CENTENNIAL, Colo.-Things are different at Colorado Avalanche Rookie Camp this year, some of which has to do with the 2016 Rookie Showcase that begins on Saturday.
Instead of the usual drills and scrimmages and preparation for main training camp, skaters on the ice Friday at Family Sports Center were plunged into immediate game-planning for contests this weekend against prospective players from the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks organizations.
"We're a team for this weekend in here, so it's nice. We're all going to be brothers here for the next couple days, and we're playing against some other NHL prospects," 2016 draft selection Travis Barron said after his first-ever day of Rookie Camp. "It's going to be exciting. It's going to be fun. So I'm really looking forward to that. It's going to be really fast-paced hockey, really good hockey. So I'm really excited for that."
Changes in the format of this year's early camp are due not only to the Rookie Showcase, but to the changes in coaching staff throughout the Avalanche organization. Jared Bednar took over Colorado's head-coaching responsibilities on Aug. 25 and, in conjunction with new San Antonio Rampage head coach Eric Veilleux, began implementing a fresh system strategy for the 2016-17 campaign.
On Friday morning, after familiarizing themselves with the new program the night before, players took the ice to practice and absorb the unfamiliar structure.
Video: Chris Bigras talks on the first day of Avs Rookie Camp
"There is a lot of information, and obviously there's not a whole lot of time to prepare before the season starts in October. We did put in some good work today, and we got through actually most of the system stuff," defenseman Chris Bigras said. "I think we're going to go through it again once main camp comes around. It's a lot of information, but we're getting through it pretty quick.
"It's just a little different, as opposed to the last few years. [We're] just coming together as a team in a short period, and like I said, learning the systems and being able to execute those systems at a high pace and just bonding with these guys and [being] able to get some wins so that we help each other better out there."
Bednar has repeatedly stated that his objective is to put forth a fast, aggressive style of play, and that was evident to the players on Friday.
"It's a bit of a transition obviously, but the style of play we want to play is a fast-paced game with a lot of support," Bigras confirmed. "We've got the players on the Avs team, and we've got tons of speed."
While only having one day on the ice to prepare may seem tricky to some, it's not too much to handle for those looking to make a lasting impression in Colorado.
"We learned a lot last night and today, as well. There's a lot of new things," said Barron. "You see how the NHL does their systems and how the play is really different from junior, but at the same time it's not too complicated. You come out here and do what you have to and hopefully impress the people up top."
"We're still preparing ourselves for the main camp," Russian blueliner Nikita Zadorov added. "The AHL coaches have given us the system that our organization is going to play, so we tried to put it all together-our skill, our system, power play, everything."
Video: Nikita Zadorov looks ahead to the Rookie Showcase
As this is the inaugural run of the Rookie Showcase, the only expectation from the Avalanche is for the games to be high-intensity exhibitions of the multitude of talents available throughout the organization.
"I think you're going to see pure competition, which is I think really important at a high pace and tempo," Avs assistant general manager Craig Billington said. "I think when you play against opposition, specifically when talking the San Joses and Anaheims, we're very familiar with playing with them at the National League level, and I think that is something that is a benefit in the rookie tournament scenario because these players will ultimately, we hope, play against that level in the future. I think you're going to see good intensity and a good, high pace."
"It will be a lot of fun," said Bigras. "It's kind of nice to don the logo and be competitive with the other guys in this room and play against another organization."
Colorado faces the San Jose Sharks on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Ice Centre at the Westminster Promenade in Westminster, Colorado.
The game is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.