Camp Observations: Saturday (Team Blue)
I spent the practice session watching Team Blue. Iâ€™ll watch Team White Sunday. The following individual opinions are based on what I saw in practice today, as well as the scrimmage. Not a lot to go on, but some players stood out one way or another. Blue won the scrimmage 3-1.
Cory Conacher  â€“ Itâ€™s possible he stood out more than any other player today in the scrimmage. Granted, few veteran forwards played in the scrimmage, but he definitely stood out and Guy Boucher singled him out after practice was over. He was smart offensively finding open spaces and darting in and out of areas. He had two breakaways, but struggled with a bouncing puck both times. On one break, he tried to beat Nagle low 5-hole and stuff it under him, but Nagle smothered it. He was very good on the backcheck. Very quick with good straightaway speed, too. He knocked a forward over while backchecking in front of his own bench in the first half of the scrimmage. He made a nice move around Marc-Andre Bergeron , unafraid of the middle of the ice in the offensive zone, for a scoring chance, but the puck was pokechecked away. Heâ€™s small, thereâ€™s no question about it. He was standing beside Martin St. Louis  in one drill and he and Marty looked each other in the eye. How strong he gets will determine how far he goes. I asked Boucher if there was a possibility an NHL deal could be in Conacherâ€™s future (heâ€™s on an AHL deal with Norfolk right now). Boucher gave the politically correct answer for a coach, while smiling, saying they â€œalways want to add good players.â€
Brett Connolly  â€“ Connolly was also singled out by Boucher for his good play, but more so for his rookie camp and overall impression on the staff rather than his scrimmage performance. He certainly thinks the game well and knows how to score. He had a tap-in goal in rush drills and his shots were fairly accurate and strong. In the scrimmage he didnâ€™t stand out, per say. He ended up behind goaltender Jaroslav Janus  on one sequence while trying for a tip-in goal. Bergeron may have forced him back there as the two were tied up. Boucher told me the is a â€œbig, big differenceâ€ with Connolly this camp compared to last. Iâ€™ll have more from Boucher on Connolly in the coming days.
Philip-Michael Devos  â€“ Has a good shot, but was a little heavy in his skating. Didnâ€™t stand out one way or another in the scrimmage.
Steve Downie  â€“ Downie actually struggled early in practice with receiving the puck while on the rush. The first time I ignored it, the second time it raised an eyebrow, then he was alone in front and couldnâ€™t handle a pass in time to bury it. In a game, youâ€™d look back at the play as a definite missed opportunity. Itâ€™s early. He had a 2 on 0 goal later in the drill. He did not participate in the scrimmage.
Adam Hall  â€“ He took his glove off to introduce himself to Ondrej Palat  and shake his hand, showing good veteran leadership. He was very vocal on the ice in both drills and the scrimmage. He played with Tyrell and his new friend Palat in the scrimmage.
Alex Hutchings  â€“ Sat out the scrimmage, watching from the glass in front of me. I didnâ€™t notice him much in the drills.
Tyler Johnson  â€“ Very smart player who knows how to find open spaces and distribute the puck. He knocked Bergeron off the puck once to create a scoring chance in the scrimmage. He earned praise from Boucher for his rookie camp. Small and skinny, but a fluid, agile skater.
Eric Neilson  â€“ He didnâ€™t do much in the scrimmage. Struggled to stay in the play at times.
Michel Ouellet  â€“ He was with Tyrell and Shannon at certain times in the scrimmage. He had some creative plays, but didnâ€™t stand out.
Ondrej Palat â€“ I like his shot, which is very quick and heavy. He doesnâ€™t have a lot of speed, but thinks the game well. He beat Roloson with a nice shot in drills, sneaking a puck inside the post when Roloson thought he was going 5-hole.
Richard Panik  - Had a nice goal over Roloson early in drills and let out a "wooo!" He later got his elbow up on Landry and knocked him out of the day's activities. Panik scored a nice goal on a penalty shot, but left me wanting more from him. He passed up a glorious shot opportunity for a drop-pass, something that likely wouldn't go over well in film study were this the regular season and he was with the big club.
Tom Pyatt  â€“ Good speed and grit. Plays a nice north-south game like Tyrell. Good on puck retrieval and throwing it into the crease.
Ryan Shannon  â€“ He stood out in the scrimmage and during drills. He scored after trying a wraparound, then hammering in a rebound on Nagle. Made a very nice backcheck to separate the man from the puck in rush drills. Heâ€™s a nice addition.
Martin St. Louis â€“ Was robbed by Nagle in one rush drill, then made him look silly a few minutes later. Did not participate in the scrimmage.
Steven Stamkos  â€“ The Lightningâ€™s Fabio was typical Stamkos. What I liked seeing was him staying with Charles Landry  after Landry was down for several minutes with a head injury. Stamkos escorted him and the trainers off the ice when he didnâ€™t have to. Was the only player to do so.
Dana Tyrell  â€“ Had a few scoring chances in the scrimmage, but didnâ€™t convert. They werenâ€™t Grade-A chances, though. Heâ€™s in a battle for a fourth line spot and needs to have a big camp. Heâ€™s still on his entry level contract, so he can be sent to Norfolk without going through waivers. That could be a factor in decision-making.
James Wright  â€“ Didnâ€™t stand out too much in the scrimmage. He seems to be playing a mostly defensive role, though he got involved occasionally in the offense. For some reason I thought he was playing for White in the scrimmage.
Mark Barberio  â€“ I thought Barberio had a great day. He was consistently rushing the puck and getting involved in the offense. I thought he showed good speed, too, which was good to see for him. He created several scoring chances for Blue because of his rushes. He wasnâ€™t shy about pinching in, either. He had a nice poke-check defensively, too.
Brett Clark  â€“ Did not play in the scrimmage.
Bruno Gervais  â€“ Was solid in the scrimmage.
Radko Gudas  â€“ He didnâ€™t hit anyone in the scrimmage that I saw, which was probably a good thing for the forwards. Standing next to him, heâ€™s built like a fire hydrant. Solid.
Victor Hedman  â€“ In drills he insisted on playing the left side every time, making whoever was with him switch. Poised with the puck. Good, as always. He did not play in the scrimmage.
Scott Jackson  â€“ I didnâ€™t notice him out there. Iâ€™m not sure he played.
Adam Janosik  â€“ He and Hutchings were watching the last part of the scrimmage together. I didnâ€™t notice him much in drills.
Pavel Kubina  â€“ He played in the scrimmage, but didnâ€™t do anything impactful either way. He looked like a vet playing in a training camp scrimmage â€“ letâ€™s just all take it easy here.
Charles Landry â€“ He took an elbow from Richard Panik in a non-hitting drill and got his bell rung. Word is a concussion is possible, but he was undergoing further evaluation. Boucher said Landry showed well at rookie camp.
Mathieu Garon  â€“ Didnâ€™t face a lot of action in the scrimmage. He came out to cut down an angle on Ashton, I believe, and easily sticked the puck to the corner.
Dwayne Roloson  â€“ He filled in for Tokarski on Blue. He was beaten on a tip-in goal by Mike Angelidis  after Richard Petiot  let it fly from the point. Nothing to worry about with that goal. It happens.
(Team White observations will be posted later tonight)