CENTENNIAL, Colo.--After missing the entire 2018-19 season with a head injury, defenseman Conor Timmins will participate with his fellow Colorado Avalanche prospects at the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Faceoff in Southern California
"I am cleared to play for this weekend," said Timmins. "Obviously being out this long we are going to take things cautiously and see how things go, obviously you never know if something could happen, but we are pretty confident. We are just going to kind of take it as it comes."
The St. Catharines, Ontario, native last played a competitive game on May 11, 2018 with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League Finals against the Hamilton Bulldogs, 10 weeks after he signed his entry-level contract with the Avalanche.
Timmins, the No. 32 overall selection at the 2017 NHL Draft, spent the following summer and the 2018-19 season recovering from a head injury he sustained during the OHL Playoffs. While he made progress during the campaign, Timmins was never cleared to play in a game.
He was able to participate in a 3-on-3 prospect game at the Avalanche's 2019 Development Camp this past June, but the Anaheim Rookie Faceoff will be his first taste of game action against prospects from other organizations.
"It will definitely be a big deal for me, not having played in a year and a half," said the 20-year-old. "But, at the same time I just want to kind of focus on the hockey aspect of it and play my game. Keep things simple and I think I will be fine out there."
Video: Conor Timmins on practicing at Rookie Camp
Timmins used the 2018-19 campaign to familiarize himself more with the Avs organization, being a frequent non-contact participant at NHL practices and with the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles at the end of the year. His interactions with the big club, as well as his involvement with the Eagles, allowed Timmins to remain engrossed in the sport he loves.
"When you take a year and a half off, you kind of have to do whatever you can to stay current and to stay relevant within the game," he said. "I just tried to take as much in as I could. Being around the NHL guys and being around [Eagles head coach Greg Cronin] and the AHL guys really helped me out, and I feel like I have a really good handle on the game right now.
"I think any time you can take a different perspective on the game it will really help you grow as a player. Now I have to just try and implement that in my game and just do what I do and keep things simple, and I think I will be alright."
Knowing that he wasn't able to fully train last season, there was a focus on getting his body into the top shape it needed to be this summer in order to be wholly prepared for the upcoming year.
"I feel really good," he said. "I came out here for a couple weeks every month so I could train with [Avalanche strength and conditioning coach] Casey Bond (in the weight room), and that was really helpful for me and training back home I felt really good. I just feel ready to go."
Timmins, along with the other players on Colorado's rookie camp roster, skated at Family Sports Center on Friday before making the trek to Anaheim. During the session, he was frequently on a defensive pairing with Bowen Byram, the Avalanche's first-round selection (No. 4 overall) at the 2019 NHL Draft.
"He is a super good player, I think everyone kind of noticed that at World Juniors two or three years ago now when he won the gold medal," Byram said of Timmins. "So he is a really good player, and hopefully he can fully recover from his injury and be ready to go for this season."
Timmins echoed the same sentiments about the play of 18-year-old Byram, who is attending his first rookie camp with the Avalanche.
"He looks really calm out there, you can't really tell his age," Timmins said of the team's top draft pick. "He is really poised with the puck, really good skill. I obviously haven't seen him in game action yet, but he looks really good. I am excited to get out there."
It is unknown if Timmins will be paired with Byram on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights, but it is an outing that Timmins is looking forward to regardless.
"It is really exciting, I have been kind of waiting for this since I got injured," said Timmins. "You really miss that competitive aspect of the game. Even going through practice, it is not really the same, so I am really looking forward to getting out there."