When today's practice began with Marianne Watkins sounding the first whistle, you knew it was going to be an intense session.
Watkins, one of the country's most prestigious power skating instructors (currently the Director of Power Skating at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh), is working with Blue Jackets prospects this week and has worked in the past with players in Springfield. Rather than open with traditional hockey drills, today's skate began with approximately 45 minutes of power skating workouts - and it was entertaining, too.
Rounding out the session was a "tug-of-war" exercise with an elastic band grouping three players together, forcing them to power their way to the outside of the face-off circle.
The players we spoke to after practice seemed to enjoy the power skating workout (or maybe they were just saying that, but they seemed genuine) and said they learned a few things about how to improve their skating.
And now, for today's observations:
- Mike Reilly and Ryan Collins have arrived. Collins got into Columbus Monday evening, but Reilly's path wasn't as easy. After some flight delays, he landed in Columbus after midnight and got some rest in before an early wake-up call. Both players took their physicals early this morning and joined the group for practice, just in time for a lot of skating. Welcome to development camp, gentlemen!
- Sonny Milano showed off some ridiculous stick work in the "small area" games today. You had to be there to witness it, really. That good.
- Lukas Sedlak is just a solid player. Not flashy in any way, but skates well, sees the ice, always in a good position. Will likely take on a bigger role in Springfield this season with more opportunity at center ice.
- Windsor Spitfires co-owners Warren Rychel (Kerby's father) and Bob Boughner (former Blue Jackets assistant coach) were in the building today, getting a look at Markus Soberg. Soberg, a Blue Jackets draft pick in 2013, was selected by Windsor in the CHL Import Draft last week and they'd like to get him in the fold.
- Olivier LeBlanc, Columbus' seventh-round pick this year, is super talented with the puck. Creative in small spaces, a very good passer. He's part of a great program with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) that has churned out very good NHL players in recent years.
- Daniel Zaar can really shoot the puck. We've been over this many times, but he seems to be en route to becoming a nice player. Getting stronger, working on his skating, all things that the Blue Jackets have encouraged him to do are starting to show. You'll recall he signed an entry-level deal earlier in the summer.
- Looking forward to seeing Nick Moutrey in the 3-on-3 tournament later this week. Good combination of size and some skill, but it's hard to see it all come together in drills.
- I'll have more later today and tomorrow on the competition between Anton Forsberg and Oscar Dansk, who will head into training camp battling it out for the No. 1 goaltending job in Springfield.