Happy birthday, America.
Ok sorry - had to get that out of the way first. It's been an awesome day at Nationwide Arena and the OhioHealth Ice Haus, and it began early this morning with an intense goaltenders-only workout led by Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark.
Clark gathered Oscar Dansk, Anton Forsberg, Martin Ouelette and Joonas Korpisalo for a steady diet of shots, skating and competitive drills in a strictly-netminder setting, allowing some valuable education time for both the coach and his pupils. With two young goalies just joining the ranks at the 2012 NHL Draft, it was an opportunity to get to know the players further, and introduce them to their peers between the pipes.
|A group huddle before practice begins at development camp. |
Goaltending has certainly been a prevalent topic of conversation in the Blue Jackets organization of late, beginning with the acquisition of Sergei Bobrovsky on the day prior to the draft in Pittsburgh. GM Scott Howson said acquiring goaltenders (via trade, free agency or the draft) was high on his team's list of priorities heading into the draft -- and after taking Dansk at 31st overall and Korpisalo at No. 62 overall, he felt they addressed their weakness in the pipeline.
Though it's just one workout and one look at the future of the club, Clark likes what he's seeing.
"(Dansk) has tremendous clarity in what he wants to become, and that's an elite National Hockey League goaltender," Clark told BlueJackets.com. "He is single-minded in that goal. It's a very direct mentality and clear path he has set for himself. He has tremendous mental skills in the face of pressure.
"He has excelled on the biggest stages and has a great mental makeup for goaltending. He's a very well-schooled goalie with great positioning and he's really good athletically."
Clark said last week that Dansk was the top-rated Swedish goalie and Korpisalo the top-rated Finnish goalie in this year's draft class. In today's on-ice session, the goalies also got a heavy workout as the drills were focused on finishing opportunities and playing with speed up and down the ice -- an area that Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards and Springfield Falcons coach Brad Larsen seem to be completely aligned in.
That's even better for the goalies, and with the organization's trend toward drafting European goaltenders, it is a helpful transition to get used to the pro-style game.
"One of the nice things about the European goaltenders -- and one of the things you've noticed is a switch in our stable from the North American goalies to the European goalies -- is they have very good balance to their game," Clark said. "They have very good technique and they combine that with tremendous athleticism and competitiveness.
"(The four goalies in camp) are competing against each other and challenging each other to be at a higher level, and at the same time you're teammates, comrades and all those things. It's a unique parcel that comes with the goaltending position."
Other notable items from today's session:
-- During a 2-on-1 drill with two nets arranged half-wall-to-half-wall, Dansk decided to jump into the action and play left wing for a minute or two. It was entertaining for the appreciative throng of fans that packed the Ice Haus, and the coaches and players got a kick out of it, too.
-- Continue to be impressed by young Swede Daniel Zaar. He's got zip to his game and he really works quickly off the rush. Spoke briefly with CBJ senior advisor Craig Patrick about Zaar, and he's been pleasantly surprised. Likes his offensive game and his skating.
-- Gianluca Curcuruto has been impressive. He's not the biggest kid, but he moves well and has shown a stellar point shot. Along with Austin Madaisky and Mike Reilly (who said he's added some weight in the past year and grown an inch or so), the Blue Jackets' pipeline on defense is pretty well-positioned.
-- Oh, yeah, there's that Ryan Murray guy, too. He's really good.
-- Also have to be impressed by the play of development camp "veterans" Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson. They're setting a great example for the rest of the group, and have taken charge during drills and whiteboard sessions with the coaching staff.
-- Boone Jenner looks like a pro. It won't be too long before he's in the National Hockey League. Takes care of the puck and plays an intense game -- the "on the edge" style of hockey that's made a nice career for Mike Richards.