CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Colorado Avalanche prospects have been putting in hard work since last Thursday, with last weekend's Rookie Showcase offering quite an opportunity to show off where they are in their development.
Most players have been in agreement that the tournament games, against their peers from the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, allowed them a refreshing change of pace.
"It was pretty good to compete against other teams instead of competing against each other," defenseman Nicolas Meloche said. "So we had fun. It was pretty cool."
Now that Rookie Camp has come to an end, the skaters at Family Sports Center are looking ahead to making a good impression when the club's regular training camp opens on Friday. Systems have been taught, adjustments have been made and a bond has been forged… just in time for some individual competition to begin.
"It's a talented group for sure. The most impressive thing is that everyone is competing so hard," said Meloche. "We play like we've played together for three months. It's pretty nice to play with these guys and battle with them and for them."
Everyone wants to catch the eye of the organization's new coaches. While all are vying for favor from Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, others will be looking to impress San Antonio Rampage bench manager Eric Veilleux as well.
With mere days before the opportunity arises, practices like the one on Tuesday allowed those in attendance to offer a sort of self-evaluation.
"I'm playing very well. My skating ability is way better than last year, so I feel more comfortable," Meloche said when asked about his game during Rookie Camp. "Just going to keep working hard and play like I did in those two games."
Rear guard Mason Geertsen echoed that sentiment as well, though he admitted that he has room to improve as the week goes on.
"I'm pretty happy with how I've been skating," said Geertsen. "I feel like I'm pretty fast and agile out there, but I'd like to be a little better [with] my hands, stuff like that. That's going to come with more confidence, more time on ice."
Consistency is key for a skater looking to make a splash. That means each guy can only worry about showcasing his game while going through camp-which culminates with the Colorado's annual Burgundy/White intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday.
"I just need to be solid, be solid in the defensive zone and be simple, get pucks out, make good passes and get up the ice," Geertsen, who completed his first professional season last year, said after skating on Tuesday. "Just play a simple game, that's what I'm here for."
Geertsen spent time with both the Rampage (AHL) and Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL) during the 2015-16 campaign. He admitted that making the jump from major-junior hockey to the pro ranks was more of a challenge than he anticipated.
"It was a lot harder than I expected going into it. The guys are a lot bigger and stronger than me, which is a big change from junior where I was usually the bigger, stronger guy," he said. "So it was definitely a big adjustment, and I had to play a little bit differently and it took me a little bit to adjust. But I thought by the end of the season, I felt pretty comfortable."
For a player like JC Beaudin, who devoured his competition with 82 regular-season points (33 goals, 49 assists) for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last year as a 19-year-old, the goal is to just keep progressing.
"Just to continue to work hard and improve every day," Beaudin said when asked what he needed to do come Friday. "It's been fun since I got here, and [I just need to] continue in the same way."
"I train a lot. I want to get bigger, get strong every year. So my training is really important and on the ice, I know what I need to get better on. I'm just working on that; my feet, being more involved in the game. So I'll continue to do that during camp and after that in Rouyn."
Beaudin also admitted that he enjoys any chance to take the ice with NHL-caliber talent, as there is much to learn from those who have made it to the top tier of the sport.
"These are pros, so you want to look at them and just learn from them and get everything from them," said Beaudin. "Try to get some little details that I can put in my game after that."
Colorado Avalanche training camp opens with back-to-back ice sessions beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Friday at Family Sports Center. On-ice sessions are free and available to the public, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.