This morning I went to day one of the first training camp under Coach Ken Hitchcock. I came away very impressed. The practice was structured and organized. The players were broken up into two groups, a Blue and a White Team. The Blue Team was first to practice on ice while the White Team were participating in off ice conditioning. After the Blue Team finished on the ice the roles were reversed. There were many drills between the forwards and defense that focused on skating, passing accuracy, defensive zone break outs and moving the puck quickly. There was also a sequence of the dump and chase. The puck would be dumped from center ice into the corner and the defense would try to retrieve the puck and clear the zone while the opposing forwards were attacking and trying to gain possession. All of these drills included eventual shots against the goaltenders.
Here are some things that stuck out during the first session:
- The absence of Jiri Novotny
- The players were very attentive to what Hitch was trying to teach
- Quick drills with little time in between except for instructions
- Seeing Zherdev playing center between Nash and Vyborny
- Seeing the free agents (Hejda, Beech, Brookbank, etc.)
- Seeing all of our young, talented, yet unproven players particularly Brassard, Voracek and Russell
- All of our injured players from last season were healthy and back on the ice
- Observing some of the players on professional tryouts
- Watching the battles for the center ice and goaltending positions
My overall impressions was that the players on Blue Team showed more skill and passed the puck with more accuracy while the White team played more uptempo and their intensity level was higher. The players that stood out most to me were Brule who looked prepared to fight for a position, Modin who looked in midseason form and the Zherdev line with Nash and Vyborny who dazzled with skill and were difficult to contain.
None of the free agents or youngsters stood out over anyone else but that doesn't mean they didn't look good or that they didn't belong. I expect the first day jitters to be gone tomorrow and for the intensity to turn up a notch as players won't have long to make a statement for positions.
I enjoyed my first post, look forward to many more and welcome any comments.