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Prospects Look to Impress at Rookie Camp

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

CENTENNIAL, Colo.—For some of the "veteran" Colorado Avalanche prospects, rookie camp is nothing new. It's not their first time looking to impress team executives, coaches and staff on the ice at Family Sports Center in September.

However, for newcomers to the organization, the first day of rookie camp is a chance for them to get acclimated to the club's expectations prior to the start of the main training camp later in the week.

Ten participants received that freshman experience Monday with the first day of on-ice drills, including Avalanche 2015 first-round draft selection Mikko Rantanen.

"It was nice. A hard work out on the ice," Rantanen said after the hour-and-a-half session. "Just getting better and feeling better.

"I want to show my best in front of [the staff] at every on-ice practice. Just do my best and that is all I can do."

Rantanen was one of several prospects that also attended the team's development camp in July, learning the ropes of the organization, training expectations and taking part in power skating drills on the ice.

One of the young players that couldn't make the summer camp was forward Gustav Olhaver, who was back home in his native Sweden after being selected 171st overall a week earlier at the NHL Draft in Sunrise, Florida.

Olhaver followed the event on his computer and was thrilled—and probably a little relieved—when his named was called in the seventh round.

"I was kind of nervous there," Olhaver said. "My agent said [I would go] between the fourth and seventh round. I was waiting and waiting, and finally I saw my name. It was nice."

With Olhaver unable to attend development camp, he's getting a double-dose of knowledge this week.

"I just want to learn as much as possible," the 6-foot-6, 213-pound center said. "See the pros and meet the staff and get to know where the organization wants me to play, how they want me to develop. Just take it all in and learn as much as possible."

While the three days are a learning experience for the rookie camp tenderfoots, for the prospects attending their second or third fall session, it's more about preparing for the NHL camp. That's where they'll make the biggest impact in the eyes of the Colorado staff.

"For rookie camp, it's pretty much the same drill," said goaltender Spencer Martin, who is in his third camp but first as a professional player. "You want to prove that you're ready, and that you had a good summer of training. Use those three days to prepare for main camp."

"This is my third time, and I really want to try and make a statement and solidify myself," said forward Colin Smith. "There are a lot of guys, and I just want to do anything I can and stick out in their eyes and leave a good impression."

The day's practice was led by San Antonio head coach Dean Chynoweth and assistant coach Randy Ladouceur, with Avalanche assistant coach Tim Army, goaltending coach Francois Allaire and development consultant Brian Willsie helping out as well.

After a warmup, the practice consisted of odd-man rushes, creating offensive-zone passing lanes, and attacking to the front of the net.

The first day closed with the "mountain" conditioning drill where players start from the goal line and skate to each line and back. While it doesn't sound too hard, it can be tough after an hour or so of practice, especially if the player hadn't been training at altitude.

"Skating those mountains, you could feel it after four and five," said Rantanen, a native of Nousiainen, Finland. "It was good. You'll get used to it the longer you are here. It's getting better too."

The only player at rookie camp that didn't participate on the ice was Kyle Wood. The North Bay Battalion defenseman is recovering from offseason wrist surgery and is only taking part in the club's off-ice activities.

Afterward, the prospects talked about a hard but an overall good practice, which tends to be typical after the first day. That tune might change on Tuesday as things will likely ramp up on the ice as the coaches push the players a bit more in preparation for the main camp on Friday.

The format for the second day of rookie camp is expected to be fairly similar to the first day with players starting to hit the ice at Family Sports Center at approximately 9:30 a.m. All on-ice sessions are open to the public and free of charge.

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