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On-Ice Focus At Development Camp

The Avalanche closed out two-a-day practices on Wednesday

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--The Colorado Avalanche's 2017 development camp marks the third-straight year in which prospects have taken the ice at Family Sports Center to work on their skills with the team's coaches and consultants.

There have been tweaks to the program in that time. From simply doing power skating to adding a little skill work to a focus on positional development, the Avs' annual summer camp has evolved and changed year to year.

The off-ice focus on nutrition, fitness and healthy living is still there, but the amount of time the players have been on the ice has been noticeable.

Not that any of the 22 prospects and invitees are complaining.

"Last year, we went to the Broncos facility quite a bit and did a lot of testing and running and things like that," said forward Tyson Jost, who is at his second Avs development camp after being picked 10th overall by the club at the 2016 draft. "This year, they're focusing a little more on on-ice skills and with [skating consultant] Tracy [Tutton] and power skating and things like that. I think that is awesome. They're focusing on the little things that you need to do in a game.

"It's fun for us, because we love being on the ice."

Newcomer Denis Smirnov also noticed all the time spent on one of the two ice sheets at Colorado's practice facility. He is going to take what he's learned this week back to his homeland in Russia where he'll train for the next couple months before returning to Penn State for his sophomore season.

"Just stuff that I've never paid attention to much. I've obviously skated a lot with a lot of skating coaches, so some of the stuff I'm familiar with, but everything is interesting," said Smirnov, who was picked by the Avalanche in the sixth round of Saturday's NHL Draft in Chicago. "Some things I can use in my game in the future."

Video: Smirnov talks about Avs Development Camp

It's not just the finer points of hockey and how to be a professional that the players are gaining wisdom on.

For many of the foreigners, it's learning the language that is spoken in NHL practices. Such is the case for Czech Republic goaltender Petr Kvaca, the 114th overall pick at the 2017 draft.

"English, maybe," Kvaca said with a laugh when asked what has been one of the best things he's learned over the past two days. "Also, skating before the net and a lot of new things in [the] gym. It's good for me."

Learning a new dialect is a process, no matter what tongue it is. That is something that Russian defenseman Andrei Mironov has been dealing with during his first practices in an Avalanche jersey this week.

On the ice, Mironov understands how the sport is being taught by development consultants Adam Foote and Brett Clark. Off the ice however, he needs a little assistance from Smirnov, a fellow Moscow native, who has helped with interpretations.

"Just translating everything," Smirnov said of how he and Mironov have formed a Russian duo this week. "We went to a meeting yesterday and I had to translate it to him and explain everything; how the schedule works. He's trying to learn and is doing his best. Hopefully he won't need me next year."

Video: Jost on attending his second camp

Development camp is all about giving the prospects the tools to get better. What they do after is up to them.

A strong summer session won't necessarily help any of the players make the Avalanche's roster next year, but it can make them better hockey players if they keep working on the lessons that have been taught.

Jost has first-hand experience as he followed up his development camp last year with a strong freshman campaign at the University of North Dakota, a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and time in the NHL with Colorado late in the season.

"I can take the things that I learned last year and bring those here and take the things that I've learned here and kind of combine them together and take them into [training] camp next year," Jost said.

"I want to make an impact next year for the Avs and crack that lineup. I'm excited to do that. I'm just going to have a good summer, and it starts here at development camp."

Wednesday was the last day of the Avalanche's two-a-day ice sessions, as Colorado will only hold morning power skating and skill development on Thursday to close out the camp. After that, the prospects will disperse across the globe and work with their various trainers to tune their game and be ready to compete with the veterans come September.

That's when the real skill and talent will be displayed as jobs are on the line.

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