directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Team Blue - training camp review

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Team Blue - training camp review

Today was my first chance to check out Team Blue. My first impression was that Team White seemed to practice with more intensity than Team Blue but perhaps that was me reading into something that isn't there.

The drills today were pretty similar to the drills yesterday with a few changes. There were a lot of breakout and puck possession type drills in the first half of practice.

The second half of practice saw things ratchet up a notch as the drills become more physical. One drill in particular was a 5 v 5 with the defending team having to play with their sticks up - handles down. One thing I noticed was that the defending teams were the guys expected to be in the lineup on the big team like the Nash/Z/Vybes line. Two theories for this were that it teaches guys to play more positionally as they can't use their sticks and to me at least, it seemed to up the physical intensity of the practice so perhaps Hitch himself wasn't quite happy with the effort.

So as I did for Team White yesterday, I'll just go over the guys I really focused in on and/or also the guys who stood out to me:

Rick Nash - Lets start with the obvious, hands down the best talent on the ice - nobody even close. Nash looked in shape as I dind't see him winded at all. He looked bigger. He looked more mature. As with Foote he just seemed to be "the guy" on the ice that everyone was looking towards and for the first time ever, I got the sense he was ready to be "the guy" -- not just in scoring but in leadership as well. I LOVED what I saw out of #61 today.

Nikolaie Zherdev: Like everyone else, I was excited to see how Z looked at center. I came away today with the so-so feeling about it. While Z did make some nice passes I did see quite a bit of the Z we are used to seeing - the hanging onto the puck to long, the turnovers, the lack of intensity. The verdict is still most certainly out on this experiment but I am definitely interested to see where this goes. Z also practiced face-offs quite a bit after the main drills concluded so I liked the focus there. Just a quick note on face-offs - nobody could touch Manny. He used an abused anyone that came into that circle. I would have loved to have seen Manny and Peca go head2head in the circle.

David Vyborny: This is a pretty easy one - David Vyborny was David Vyborny. The same quick, smart, calm and consistant player we've seen in Columbus the past few years. I will say that he was communicating with Zherdev quite a bit.

Geoff Platt: Platt played on a line with Pineault and Lindstrom which will most likely by Syracuse's top line. I loved Platt's game today. Dude was equally impressive in both shooting and passing plus he is such a good skater. Really I thought was just as good today as anyone on the ice outside of Nasher in the offensive department.

Jan Hejda: Beside Nash he was my favorite player to watch today. My first impression of this guy was that he can really help this team now. This guy is big and can skate. I didn't see him caught out of position and he just made smart defensive plays when challenged. I can't wait to see him tommorrow in live game action. He was paired with Klesla most of practice.

Duvie Westcott: First impression was that Druval (his real name believe it or not) is back. His decision making wasn't as crisp as I'd like to see but he was skating well, playing physical and for the most part making good decision. If he can regain his 2005-2006 form, which early signs point towards, he can really make an impact back there. He was paired with Hainsey most of practice. Lets cross our fingers that he can stay healthy and away from the concussions.

Manny Malhotra: A great practice for this guy. He does all the little things well like faceoffs (as mentioned earlier) but also things like communication and intensity. This guy just seems to "get it". Its clear he won't ever be much more than a 3rd/4th liner and I think its obvious he's accepted that role and is running it with. One note about Manny and how he "gets it" -- Peter Pohl had his head down in one drill chasing the puck and Manny was backchecking -- he could have cleary smoked this kid but let up -- which showed a clear understanding that he knows this is training camp and there is no point in plastering and injuring a guy at this stage -- he "gets it".

Sheldon Brookbank: First impression, this guy is big but slooow. He is going to really need to pick up his game to crack this lineup. I see Russell and Methot above him on the depth chart at this point. The key for Brookbank is he's a physical guy whose not afraid to drop the gloves which if we plan on scratching Shelley more this year may bump him into the lineup some this season if we need some more toughness.

Dan Frtische: Like Vyborny, Fritsche was Fritsche. You know what you get every time you put this guy on the ice which is a consistent workman like effort and a North American type game. That's what he gave today at practice and that's what we'll see this season. I love this guy's game.

Ron Haisney: Hainsey didn't stand out to me to much today in a good or bad way. He was getting a little more physical towards the end of practice but that seemed to be everyone on the ice as the drills seem to dictate it. Just kind of "meh".

Kris Beech: This is one guy who really surprised me today. I went in not expecting much and but came away very impressed. This guy isn't gonna blow you out of your chair with blazing speed but he's got good size, good hockey sense and maybe it was just me, but he seemed to bury every quality chance he had on net. First impressions is this guy's got a legit chance to crack this lineup.

Jaret Boll: This rookie definitely has some sandpaper to his game which I personally like. He took and gave some good hits and had a knack for always being in the mix of things. I can see this kid making a solid career at the NHL level as a 3rd/4th line grinder down the road. He probably won't see anytime up on the big squad this year but I can certainly see him making a statement in Syracuse.

Pascal Leclaire: I didn't really focus in on goaltending much today but what I did see of Leclaire was what we've seen the past two seasons which is a goaltender whose got the talent, just needs to stay healthy. I don't recall any weak goals. A note for the mask watchers -- he's got the same paint job as last season.

Stephan Legien: This is our 2nd round pick from this season who patterns his game off of agitators like Sean Avery and Darcy Tucker. I liked him a lot in development camp but certainly showed today that he needs some more development in juniors. He had a real rocky first half of practice today bobbling and missing passes but really seemed to find his game the second half.....and he certainly didn't make any new friends in the process as he and Zherdev had a nice exchange of shoves.

Rusty Kelsa: Really a bland practice for Klesla. He got beat a few hits that I can recall. He did have one nice shot where I remember thinking to myself that I hope he shoots it more this year. Really wish I could say more about Rusty but just seemed to go through the motions.

Tommy Sestito: Big kid but he'll be one of the first cuts. He needs to work on his skating....he's just really really raw.

Adam Pineault: This kid's game seems to have come a long way since last season. While not doing anything spectacular you can see the pro skill, speed and size. If we suffer some injuries on the wing this season, I can certainly see him able to step into the big team and hit the ground running (err skating).

Andrei Plekhanov: Today was the first time I got to see this 2004 pick and all n' all I came away pretty impressed. Didn't stand out in a good way or a bad way which for what appears to be a stay at home defensemen game is a good thing. I'll be very interested to see where he plays this season -- it won't be the NHL yet, but he looked AHL ready.

So that's the group I saw today and my initial impressions.

A couple of notes from the first session from some friends of mine who saw it. Apparently Marc Methot came out hitting everything making a statement that he doesn't want to go anywhere. Adam Foote only skated for a little while before retiring back to the locker room. Fredik Modin did not skate at all today. I also heard that Frerik Norrena, Derick Brassard, Jody Shelley (yep you read that right), Kris Russell and OK Tollefsen all had strong practices.

Hopefully both Modin and Foote aren't injuries and if they are, aren't anything serious.

Finally, a big shout out to the RBar Arena for the post practice beverages and NHL 08 on the Xbox. I can't wait to see this place hopping on opening night. Just a note to those going to the pre-season game tomorrow -- the RBar will open up 12:00 if you want to catch the Browns/Bengals game prior.

I'll post some better pictures today from practice in a bit so stay tuned!


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