After a sad and short training camp in Sweden last year, the Colorado Avalanche returned to Denver to hold both rookie camp and main camp at home. Training camp began on September 6th and concluded with the fan favorite Burgundy and White game on Tuesday.
Rookie camp was filled with many pleasant surprises which included the overall size and strength of the group of new comers in general, and the very impressive depth in young blood defensemen. Also surprising was the exception talent of several rookies that had not been drafted by the Avs but were given a tryout contract. Some of these players included:
Joe Goodenow – a 5’10 195 center from Michigan State. Joe is a smart player who sees the ice well and plays an excellent defensive game.
Steve Rymsha –at 6’4 225 this towering winger from Greenville has a super slap shot and decent speed for the giant that he is.
David Boychuk –don’t assume David is riding in on the coat tails of his younger brother Johnny who was drafted by the Avs in 2002. David has made a name for himself with smart physical play and the occasional offensive effort.
Tim Wedderburn -Tim has been the gem of the entire camp The Avs scouting staff has worked their magic again and discovered this virtually unknown defensemen from Prince George. He sees the ice remarkably well and anticipates every move from even the most creative veteran players. Not even going up against some of the greatest talent in the world will make him loose his concentration in making the smart defensive play. Even though he wasn’t the biggest player in camp he certainly seemed to enjoy mixing it up in the corners and banging bodies.
Injury notes: Some players who saw little or no ice time during camp due to injuries include Riku Hahl, Yevgeny Lazarev, Marek Svatos, Dan Hinote and Scott Parker.
Many of the drafted players also made a big impact at camp. These players included:
Johnny Boychuk – this d-man from the Hitmen is just like his big brother. Johnny lives for the physical play and yet never jeopardizes making the smart move defensively. Looking at the size of David, Johnny may still have some growing to do. This is a scary thought for the competition, given the fact that he’s already a force to be reckoned with on the ice.
Agris Saviels –this d-man from Riga, Latvia plays similar to fellow countryman and former Avs defensemen Sandis Ozolinsh. He was often paired with stay at home defensemen Adam Foote during scrimmages. This gave him the opportunity to show a little of his offensive minded play.
Jonas Johansson –this young winger from Sweden seemed to sneak his way around the ice going unnoticed until he was at the right place at the right time. Already learning the ropes from frequent line mates Sakic and Hedjuk, he will continue his crash coarse in North American hockey this season playing for the Kamloops Blazers.
Colt King –a super solid 6’2 220 winger from North Bay/Saginaw who enjoys hanging out in front of the net and clearing the ice for his teammates. During scrimmages, Colt was often seen clearing a path so line mate Forsberg could work his magic.
Peter Budaj –it seems as though the monotony of routine drills were not Peter’s thing. Instead, he enjoyed wowing the crowd during the weekend scrimmages. It was almost as if the veterans were instructed to throw everything they could at him. During this weekends match-ups, he was pummeled with a flurry of activity and stood on his head. Even the casual fan cheered wildly as he made consecutive kick saves, glove saves, and side to side saves.
In general, the most impressive aspect of camp was the overall talent of the defensive newcomers. The Avs staff has put together a well rounded stock pile of solid d-man with skill, size, strength, speed and smarts. This is a nice ingredient to add to the several flashy up and coming offensive player already making a name for them selves in the Avs system (Vrbata, Timmons, Nedorost, Krestanovich) This combination should make the Avs contenders for many years to come
For the first time ever, the Avs Burgundy and White game was held in Denver at the Magness Arena which is home of the Denver University Pioneers. This event tests the loyalty of the fans as it pits the big names against each other. Roy vs. Aebischer, Sakic vs. Forsberg, Blake vs. Foote while they throw in a mix of rookies to see how well they sink or swim in a real game situation.
The first period and a half pitted Roy against Aebischer. While Roy will always be Roy, Abby has gone unnoticed thought out camp for the fact that he looks to be ready to take over the fulltime net minding duties when ever Roy decides to hang it up. Abby has looked like a strong, focused, confident, consistent veteran though out camp. Aebischer saw 13 difficult shots the first period and gave up 2 goals. The first goal by Tanguay probably should have been goaltender interference. While at the other end, Roy gave up one goal on seven shots.
Even more so than the scrimmages, this game had a huge variety of line combinations and defensive pairing. This made it difficult to foresee any possible future line mates and also made for some fairly sloppy play. This game also lacked the usually physical play, hard hits and fights that Avs fans have become accustom to during this tilt. Perhaps the absents of Scott Parker (injury) was the biggest factor in this.
The evening ended with a 4-3 victory for the White team. The highlight goal of the night was scored by Drury from an absolutely beautiful behind the net set up from Forsberg. Rob Blake also gave the fans a treat as he crashed the net and scored a power play tally on an assist from Reinprecht. All in all the Avs fans were treated to an enjoyable evening up close with the Avalanche.
1st: Brad Larsen(goal) Mike Keane(assist) (White) Alex Tanguay(goal) Joe Sakic(assist) (Burgundy) Eric Messier(goal) Milan Hedjuk(assist) (Burgundy) 2nd:Mike Keane(goal) Brad Larsen, Steve Reinprecht(assists) (White) 3rd:Rob Blake (PP goal) Steven Reinprecht, Mile Keane (assist)(White) Chris Drury(goal) Peter Forsberg(assist) (White) Serge Aubin(goal) Agris Saviels (assist) (Burgundy) Three Stars: ***Brad Larsen **Philippe Sauve *Mike Keane