Tuesday marked the last of the three-group practices. Now, it’s time for players to show what they can do in exhibition games on Wednesday and Thursday. Only two group practices are scheduled for Friday, so it looks like a safe bet to say that cuts will come before then.
Coach Peter Laviolette has said that, while the practices are nice, sometimes you don’t really know what you have until the exhibition games start. That makes the upcoming home-and-home series with the Capitals, starting in Raleigh Wednesday night, important for a handful of prospects and depth players.
“You can go through all these drills here and a guy can look like a million bucks and then you get to a game and maybe it doesn’t translate,” said Laviolette. “Conversely, there could be somebody who is a checking player or a smart player who brings something different that may not necessarily show up, but in a game situation has an opportunity to show what they can do. The evaluation always comes down to games.”
Whether he meant to or not, Laviolette described Brandon Sutter’s situation in camp to a tee in the second part of that statement. Sutter, known for his excellent defensive skills and hockey sense, isn’t the type of player who will wow you in drills or in practice. His contributions will show best in game situations when he’s trying to shut down top offensive players on other teams or killing penalties – both things he will be counted on to do if he makes the team to start the season.
“He’s going to get some games to see what he can do,” said Laviolette. “It’s not a make-or-break, I don’t want to put the pressure on him where he feels like he can’t move out there. Training camp is to make the best of opportunities, and he and others are going to get that opportunity.”
Although the lineups for the upcoming games won’t be finalized until the mornings of, Laviolette said that both Sutter and Drayson Bowman would be in the lineup tomorrow night. Bowman, a more offensively skilled player, will be given the chance to show what he can do on a scoring line.
As for the rest of the players that will fill out game rosters over the next few days, don’t count on seeing too many veterans in the lineup just yet. The early games will be geared more towards young players, players coming off of injury and players still getting back into game shape.
”There’s a few guys that are I guess regulars but have either been away for a year or are new to us, guys we want to see,” said Laviolette. The lineup tomorrow night will have some of our veteran players in it, but by veteran also, a guy like Jeff O’Neill who wasn’t with us but has lots of games, he’s been away for a year so we want to give guys an opportunity to show what they can do.”
Unfortunately, not everyone will get a shot to appear in exhibition games. There are simply too many players and only six games, meaning that some will return to their junior teams or be assigned to Albany before they get a chance.
“That Red/White game had some meaning,” said Laviolette. “Guys that played well in that Red/White game and stood out are going to get an opportunity. There’s only six exhibition games, and the last three I want to have a lot of our players in it, certainly for the last two, and that narrows it down even more.”
A few other notes from camp:
- Anton Babchuk hasn’t practiced since spraining his knee in the Red/White game and is expected to miss another week or so. Laviolette said he would not be available for either of the Washington games.
- Laviolette said that he thought Zach Boychuk looked strong in camp, especially after having his wrist in a splint until only recently. However, since he won’t be cleared for contact for another few weeks, Laviolette doesn’t expect him to appear in any exhibition games before returning to his junior team - Lethbridge of the WHL.