By Andrew Eide
The Thunderbirds had a slightly lighter third day of training camp Saturday with three scrimmages in the afternoon. These scrimmages featured the returning players along with some select rookies and draft picks.
The three games were competitive with two being decided with a shoot out. These shoot outs weren’t taken as seriously as they might in the regular season as the Blue team sent out defensemen Jerret Smith and Jared Hauf as shooters. Neither player were able to convert.
Here are the noteworthy events from Saturday.
Mathew Barzal could be in for a big year in Seattle. The 17-year-old center is fresh off winning a gold medal for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic and is being ranked as a top-ten NHL draft prospect. In the scrimmages Saturday he looked dominant.
He has always been a confident player but in some strange way, he seems even more confident. His stick handling and command on the ice seem to be a notch higher than it was last year. He scored two goals Saturday and his line dominated the play when they were on the ice.
Ryan Gropp was one of his linemates on Saturday and the two of them worked well together. They will most likely be on the same line when the season starts and the T-Birds could have a pretty special pair.
Keegan Kolesar comes up big
The big forward from Manitoba showed up to camp leaner and faster and that paid off Saturday as he was the star of the final scrimmage. He scored two goals, including one where he blasted past a defender to rip a wrist shot that scored. Kolesar was in the mix throughout the session and nearly had a hat trick as he had a couple other good chances.
The former first round draft pick had an adjustment last season as a 16-year-old and only scored two goals. With the way he is skating so far in camp, that number is sure to rise this season.
Pretty goal of the day
It should come as no surprise that Shea Theodore turned in the prettiest goal of the afternoon. The Anaheim Ducks prospect skated well all day and scored after weaving his way through defenseman before poking the puck over the goaltender for a goal. Theodore led the team, and WHL defenseman, in scoring last year and looks poised for another strong year.
Runner up pretty goal of the day
Theodore’s defense partner Jerret Smith scored a goal after a nice end-to-end rush down the ice. The defenseman is not known for his offensive fire power but he showed it on Saturday. Granted, he beat a 16-year-old defenseman at the end, but it was still pretty.
Rookies looking good
Kaden Elder and Nolan Volcan continued to look impressive on Saturday. Matched up on a line with 15-year-old Baker Shore, the duo were electric at times. Both players are blessed with a lot of speed and it was on display all day. Both of them scored and if Seattle can sign Baker to play with them, you could be looking at a potential top line for the T-Birds in years to come.
Brandon Schuldhaus continued to have a solid camp. The big defenseman was very solid, continued to play physical and at times showed that he has a decent shot from the point. Will he make the team this year? Tough to say, considering how deep Seattle is on the blue line. If he doesn’t make it this year, keep his name in mind for next year as he should have a good chance to play.
Ethan Bear in for a big season
Ethan Bear’s stock is rising. He was tremendous for Seattle last year at only 16 and he looks ready for big things this year. He was Barzal’s teammate for Team Canada in the Czech Republic and Saturday looked really strong. His already good shot looked even better Saturday as he pelted the goal a few times with hard and accurate point blasts.
Of course he is still steady in his own end and continues to show the poise of a player much older than he is. Don’t be surprised if Bear’s name starts climbing up NHL Draft boards during the season.
Players absent from scrimmage
Goalie Danny Mumaugh continued to sit out with an undisclosed injury and was joined Saturday by Evan Wardley. There was no word from the team as to why the big defenseman was out.
Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide.