Nate Clurman has every reason to be confident right now. After all, Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar couldn’t say enough nice things about him on Tuesday after practice.
“I don’t want to pigeonhole him into a role, but he’s a big, strong, physical guy,” Bednar said. “He knows what he is. His strengths lie on the size, and strength, and skating abilities. He’s a really strong skater, and he’s looked really good through camp. That’s why he’s with the big group.”
How could you not have a little extra pep in your step when the coach of an NHL team says that about you?
The 25 year old Clurman, who it seems like has been in the Avalanche organization forever, really found his game in the AHL last season. After spending most of the previous season in the ECHL, he locked down a regular job on the Colorado Eagles, even spending a fair bit of time on their top pairing. He carried that momentum into the offseason.
“I think I had a great summer,” Clurman said. “Came in with a plan, and just trying to execute here. It’s been nice to be with the group the past couple days, and just see the speed out there, try to play my own game.”
A plan, eh? What was a part of that plan?
“Trying to be calmer with the puck in the offensive zone,” Clurman said. “Just trying to slow it down a little bit. You know, move the blueline, use my skating, and attacking up ice with the puck in the neutral zone.”
That calmness was on display at practice on Wednesday. At one point in 5-on-5 drills, the puck came to Clurman at the offensive blueline. I expected him to make the safe play and dump it back down the boards. Instead, he walked past the forward covering him and moved to the middle of the ice, creating a better passing lane. I don’t ever remember seeing him do that in the past.
We saw a little bit of that confidence in the offensive zone in Sunday’s preseason game. He was up a lot in the offensive zone, generating shots by sneaking down low.
The past few days, Clurman has regularly been defending against the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin, and Ryan Johansen. To his credit, he hasn’t looked out of place. He’s been particularly good at standing up players at the defensive blueline, something the Avalanche like to see out of all their defenders.
Right now, he’s enjoying the challenge, and taking it all in by observing some of the best players in the world go to work.
“You see what they bring to the rink,” Clurman said. “Every single shift, they’re trying to get better, they’re trying to score, they’re trying to impose themselves on the guys in practice. I think just seeing that is why they’re here and why they’ve been so good, so just trying to implement that in my game has been huge.”
Clurman has been paired with Jack Johnson the last few days. After practice on Tuesday, Bednar said he can see a little bit of Johnson in Clurman’s game. The young defenseman is trying to soak all that in when practicing with the veteran.
“He’s very simple with the game, and he knows how to simplify it for me as well,” he said.
The Avalanche coach has made it very clear they are set with their top six defensemen, but are looking for a seventh defenseman at the moment. As of this moment, Clurman has put himself in the running for that job.
I’m not sure that’s something we would have said a week ago, and that’s a credit to him.
Other News And Notes From Practice
- Yes, I saw Cale Makar skate with my own eyes. Well, I saw him warm up the goalies, at least. I didn’t really see him move around a whole lot, and he got off pretty quickly after I showed up, but visual proof that he has indeed been on the ice is always good.
- Bednar did not speak after practice, but will talk on Thursday before the Avalanche travel to Minnesota for their preseason game. We’ll get an idea of who is playing in the third preseason game tomorrow morning, but don’t expect any real big names to travel for the game.
- Tomas Tatar was still not at practice, as he’s away dealing with immigration.
- There were no changes to the lines we saw at practice yesterday.
- We got our first look at the powerplay, but with Makar and Tatar absent, they are subject to change. We know Makar will take over on PP1, and that will have a ripple down effect for who plays on PP2.
- PP1: Devon Toews – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen – Ryan Johansen – Artturi Lehkonen
- PP2: Bowen Byram – Sam Girard – Ross Colton – Jonathan Drouin – Valeri Nichushkin
- I’m not a wine guy, but my wife is. When Johansen found out he was traded, he was in Napa. Naturally, I asked him for some recommendations, and I’ll pass it along here. If you like Cab’s, any Napa Valley Cab you find that mentions “Oakville” is good to go, according to Johansen. Doesn’t matter the price, if it says Oakville somewhere on it, it’ll be good.