CENTENNIAL, Colo.--For many of the Colorado Avalanche's prospects, the start of the 2019-20 campaign and their journey to the NHL began on Friday morning with the first day of the team's annual rookie camp.
Colorado had 28 prospects, rookies, amateur tryouts and players on American Hockey League contracts take the ice for an hour and 15 minute practice at Family Sports Center before making the trip to California to compete in the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Faceoff. The on-ice session was led by the coaching staff of the Colorado Eagles, who reached the Calder Cup Playoffs in their inaugural AHL season in 2018-19.
The prospect-only practice was meant to get the young players familiar with the system that the Avalanche will use at this weekend's rookie tournament and during next week's training camp.
"It was fast paced. It was good to get out there, get a sweat going and get used to playing with some of the guys," said defenseman Bowen Byram, who is at his first rookie camp after being selected by the squad at No. 4 overall at this past summer's draft. "I think it was a good first skate. Hopefully that carries into the game tomorrow."
Colorado begins its three-game exhibition slate versus the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday afternoon and plays the Los Angeles Kings in the second half of the back-to-back set on Sunday. The Avs wrap up the showcase with a Tuesday contest against the Arizona Coyotes.
While the outings won't count in the NHL standings and won't be played in as large of a venue as some preseason contests--all of the games will be played at the Anaheim Ducks' new practice facility, Great Park Ice in Irvine--the prospect showcase is still something that the players have been looking forward to, especially the ones who are new to the organization like Byram.
"I think there will be some nerves involved, for sure," Byram said. "It's going to be really fun get on the ice with some of the buddies that I've met here and get to know some of the organization's other players. I think everyone is really excited."
TOP D DUO
Nine defensemen skated at the Avs' practice, with the players mixing up combinations throughout the drills.
However despite the constant switching of D partners, one duo that seemed to play a lot together was Byram and Conor Timmins, the No. 32 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft that missed all of last season while recovering from a head injury.
Timmins is healthy and is expected to play in the rookie tournament opener on Saturday against the Golden Knights.
"I'm cleared to play this weekend," Timmins said. "Obviously being out for so long, we're going to take things cautiously and see how things go. Obviously you never know, something could happen, but we're pretty confident so we'll just take it as it comes."
As for being paired with fellow high-draft pick Byram, that is something Timmins will gladly welcome if the Avs decide to use that combination.
"I'm hoping to play with him a bit," Timmins said. "There are a lot of really good D here, so to play with any of them would be good. Out there, we're just kind of mixing it up with whoever, but yeah, I'm excited to play with all of these guys."
The Avs have three goalies at Rookie Camp, but only two took part in the on-ice session. Trent Miner, Colorado's 2019 seventh-round pick, and Hunter Miska, who signed an AHL contract with the Eagles this past summer, guarded the nets.
Adam Werner is at the team's camp but did not skate on Friday.
Miska was a late addition to the tournament, joining the Avalanche's roster earlier this week. He has played the past two seasons with the Tucson Roadrunners and played one NHL game with the Arizona Coyotes last year.
Usually when an Avalanche player wears a red jersey, it is to signify that he is a non-contact participant and is recovering from an injury of some kind. That wasn't the case on Friday.
There was plenty of red sweaters donned at practice, but it was just another jersey in the mix and indicated the team's "fifth line." Forwards Logan Barlage, Bryce Kindopp, Felix Lauzon, Navrin Mutter and Joe Wegwerth all wore the bright color during the session.
The Avs begin the Anaheim Rookie Faceoff against Golden Knights, the same team it faced in its first contest of the 2018 tournament, which was hosted by Vegas.
The Knights won last year's meeting by a 7-6 score, but the Avalanche nearly forced overtime after scoring four times in the third period in a comeback effort.
Game time is set for 2 p.m. MT, and it will be streamed live on ColoradoAvalanche.com with Altitude Sports Radio's Conor McGahey on the call (blackouts apply to out of market).
PRACTICE LINE COMBINATIONS
Martin Kaut - Shane Bowers - Nick Henry
Ty Lewis - Brandon Saigeon - Logan O'Connor
Igor Shvyrev - Josh Dickinson - Alex Beaucage
Travis Barron - Luka Burzan - Sasha Mutala
Joe Wegwerth - Felix Lauzon - Logan Barlage - Bryce Kindopp - Navrin Mutter
Bowen Byram - Conor Timmins
Josh Anderson - Kevin Davis
Peter Tischke - Sasha Larocque
Samuel Regis - Nolan Kneen
IN THE LOCKER ROOM
Video: Bowen Byram after practice at rookie camp
Video: Conor Timmins on practicing at Rookie Camp
Video: Avs prospect Ty Lewis after practice
Video: Saigeon before heading to the Anaheim Rookie Faceoff