Thunderbirds training camp wrap: Day two
By Andrew Eide
The T-Birds wrapped up a full day of training camp Friday afternoon with the final scrimmage of the 1996/1997 born players. The scrimmages book-ended practices with the veteran players during the middle of the day and Saturday will mark the first ‘full’ day of camp as most of the younger guys will go home and the veterans will get their chance to play a scrimmage game.
One newsworthy note from Friday is that import draftee Alexander Delnov is not in camp yet. Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said that the team was still waiting for his visa paperwork to be processed by the U.S. Consulate in Russia. Konowalchuk says that as soon as that paperwork is processed Delnov will be on a flight to Seattle. So it appears that we will have to wait a few days to see how Delnov looks with the Thunderbirds. Nobody with the team seemed worried that he was not coming and all said that he was committed to playing in Seattle this year.
Without a doubt the highlight of the two scrimmages Friday was Mathew Barzal. He potted a hat trick in the morning game and followed that up with two more goals and at least one assist in the second scrimmage. The unofficial count in the press box had him finishing with ten points for the first two days of camp. Beyond the goals though, the first round draft pick was clearly the best player on the ice. He showed that he has all the speed, hands, vision, hockey sense and wrist shot that you need to be an elite scorer. Barzal was dangerous each shift that he had and made the rest of the players on his line better.
The puck always seems to find him, stick to him and he knows what to do with it once he has it. He played well in his own end and would transition to offense very quickly which led to several odd man rushes and sustained pressure. Barzal will be in camp on Saturday and will show what he can do against the older players in the afternoon scrimmage. He’s a strong presence on the ice,constantly banging his stick on the ice for the puck and at times it seemed some of the other players were caught watching him.
Dylan Gambrell also stood out in both scrimmages on Friday. Gambrell is a local product, from Bonney Lake, who played last year for the Colorado Thunderbirds (a U16 team) and scored 21 goals and 42 points in 40 games. He was on Barzal’s line in the first scrimmage and it would be easy to dismiss his fine play as a product of that, however he showed in the afternoon session that he can create on his own. He was quick, showed good hands and his line controlled the play while he was on the ice. With Barzal he seemed to form an instant chemistry and the thought of the two of them manning the top line in the future has to be exciting.
Gambrell is reportedly committed to the University of Denver, but at only 16 years-old it is still possible for him to change his mind.
The Thunderbirds other first round pick from last spring’s Bantam Draft Kegan Kolesar also played in both scrimmages Friday. Kolesar is big and seemed to find himself in the mix all day. As most bigger players he could improve his skating and puck handling. He often had his head down watching the puck on his stick while handling it but that is something he can work on by the time he debuts with Seattle and his size will make him a tough player to handle.
Michal Holub also stood out in the scrimmages. Holub is another big winger who skates really well and seemed to always find himself in scoring areas all day long. He will be sticking around for the main camp and as a 16 year-old could have an outside shot at making the club.
The two best goalies in the rookie scrimmages were Danny Mumaugh and Nolan Kruizenga. Both played steadily and were tested more in the second scrimmage than they were in the first. Mumaugh may have had the bigger saves as he stopped a couple of mini-breakaways and Kruizenga gave up more goals overall. You have to give Kruizenga the benefit of the doubt however as he had to face Barzal all day long. After today it appears that the two are pretty even and will continue to compete with Daniel Cotton for the back up spot.
Austin Douglas had a solid day as well. While he did not do anything spectacular he did show that he has good mobility for his size and was the only player who didn’t seem to crumble against Barzal. With his long reach he was able to hold his own when Barzal screamed into the zone. It would have been nice to see what kind of shot he has from the point, but there was no real opportunity for that and only two 30 second power plays.
The veteran players took part in two practice sessions in between the rookie games with the focus mainly on working on skills and other drills. The scrimmages the rest of the weekend will surely give us more insight to who looks good but there was some interesting things to see during practice.
Brandon Glover looked really poised during the afternoon drills. Despite the onslaught of pucks he saw (the drills did not require defensemen to play defense) he seemed to calmly stop most of them and made some tough saves look pretty easy. I chatted briefly with him in the morning and he comes across as very confident and calm, which are good attributes for a goal tender.
Daniel Cotton also made some spectacular saves in the afternoon drills, he did get up gingerly after one of them but showed no affects afterwards.
Brendan Troock looked strong and was skating well during his time on the ice.
Riley Sheen looks like an interesting player. During the one-on-one drills he showed some pretty slick stick-handling skills and was dangerous. He is a smaller player and there was no checking during these drills so it will be interesting to see how his offensive acumen translates in a game situation.
One of the highlights of the veteran practices came after the last practice had finished. A group of players stayed on the ice and had fun taking penalty shots against the goalies. Shea Theodore started it off with a pretty goal, beating Glover up high. The star of the penalty shots was Riley however. He routinely showed video game like moves and scored some crazy goals, including one where he put the puck between his legs, flipped it into the air, knocked it in the air with his skate and balanced it on his stick before shooting it. Again, not something that he would ever get to do in a game but it shows that he has some offensive talent.
Saturday’s scrimmage starts at 3 P.M. at ShoWare and is free to the public.