First things first -- it is ridiculously hot outside. I'm more amazed by the ice staying in one beautiful piece today than at my lack of judgment wearing a pullover on my walk to Tim Horton's. Sometimes I'm prone to moments like that.
But it felt terrific inside the walls of the OhioHealth Ice Haus today, and it was another full day on the ice (and off) for Blue Jackets development camp. Similar to how Wednesday's session began, today started with the four goaltenders working out separately with goalie coach Ian Clark before the 10:30 a.m. full group practice. Oscar Dansk, Joonas Korpisalo, Anton Forsberg and Martin Ouelette were put to work by Clark, working on angles, tracking packs and making economical movements in the crease.
Springfield coach Brad Larsen and assistant coach Nolan Pratt ran the majority of today's full-group practice, and Blue Jackets development coach Chris Clark was on the ice with (Ian) Clark, as well. The practice was uptempo -- much like it was on Wednesday -- but today had a different feel to it, almost a more serious feel. The prospects can definitely tell they're under evaluation by the organization, but as they have said all week long, it's important to not put an enormous amount of pressure on their performance.
This is primarily a learning experience, and that's how they have approached the development camp.
Many of the drills in Friday's workout were focused on speed and generating chances off the rush -- and most importantly, getting quality shots and chances on the net. Some names that stood out during the offensive drills: Daniel Zaar, Seth Ambroz, Oliver Gabriel, among others. Those three players are known to have "nose-for-the-net" instincts and high-end finishing abilities, and they were evident during several run-throughs.
|The players listen for instructions before a packed Ice Haus crowd at Friday's CBJ development camp on-ice workout. |
On the other end of those odd-man rush drills are the defensemen, and none stood out more than Ryan Murray. We've seen how polished the kid is off the ice during interviews, appearances, etc., but his game on the inside the glass is the real deal. More on that in the notes section.
Speaking of the notes section, here it is:
-- Not only can Murray move the puck out of trouble quickly due to his elite footwork, his positioning (both with his body and his stick) cannot be overlooked. His agility allows him to stay with attacking forwards, force them wide, then use the stick positioning to gain possession of the puck. I saw him do so today on multiple occassions, and it was fun to watch.
-- I've paid close attention to all four goalies this week, and while Dansk, Korpisalo and Forsberg have received deserved attention, I think Martin Ouelette has gotten better as the camp has progressed. While he looked a bit nervous early in the week, I thought he was impressive this morning and made a handful of sharp stops. He's got a big year ahead of him at the University of Maine, too.
-- Korpisalo has looked excellent all week, and he made some highlight-reel quality saves today -- especially during the shootout to end the practice. He spun all the way around in the crease to deflect a puck away from the net, after Ryan Johansen made a forehand deke and appeared to have him beat cleanly. Korpisalo is one of the most athletic goalies in the organization, Clark told me last week, and he's lived up to the billing in his first week here. Easy to forget: he's only 18 years old.
-- Noticed Mike Reilly more and more with every passing workout. He's added weight, he said, and some height to his frame -- which will only help him as he gets ready to attend the University of Minnesota in the fall. The Golden Gophers are getting a mega-skilled defenseman, and a kid who's experienced a large volume of success in his young hockey career. His Pencticton Vees were part of a record-setting win streak in the BCHL this year, and is heading to a championship-driven program in Minneapolis.
-- Who were the last three players to leave the ice after today's workout? Murray, Johansen, Atkinson. Leadership, folks, and the young players in the organization are starting to really gain some confidence.
-- Austin Madaisky was the winner of the practice-ending shootout, beating Forsberg through the legs to seal the deal. To pay tribue to Madaisky's deft skills in the breakaway competition, Larsen had all the players surround Madaisky at center ice and do the "all hail!" drill, which was pretty funny.