CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Colorado Avalanche Rookie Camp concluded today with yet another taxing practice at the hands of various coaches from both the Avs and the Lake Erie Monsters hockey clubs.
Picking up where they left off the day before, those in town for the skate upped their game once more, giving their all as they whizzed up and down the ice, running drills and fighting for pucks.
The increase in intensity over the course of all three days was palpable for everyone—whether skating or watching from the stands—again on Wednesday. It came as no surprise to the guys on the rink. New or old, they all expected the pace to escalate through camp.
“I kind of thought it was going to be like this,” said rookie rear guard Kyle Wood, who was drafted by the Avalanche over the summer. “Tough practices, kind of learning the systems and the defensive zone. I thought it went really well for my first camp, and I’m excited for main (camp).”
No matter how tired the guys felt after an exhausting three days of hard skating and battling each other for pucks and good marks from the scouts and staff in attendance, they all refused to show it.
“I thought it was great,” said 21-year-old forward Colin Smith. “Obviously with the three days, we wanted to build into main camp and we ended on a pretty good note today.
“These three days were a good spot to try new things and get comfortable and I think I learned a lot yesterday, moving into today and, with the intensity going up, I should be good going into main camp.”
The focus shifted during day three from relaxing and feeling comfortable to fine tuning individual skills for two days of work on the ice with the NHLers. Skating with the big dogs combined with impending roster cuts and feedback can be a lot of pressure for a young player, if the focus isn’t in the right spot.
For Smith, who put up eight goals and 26 assists during a season spent with the Monsters, it comes down to being at the top of his game, at camp or otherwise. That’s what he needs to do to have a good showing.
“I think, just be my best. Obviously, with the players we’re going to be surrounded by, you have to. Every day I need to jump on the opportunity here with people watching and just try and develop as a player too,” Smith said. “I think you can learn a lot from guys you’re going to be playing with. (I’m) just trying to start my season on a good note. I think, wherever I end up, I want to be playing my best hockey when the season opens.”
The rookies get a day off now before main camp opens on Friday, and that gives them time to heal up and concentrate on the coming weekend.
“Each day we progressed forward, intensity-wise. Practices got tougher and tougher as the days went on,” said 21-year-old Avalanche hopeful Duncan Siemens after a relentless two-on-two mini-hockey drill. “Now it’s just going to be taking care of my body. Make sure that you get the couple bumps from rookie camp all healed up and make sure that you’re ready to go for main camp because, this year, it’s shorter and every minute counts.”
Siemens plans to call upon the experience he gained while playing his first professional season with the Monsters to help him have a good showing during the weekend sessions.
“I think anytime you have a year of pro hockey under your belt, that your experience goes a long way. It helps me with the speed,” Siemens said. “Knowing the guys I’m playing against, knowing their tendencies, for me that’s a big part of my game. Being able to shut down star players. An extra year of knowing guys and what they’re all about is huge.”
Training camp opens with the first day of on-ice activity on Friday at Family Sports Center. The first group of players will take the ice at 9:30 a.m., while the rest of the players will hit the ice after that.
All practices during the Avalanche's training camp are free and open to the public.