And just like that, day two of Colorado Avalanche training camp is in the books.
Nathan MacKinnon was not present, as he’s in Halifax for his jersey retirement with the Mooseheads this evening. That meant Ryan Johansen moved up to the top line, and there was a surprise player who replaced Johansen on the second line. Beyond that, we got a little more info on some injuries, and the general intensity of camp ramped up a bit.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
- I’m going to have a separate piece up on Ryan Johansen, as he met with the media for several minutes after practice and had some really good quotes. Fun guy to talk to. He moved up to the top line with Mikko Rantanen and Jonathan Drouin, and that line was the recipient of many cheers from the crowd, as they scored some pretty goals out there. Johansen had a backhand go bar down, Drouin scored on the opening shot of practice, and Rantanen scored from essentially the goal line. I’ll save some of the good Johansen stuff for the other piece, but he is 100% after the skate cut he suffered last season.
- “I was skating about two months after my injury,” he said. “Started feeling like myself kind of early August, and really started to get some confidence with where I was at.”
- Andrew Cogliano is in a red non-contact jersey, but he doesn’t care. He’s said he’s targeting being ready for opening night after the neck injury he suffered on the hit by Jordan Eberle of the Seattle Kraken. He went into more detail about what exactly the injury is, but noted that he struggled with headaches because of how stiff he was after the hit.
- “I ended up having two fractures in my C6 in the pedicle and lamina sides,” Cogliano said. “They were two separate fractures that we had to manage throughout the summer. The good news is they’re both totally healed right now.”
- With Johansen moving up, someone had to fill in between Nichushkin and Lehkonen on the second line. Enter: Riley Tufte? The gigantic winger moved to center, and scored some pretty goals in the first session today. I mentioned yesterday he was someone who impressed me, but even this caught me off guard. I interviewed him afterwards, and I can confirm he’s every bit the 6’6″ he’s listed. I’ll have more on him and the other Dallas arrivals soon, as I also spoke with Fredrik Olofsson. While Tufte played center today, that’s not a regular thing for him.
- “I’ve taken some draws a little bit, but haven’t played much center at all,” Tufte told me. “Something new for me, and there’s a hole here for that center. Kind of looking to take advantage of that.”
- Bednar confirmed after the practices that yes, they do have a hole down the middle, and they will look at all options, including Tufte.
- “That’s where our hole is, right? It’s up the middle,” Bednar said. “We have permanent fourth line wingers in Cogliano and O’Connor, and we need a center to play there, so we’ve got a bunch of good options, and we’ll study all of them. If he’s (Tufte) a guy we really like, and that’s where a hole is, if he has the ability to make a move into the center position, I’d like to experiment with it because I like him as a player.”
- Pavel Francouz has not skated yet, and Bednar confirmed that there is no timeline for his return at the moment. That means Justus Annunen will get a real long look at camp to see if he can handle the role of backup goaltender.
- Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon being reunited is the fun story of training camp, but nothing is set in stone. They aren’t just going to hand Drouin the job, but they’re very happy with what they’ve seen so far.
- “The job beside Nate on that line is not set in stone,” Bednar said. “That’s to be determined, that’s to be earned. I wouldn’t say on a game-by-game basis, but certainly weekly. We have high expectations for Nate’s line, and he’s got to feel comfortable playing beside them, and he’s got to feel like that player is helping him, and he can help that player to be one of the most productive lines in the NHL. If they can’t do that, we’ll try somebody else. He’s (Drouin) going to help us. I’ve really liked the start of his camp. He’s come back in really good shape. He’s been working hard, he’s excited about the opportunity, so he’s a guy I think we’re going to be able to lean on a little bit here.”
- Brandon Kozun was a huge surprise when he showed up on the training camp roster, simply because it came out of nowhere. He’s been playing overseas, mostly in the KHL, for 8 years now. I had a chat with him after practice, and let me tell you, I was blown away. He’s incredibly mature, and provided great perspective on where he is in his career, and life, right now. Look for a separate piece on him today or early tomorrow. He’s also someone who played with and against Nikolai Kovalenko in the KHL. As it turns out, the Avalanche have been after Kozun for a while.
- “Colorado’s had interest in me for a few years,” he told me. “I felt like it wasn’t quite the right situation for me at the time.” I’m excited to write that piece, because he really was great to talk to.
- Fredrik Olofsson moved to Colorado in 8th grade, and had many treks to Family Sports.
- “Way too many times, way too many times,” Olofsson said about playing in the practice facility for the Avalanche as a kid. “I feel at home a little bit.”
- Olofsson is another guy to keep an eye on for the 4C role, as he’s been playing center in camp, which he played in Sweden.
- Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog watched practice on the perch that sits above one of the rinks with management for the team. We’ll see if Makar gets on the ice before the weekend is up.
That’s a wrap for camp today. Tomorrow, the third and final day of training camp will come and go, and then it’s on to the preseason. Look for those articles on Johansen, Kozun, and the Dallas boys here soon.