A mix of on-ice and off-ice activities highlighted the second day of Vancouver Canucks prospects camp.
With the physical testing behind them, the prospects finally got a chance to lace up their skates and hit the ice as they started the day with an hour and a half ice session before taking part in some early afternoon dry-land training.
All 23 prospects took to the ice at UBC for the defensive minded practice, players worked on a variety of things including defensive communication and call signals.
Coached by Manitoba Moose bench boss Scott Arniel, alongside Ian Clark, Jay Wells and Rick Bowness, the practice was the first opportunity for players to strut their stuff to the coaching staff and the roughly 150 Canucks fans in attendance.
“Certainly there were lots of nerves for these young guys and there were lots of fans in the stands, but I think that everybody was real good,” said Arniel.
“They go through all summer long training to get to this point and I think that guys are trying to get their timing back. Today at the start of practice you could see that the guys were a little bit tight, then everybody started loosening up and started to relax and I certainly liked the tempo and the pace that we got to.”
It was difficult to tell who was who at times throughout the practice as without names on the back of their jerseys, a lot of the baby-faced skaters looked alike.
It would have been tough to do a double take on a few players though, Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner set themselves apart with some pretty goals in the early drills.
But the pair certainly didn’t provide the only highlights on the day, everyone brought their A game and it made for some fierce competition.
“That’s the fun part about it, that’s why you play hockey is the competition level and you’re out there with some of the best players your age and you’re trying out for the Canucks so there’s no better atmosphere to play in,” said Hodgson, Vancouver’s 2008 first round pick.
Forward Oren Eizenman was all smiles once practice was done as he admitted his stomach was turning when he first stepped out onto the ice and he was glad the first ice session was finished.
“You see the guys up there with the clip boards and you know that you better not make a mistake,” laughed Eizenman. “At the start you’re kind of skating on egg shells, then you kind of get into things and forget about it.
“It’s just nice to get the summer behind you and finally hit the ice with the coaches and try to put your best foot forward.”
One of the shadows it the stands with a clip board was Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault. He watched over everyone during practice, especially the team’s recent draft picks, and was pleased with what he saw.
“I spent most of the practice looking at our draftees from this year and I think there were only six guys that I’d seen before, not counting the two goaltenders, so I did a lot of paper watching and hopefully tomorrow I’ll get better at picking up who skates like who and then I’m sure we’re going to have two good games in Edmonton.
“What we’re watching when we’re watching practices like this is A – the skill level, and B – the effort level that the players seem to be able to give during these drills. Once you’ve taken in a few practices then you can evaluate guys in games and you see their competitiveness and you see their overall hockey sense. It’s going to be a good mix in the next couple of days for us.”
The prospects capped off the day with some dry-land training that included balance board squats, crunches, medicine ball chest presses, leg squats, pushups and work with free weights.
The Canucks prospects practice at UBC (free to the public) again Sunday morning, with similar dry-land training to follow, before heading off to Alberta. Vancouver’s prospects will face off against Edmonton’s rookies on Monday and Tuesday night. OTHER NEWS:
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Don't forget to watch the live stream of the Canucks vs. Flames/Oilers prospects Monday and Tuesday on Canucks.com. Tune in Monday, September 15th starting at 6:00pm PST. Game time on Tuesday, September 16th is at 6:00pm PST. In addition to live game action, don't miss the special intermission features and guests from Encana Arena in Camrose.