|Coyotes GM Don Maloney traded defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton at the draft last month creating an opening on the blue line that Nick Ross may be ready to fill.|
"He was here tonight?" was Ross' response to a question about what it's like knowing Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney was in the stands to watch him play in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage at Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Evaluation Camp.
Ross, a defenseman the Coyotes took No. 30 in the 2007 Entry Draft, was the reason Maloney made the trip to the University of Ottawa Sports Complex.
Phoenix's top prospect, Kyle Turris, is here as well, but Turris is all but assured a spot on the Coyotes' roster as long as he has a decent training camp. Ross is a wild card, but since Maloney traded defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton at the draft last month, it has created an opening on the blue line that Ross may be ready to fill.
"We're still short a couple of defensemen and this is a good opportunity to see where he's at," Maloney told NHL.com. "He's been working out hard in Phoenix, but I talked to him last week and told him, 'Nick, this is a good measuring stick for you.' "
Ross was one of the three late invites to the camp. Ross, Eric O'Dell and Louie Caporusso got calls because Cody Goloubef, Thomas Hickey and Zach Boychuk are unable to participate due to injuries.
"It's definitely a dream to play for Team Canada, so any time you get a call like that it's really exciting," said Ross, who got the invitation Wednesday. "I was a little worried because I haven't skated that much, but as I get going it's getting better."
Prior to this camp, Ross last skated at the Coyotes’ prospect camp, which took place the week after the draft last month. He stayed in Phoenix to work out, but his gear was home in Lethbridge, Alberta.
"I had to have my parents Fed-Ex it to Ottawa," Ross said.
It was worth it, and the value of Ross' presence at this camp grew when Maloney walked through the door Sunday night.
"We're not sure about him yet," Maloney said. "He's still got some developing to do, but we'll see."
Happy recap – The first period was sloppy, but the first intrasquad scrimmage of the camp pleased Canadian Junior Team coach Benoit Groulx, who watched from a gallery above the rink Sunday night as Team Red skated to a 4-1 victory over Team White.
"It was intense, back and forth and solid defensively," Groulx said of the game that drew an overflow crowd. "We saw many of our defensemen playing very well and the goalies were good. I was pretty happy with the effort and level of competitiveness."
After John Tavares gave Team White the lead on a penalty shot just 28 seconds in, Team Red dominated. They finished with a 39-23 advantage in shots, and Nazem Kadri, the youngest player in camp, led the way with a goal and an assist.
Toronto Maple Leafs prospects Luke Schenn and Chris DiDomenico as well as Dallas Stars draft pick Jamie Benn also scored for Team Red. Mark Katic (Islanders), Eric O'Dell (Anaheim) and Tyler Ennis (Buffalo) added assists.
"Guys are trying to compete for spots and that's the way you want to play (with intensity)," Schenn told NHL.com. "Even though it's a summer camp you have to show you have what it takes. I'm sure it'll get even more intense as camp goes on."
Short trip – Caporusso, an Ottawa Senators prospect, cut his European vacation in half to make it back for camp after learning he was invited last week thanks to a random phone call home to his father.
"I was hoping to make this camp, but when I saw I didn't I thought I'd take some time off," Caporusso told NHL.com. "I wasn't there for too long, because when I got the call I was excited, got on a plane and came right back. I couldn't care less about the vacation."
Heavy heart – Dustin Tokarski, the Memorial Cup-winning goalie from the Spokane Chiefs, is competing for a spot on the World Junior squad in memory of his grandfather, who passed away three days before camp began.
While all the players arrived sometime Friday afternoon, Tokarski didn't arrive until just passed midnight Saturday morning because he was a pall bearer in the funeral.
"He was my biggest fan, so that was hard, but he would want me to come in here do my best and play for him," Tokarski told NHL.com. "He was a huge part of my life. All he wants for me is to do my best and to play my heart out for him. Whatever happens happens, but hopefully he can help me out from up there now."
Tokarski, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, said his grandfather gave him some advice when he got the invite to camp a month ago.
"He said, 'Just give her a go, buddy,' " Tokarski recalled. " 'You made it this far, so just be yourself, play your game and you'll be fine.' "
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com