CENTENNIAL, Colo.--There was plenty of excitement among the Colorado Avalanche prospects on the first day of on-ice activities at the team's development camp.
But for defenseman Conor Timmins, the drills and practices were especially meaningful after 14 months of battling back from a head injury that included post-concussion symptoms.
"I think every day you take a step forward, it's a big step with this kind of injury," Timmins said. "Obviously it's been awhile, but for me to get out there with the boys, it's really fun. I really enjoyed myself out there."
Timmins joined around 30 other of the club's prospects, newly-drafted players and camp invites in a two-a-day-type camp on Wednesday at Family Sports Center.
The blueliner took part in skills and development sessions in the morning before skating in an NHL-style practice in the afternoon led by Avs head coach Jared Bednar. The latter of the two sessions was similar to the many others he had done during the 2018-19 season with his Colorado teammates, but this time he could be a participant without a glaring red, non-contact jersey on for the entire rink to see.
"Everything was improving, it's getting better day by day," Timmins said. "I still have a ways to go, but you just like to see the improvement. It gives you hope for the future. I was happy to be out there today."
Video: Conor Timmins talks about returning from injury
Selected by the Avalanche with the first pick of the second round (No. 32 overall) at the 2017 NHL Draft, Timmins's last competitive contest came with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in Game 5 of Ontario Hockey League Finals against the Hamilton Bulldogs on May 11, 2018, 10 weeks after signing his entry-level contract with Colorado.
The 6-foot-2, 184-pound blueliner spent the entire following summer and the ensuing 2018-19 season recovering from his head injury that he suffered during his time in the OHL. He made progress during the year and was able to practice with the Avalanche and with American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles at the end of the campaign, but he was never fully cleared to play in a game.
"I consider myself a patient person, but when you love to play the game that much, it's really tough to sit out," Timmins said. "You just got to be patient and hope for the best and work your hardest each day and have a good attitude and hopefully things turn around."
His inclusion in on-ice activities at the Avs' summer prospect camp appears to be a good sign for the 20-year-old, and getting through Day 1 is another step in the right direction for the rear guard that helped Team Canada win a gold medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Timmins said the next step is taking part in the 3-on-3 prospect game on Friday night at EPIC Arena in Fort Collins.
"We're still being cautious, we're still being safe, but at the same time you have to push yourself and try and push yourself back into game situations," Timmins said.
It's been a long year for Timmins, but he credits his family and the Avalanche for being there throughout his adversity. Returning from concussions are unpredictable, and each player reacts and recovers differently from each one.
"Obviously my family has been really important in this. I can always call them and talk to them," he said. "The organization has been great, just allowing me to take my time and know when I'm ready. Also guys on the AHL and NHL team, they've been really supportive. I just want to thank all of them because they've helped me get to this point."
He's looking for his time spent last season studying the game and practicing with the big club to help him when he finally begins his professional career.
"To sit out and watch every day, it's tough," Timmins said. "But you just try to use your time to the best of your advantage and trying to get better every day."