CENTENNIAL, Colo.—While the first day of Colorado Avalanche Rookie Camp usually comes with the glamor of the NHL franchise and nerves before the start of a new hockey season, Day 2 is when players start to settle in and get used to the expectations of the development staff.
“[I was] a little bit nervous yesterday, but now it’s alright,” said Nicolas Meloche, who is attending his first rookie camp with the club. “It’s fun.”
The experience can be a lot to take in for those new to the regimen, but consistency coupled with variation allows everyone—fresh or returning—to find a groove.
“I thought it’s been really good,” said defenseman Mason Geertsen, who is now a familiar face at his third Avs fall event. “Definitely got to skate a lot on the first day, and then it was nice to get a little more technical today.”
Day 1 of rookie camp featured drills, and the second installment offered more of the same for the 25 players participating in the on-ice sessions.
“It’s been going pretty good so far,” Geertsen said on Tuesday. “The first day, it was good to get out there and we did lots of flow and back and forth and it was a good sweat out there. Then today, we slowed it down a little bit and did more battling, and then we did more skills at the end. So I thought it was really solid.”
Although it started off rather tame, a standard 2-on-2 drill turned quite physical as the players became more comfortable and looked to begin leaving an impression on the Avalanche staff.
“It definitely started off a little friendly, and then one or two hits and it started to get a little game-like. So it was good out there,” Geertsen added. “It definitely feels more like games. For right now, everybody is trying to make a spot… So if you’re going to throw your weight around, you might get noticed, or something like that. So that’s definitely how we’re thinking right now.”
Despite a few punishing hits and more than a little contact during the drill, guys like Meloche say that it is all part of the sport and the battle to impress.
“It’s nice. It’s a competition, everywhere you play,” he said. “It’s even [more fun] when you have more competition. It’s just a game. It’s normal.”
Ultimately, rookie camp gives Avalanche prospects a chance to show where they stand in their development, receive important adjustments from the coaches and learn things that will be helpful when regular training camp opens on Friday.
“It just gives the Avalanche more time to see what you’ve got and kind of pick apart your game and give you some feedback,” said Conner Bleackley, who has worked on improving his game during the offseason. “I did a lot of work on my skating this summer. I spent probably a better part of three weeks just working on skating on the ice.
“Just lengthening my stride and all the details of skating that you might not think of. But I think it’s shown on the ice a little bit. I’ve gotten some good feedback, and I feel strong and faster than ever.”
Meloche mirrored Bleackley’s sentiment.
“It’s nice to have a lot of feedback,” said Meloche.
For players like Maximilian Pajpach, a goaltender who missed the entirety of the 2014-15 season after knee surgery, rookie camp—and development camp in July—has offered a chance at regaining a feel for the game while also learning new techniques.
“It was okay that we started real slow before [at development camp] because I could start to skate,” he said on Tuesday. “I could start to do some movement in the crease. So it was fine. And now…[I’m] ready for the things we do here. So I’m really happy that we started slow and now I can do my best.
“We have goalie sessions before each practice, and goalie coaches are teaching us new things—at least new for me. So I’m really happy to be here and learn new stuff.
“All those things, they are very useful for the games. So I tried them [in practice], and right after that I can see that they are working. So it’s really easy for me to use them in my playing. So I really like those.”
It may be grueling, hard work for Pajpach to get back to where he feels he needs to be for the season, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the time spent working his craft.
“It was a hard day, but I like it because there are a lot of good things we did on the ice. There’s nothing bad we could do. I liked it a lot.”
The final day of rookie camp begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Family Sports Center. All on-ice sessions are open to the public and free of charge.