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Prospects Take The Ice At Development Camp

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

CENTENNIAL, Colo.—In a midst of tired looks on the faces of Colorado Avalanche prospects, there were also plenty of smiles, laughs and excitement as the first day of the team's development camp came to a close on Wednesday evening.

All of those emotions could be expected after 22 players took the ice for the first time this summer with the Avalanche logo on their jersey and previous day's medical and physical testing behind them.

Many of the players began the day on the ice at 8:30 in the morning with a power skating session, and they closed it with an hour of skill development practice at Family Sports Center as the clock struck 5 o'clock. The time in between was full of education segments, nutrition tips and a workout at the Denver Broncos training center just down the road from the Avs' practice facility.

"I'm a 17-year-old; I'm coming here to learn," said Ottawa 67's forward Travis Barron, who the Avs picked No. 191 overall at last month's draft. "I'm not going to make the NHL next year. You got to take in everything these guys are saying. It's all amazing advice and you have to soak in as much as you can."

It was a "two-a-days" practice for the players, just with a little less intensity. While the prospects' skating was focused, the purpose of both the morning and afternoon sessions was to break down the players' games and bring them back to the basics.

Last July was the first year in recent memory where the prospects skated at development camp. Those practices fixated on just skating, so the young players welcomed a little extra skill work to close out the day.

"We've been skating a little more today then we did last year, and I think that is a good step and the guys really liked that," said forward JT Compher, who signed an entry-level contract with Colorado in April after captaining the University of Michigan last season.

The afternoon practice saw the players split into groups of defensemen and forwards. The blueliners mostly focused on positioning, while the forwards worked on battling for the puck and driving to the net.

"Just little skills, stuff that you don't have a lot of time to think about during the year: defensive zone, posture, and with the puck just being as quick as possible because when you get to pro hockey there is not a lot of time," Compher said. "That was the main focus today, getting the puck and getting it on net as quick as possible."

Skating consultant Tracy Tutton was back for her second year at Colorado's development camp, working with the prospects alongside team development consultants Brett Clark, Adam Foote and Brian Willsie.

Tutton worked with three groups of seven to eight players for 45 minutes each, fine-tuning their strides, balance and edges.

"The power skating is a big factor for this week, it's very important," said AJ Greer, who was the No. 39 overall draft pick in 2015 and signed his first pro contract on Friday. "Last year we were only on the ice three times with the power skating coach, and I felt like at the end of the week that I was a better skater. Tracy is such a good power skating coach."

Two players that were invited to development camp but did not take part in the on-ice sessions were college students Cam Morrison and Griffin Luce. Morrison, the Avs' 2016 second-round draft pick from the University of Notre Dame, and Luce, a camp invitee from the University of Michigan, both returned to their respective schools after medical and physical testing on Tuesday.

Thursday and Friday will look a lot like Wednesday, as the players will skate in the morning and the afternoon, with more education and a workout sandwiched in between.

"It was definitely a productive day for everyone," Greer said. "It was fun. It was tough. There is another day ahead of us."

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