Every year at training camp, players and prospects take the ice, preparing for the coming season and looking to make a lasting impact with the coaching staff who is evaluating them. They run drills, practice and even play in preseason games, all with the hope of making the roster.
There’s always familiar faces, the guys who have been around the team or affiliates, playing in the system. There’s also the incoming draft class, who will skate in camp for the first time. Then there’s the true new guys. The one’s who’ve signed as free agents and come in looking to prove something.
|Dennis Everberg |
Colorado Avalanche forward Dennis Everberg is one of those guys. He attended his first NHL training camp this season and came out the other side with a spot on the opening-night roster, which is no easy feat.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Hard work all the time. So it’s been a good experience,” said Everberg after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m very new to this camp thing. We don’t have it in Sweden, but it’s been a fun experience.”
Everberg cut his teeth in the hockey world playing with Rogle BK, first as a junior-aged forward and then in the Swedish Hockey League. He was a product of the system and grew within it, catching the eye of the Avalanche and earning an entry-level contract.
With Everberg’s first training camp came his first glimpse at playing the NHL game, a look he got at ice level as he was thrown right in with the rest of the boys as the preseason began. For him, the adjustment is the same that most have when stepping up to to play at the highest echelon of the sport.
“Obviously, it’s much more fast and the players are better,” said Everberg, who’s remaining focused on what he needs to do to succeed. “I’m trying to play my game, and it’s worked so far and I try and work on that and get better everyday.”
His hard work, and a little luck thrown his way, has helped the 22-year-old Swede stay with the Avalanche when others have been reassigned to their respective teams. It’s a good feeling to know that the effort has been noticed.
“Of course. That’s what you strive for, all the time,” said Everberg just days before the start of the 2014-15 regular season. “Every day you come here and try to impress the coaches and do your best. When you survive the cuts, it’s like you’ve done something good.”
“Everberg came in, right from day one he opened everybody's eyes,” said Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic. “He’s big. He can skate. He’s good on the wall. He plays the right way, and he deserves being here right now and that’s why he’s here.”
Although it doesn’t count toward his official total, Everberg tallied his first goal in North America against defending Stanley Cup champion goaltender Jonathan Quick during a preseason tilt last Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. If anything, the first score will help boost his confidence moving forward.
“All the games have been a good experience. The goal felt really good,” said Everberg. “Then we got a win in Vegas there too, so it was an awesome feeling.”
Everberg will be with the Avalanche when it opens the season with a home-and-home series against the Minnesota Wild, the club that knocked the Avs out of the first round of the postseason just a few months ago. While Everberg wasn’t with the team at the time, that doesn’t mean he’s unfamiliar with the weight of emotion lingering over the first contest of the year.
“I just watched the playoffs from back home. Yeah, of course you want to beat them. You’ve got back-to-back games against them,” said Everberg of playing the Wild. “I don’t know if there’s some feelings left from playoffs, but I’ll do my best and we’ll do our best. So hopefully we get a win.”
Last year’s playoffs aside, Everberg is no stranger to the Colorado Avalanche or even the NHL. He’s seen a few legends come from his country.
“Of course I looked at (Peter) Forsberg and (Nicklas) Lidstrom, Mats Sundin,” Everberg said of his favorites growing up. “Those guys. Those were your idols.”
Everberg knows what he needs to do to have a chance at the kind of career that they did.
“Continue playing my game and skating hard. Work hard every day,” he said. “Continue what I’ve done so far.”