They blew us away,” Willsie said of the players…but who had the best sell? “Josh Eernisse was very well spoken. He stood up there, and he’s a big guy, so he commanded the room. Ondrej Pavel, very confident and direct pitch.”
- The highlight of the Shark Tank event might have been Ozolinsh, though. “He offered all his money, but he wanted 80% of the company,” Willsie said.