Day one of training camp for the Colorado Avalanche is in the books, and there’s no shortage of things to talk about.
From Jonathan Drouin officially reuniting (briefly) with Nathan MacKinnon on a line, to Valeri Nichushkin addressing the media about the incident in Seattle, there’s a lot to go over. I’ll probably do something like this after each day of training camp, just to give my overall thoughts on what transpired during the day, and to throw in quotes from coach. In addition, there will be separate pieces on some individual players.
If you missed the article on Drouin earlier, please give it a read. He was in good spirits, and seems genuinely excited to have a fresh start.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
- All eyes were on the top line of Drouin, MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the new look third line that’s full of fresh faces. Ross Colton centered former New Jersey Devils wingers Miles Wood and Tomas Tatar, and there looked to be immediate chemistry between all three, particularly with Colton and Tatar. They all looked really good. Sure, there are questions as to what Tatar can provide when the games really matter in the playoffs, but I have zero doubt he will be a positive contributor during the regular season, and he adds some real skill to the third line. That’s something they were absolutely lacking last season.
- On Colton, Bednar had the following to say: “I think he’s an important add for us because of the grit and determination that he plays with, and he finds a way to put the puck in the net. Generally, it’s from going to the net hard.”
- Speaking of going to the net, I asked Bednar if the Avalanche team last year lacked a little size up front, and if they addressed that this summer. He did not hold back.
- “It was definitely missing,” coach said. “When Val is out of the lineup, Manson is out of the lineup, Landeskog is out of the lineup, all of our injuries, look at the players that were coming in – a lot of smaller, skilled role players. Size helps. Equal talent, I’m taking the size all day, every day. It’s so difficult to get to the interior of the ice to create scoring chances, so if everything’s equal, the big guy wins every time.”
- One of the big questions I had coming into the season was what the Avalanche were going to do on the penalty kill. J.T. Compher led the forward group in shorthanded time-on-ice per game, and he’s now in Detroit. So, naturally, I asked Bednar what the plan is there. The answer? The two guys I figured would be used on the PK.
- “Some of the new guys are going to penalty kill, for sure,” Bednar said. “No question, guys like Wood, Colton. We’ll see how training camp goes and exhibition goes, but there’s going to be a bunch of guys that are going to be fighting for some ice-time there.”
- Bednar made it a point to mention that he wants to carry 13 forwards this season. Whether or not that 13th forward is Kurtis MacDermid, who practiced at forward on Thursday, is another question, but there’s room for someone to crack the roster. One “depth” forward who caught my eye during day one was Riley Tufte. First of all, he’s massive. He towers over everyone, was labeling shots into the corner of the net, and Bednar mentioned him yesterday as someone he’ll be keeping a close eye on. I’ve learned over the years to not get too excited over depth players during these training camp practices. After all, it’s just practice, and most drills are made for the forwards to look good, so I’ll have to see Tufte in action during the preseason. Good start, though.
- Tufte played on a line with Fredrik Olofsson and Joel Kiviranta. All three of them came over from the Dallas organization. Wonder if they carpooled.
- So, that Nichushkin availability. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. I didn’t think he was going to say much, but he pretty much shut things down immediately, and was visibly nervous. Someone asked me afterwards if he would have been better off just not talking, and I’m not sure that would have been okay, but he really didn’t say anything anyway.
- “If we’d make next round, I’d probably play,” Nichushkin said. We’ll never actually know if that would have been the case, but I’ll just say his return would have surprised me.
- Yesterday, Nichushkin’s Avalanche teammates made it pretty clear they support him. MacKinnon said he was welcomed back “with open arms.” Val reiterated that, so I doubt this will be an issue with the team moving forward.
- Nichushkin was asked about the woman involved that night, and her stating someone took her passport. The big Russian declined to comment. It should be pointed out that Nichushkin was never charged with anything.
- Is this the end of it all? Well, Val doesn’t talk much to begin with, so I’d be surprised if we see him do an interview anytime soon. For all I know, this might be the only time we speak to him this season. I imagine it will still be a topic of discussion for some Avalanche and NHL fans, but I don’t see the team discussing it much more.
- Bednar went into more detail about his conversations with Nichushkin this summer. “Number one, I wanted to see how he was doing, you know, what he was going through at the end of the season. Making sure that that was all taken care of and clear. Where his head was at for his offseason of training. My meeting with him the other day was, ‘how did it go?’ I have a lengthy relationship with Val now, and I just wanted to make sure his head was in the right place, and he was able to train the way he wanted to train and needed to train to be a real good player for us. That’s my concern. Number one, his well being, and then where is he at with his game and is he ready to go?”
- I will say…Val looked incredible on the ice. He was flying out there, and was easily the best player out for group two. He mentioned afterwards that he was dealing a couple of small injuries, which isn’t something any Avalanche fan wants to hear.
Other News And Notes
- Josh Manson was a late arrival, but did skate in group one and looked pretty good. Andrew Cogliano wore a non-contact jersey in group two, but that man is not able to avoid contact.
- Nathan MacKinnon left the ice early in group one, but he had a good reason. He’s headed to Halifax to watch his jersey get retired by the Mooseheads. That’s supposed to happen tomorrow, so I imagine he won’t be at Friday’s skate.
- Ben Meyers opened camp between Cogliano and Logan O’Connor, indicating that he might be the early favorite to win the 4C job, but it’s still very early.
That’s all for day one…I think. If there’s anything the readers want to see for days two and three, let me know. With the Nichushkin interview, no one else from group two was really available for an interview, so I’ll probably look to speak to some of them, like Johansen, tomorrow.