IRVINE, Calif.--For players at the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Faceoff, the tournament is an opportunity to showcase their skills as well as a chance to start earning a place in the lineup for the 2019-20 season.
Fans of the Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Eagles could be getting a look at one of the top lines for the Eagles this upcoming season in Southern California. Forwards Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers and Nick Henry have played together during the rookie faceoff, and the trio has already demonstrated that it has chemistry.
"Playing with Henry and Kauter, two guys I am familiar with makes it a lot easier," said Bowers. "Obviously other guys on the [Eagles] too--[Logan O'Connor], [Josh Dickinson], [Travis Barron]--they have all been there and I have all met them, it kind of makes it easier for us. We have played under [Eagles head coach Greg Cronin] and [assistant coaches Aaron Schneekloth and Ryan Tobler] and kind of know the systems."
Video: Shane Bowers after the win vs. Vegas
Of the three Avs prospects, Kaut is the only one who has played with the Eagles for an entire season. The Brno, Czech Republic, native was selected by Colorado with the No. 16 overall pick at the 2018 NHL Draft and played his first year in North America last season.
At 19 years old, Kaut skated in 63 contests with the Eagles and recorded 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists). He added two goals in four postseason outings.
As Kaut and the Eagles were pushing to make the Calder Cup Playoffs at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, they were joined by Bowers and Henry, who were amateur tryouts after inking NHL entry-level deals. The experience they had with each other in the spring has carried over into the late summer.
The three were paired together in the Avs prospects' opening game of the tournament, and they combined for five points (two goals, three assists) and 11 shots in Colorado's 5-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights rookies.
"It's obviously fun to get back out there with the guys and get battling, being a little bit familiar playing with Shane a little bit there at the end of the year was good," said Henry. "I thought our line did pretty well.
"I think as soon as you can play with a player a little bit and then you know you are a little bit familiar with their tendencies, and I think that kind of showed (in the first game of the Rookie Faceoff)."
Video: Nick Henry on first win at Anaheim Rookie Tournament
The 2019-20 campaign will be the first professional seasons for both Bowers and Henry. Henry, drafted by the Avalanche with the 94th overall pick in 2017, completed his Western Hockey League career last year, splitting time with the Regina Pats and Lethbridge Hurricanes.
He finished the season with 94 points (29 goals, 64 assists) and signed his entry-level contract on March 1. Henry played three regular-season games and skated in two Calder Cup contests with the Eagles after his WHL year ended.
"I think people know that Henry can shoot a puck and his skating is the biggest challenge for him to play at the NHL level," Cronin said of the right wing. "I did notice a difference in his skating, it was tough for him last year. he came out of junior and just like the NHL, the last few games of the AHL season the playoffs are really hard fought games and the pace picks up and the intensity picks up and I thought he was kind of in and out of visibility but if he can play with pace he has got the brain and the shooting ability to impact a game."
Bowers signed his entry-level deal with Colorado on March 29 after spending the previous two years at Boston University. During his sophomore season, the center finished fourth on the team with 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) and ranked third in goals.
"Shane is one of those guys that he plays with a lot of speed down the middle of the ice and when he gets the puck on his stick he can distribute it," Cronin said of Bowers. "It is really early in his career, but we always try and see what type of identity players have in games like this and I think you saw some of that from him in terms of ability to skate the puck with some speed and move it."
It is uncertain if the three will start the year together on a line, but the chemistry they have already established could be a sign of things to come for the Eagles.