I managed to make it to the afternoon session of the Flames prospects camp today. Luckily it was a scrimmage so I got to see the kids in game action, which makes it easier to evaluate them.
For my first look I usually don’t spend too much time trying to keep an eye on individuals, preferring instead to sit back and see who jumps out. This report won’t be terribly in depth as result since most of the skaters sort of faded into the background. A couple of names stood out to me in both the good and bad sense though:
John Gaudreau – the might mite was outstanding his afternoon. Quick, crafty, Gaudreau showed excellent instincts on both sides of the puck. He pursued puck carriers and was always getting in lanes or stealing the puck from their sticks. He scored the two nicest goals of the afternoon – for the first, he banked the puck off the boards near his own blueline, blew past the defender (John Ramage) escaped to the outside and the roofed a wrist shot over the goaltender.
He scored his second goal on a penalty shot. He turned the unfortunate ‘tender inside out and then slipped the puck between his legs. It was a silky smooth display that drew an audible gasp of admiration from the crowd. Craig Conroy was sitting nearby and he had big grin on his face whenever Gaudreau was doing his thing.
The 4th rounder is, of course, the smallest dude on the ice so some issues remain there. He got flattened once and it was clear at times that he’s not comfortable engaging in the physical aspects of the game. Not that he shied away from the puck or traffic areas, just that he preferred stick checks and quickness to using the body. His biggest obstacle to making the show will be the down-low, cycle, grind game that tends to dominate areas of play in the NHL.
That said, I came away incredibly impressed and I’m guessing most of the other observers did as well.
Sven Baertschi – The most consistently dangerous guy on the ice. Baertschi should have had at least 4 points, but the puck wouldn’t go in for him for whatever reason. He had multiple break-aways and set up his linemates multiple times. It was clear when he had the puck in contested areas that his skill level and poise is a cut above most of his peers.
Mark Jankowski – The latest Flames first rounder was a lot quieter than the other two guys, but at times he flashed the skills that no doubt caused Calgary to jump the queue and take him at 21. He’s got a smooth stride and pretty slick hands. He almost buried a goal after driving wide around a defender.
Mark was probably the youngest guy on the ice and it was obvious on occassion he needs to put some weight and strength on his lanky frame.
Greg Nemisz – Really rough afternoon for the AHL vet. I didn’t notice Nemisz much in the first half of the game, but in the second half I did – for all the wrong reasons.
It’s still clear as day that Nemisz isn’t a good skater (in terms of both pace and mechanics), even in a game against non-NHLers. On top of that, his instincts were poor at times – there was shift near the end of the match where the play died on his stick on three separate occasions, each for different reasons – hanging on to the puck too long, passing to the wrong guy or poor execution. He was eventually granted a penalty shot of his own and the difference between his effort and that of Gaudreau was profound – whereas the kid was smooth and effortless, Nemisz was awkward and clunky. He didn’t score.
At 22 and with two seasons of pro hockey under his belt, this is a setting in which Nemisz should dominate, but he just didn’t. Quite the opposite in fact.
John Ramage – Was victimized on the Gaudreau goal and on a number of other occasions. Had problems all over the ice, except for his penalty shot goal which was an impressive snipe into the top corner.
Pat Sieloff – I was back and forth on the physical defender – there were shifts where he’d look totally comfortable and his aggression was evident and there were others where he looked like he was struggling to make decisions and execute with the puck. He’s not a big guy by any means, but he loves to throw the body around, even against potential future teammates in a practice setting. He’ll need some seasoning though.
Markus Granlund – I expected to see a lot more of Granlund given the league he played in last year, but he was nearly completely invisible. He made probably two noticeable plays in the offensive zone, but otherwise it would have been easy to think he wasn’t even dressed.
Max Reinhart – Max Power was another guy I expected to see more of, but he faded into the woodwork a bit too. I only made note of his number maybe once or twice.
Roman Horak – Horak opened the game well, setting up the game’s opening goal for team white. After that, I maybe saw him once or twice more, which was mildly disappointing.
I should note that one scrimmage against kids and hopefuls hardly constitutes a meaningful scouting report. Some guys may have had bad afternoons, which is human, while others may have been riding high. It happens.
I came away very impressed with two of Calgary top-5 prospects though – Gaudreau and Baertschi looked like the two most commanding guys on the ice quite often, despite not being the oldest of biggest dudes out there.
Some other names and numbers popped up here and there, but never consistently enough for me to make a note of them. Turner Elson, Michael Ferland and few of the try-outs had a decent shift or two, but that was about it.
Ryan (Pike) here with a quick run-in: I attended the Tuesday morning sessions as well as the afternoon scrimmage. The morning sessions were a bit smaller and more focused and allowed for a bit more detailed viewings. I thought that Max Reinhart and Dustin Sylvester were good in their drills, particularly a 2-on-2 half-ice scrimmage they ran at the end of the session. Carter Bancks wasn’t noticable in the morning sessions, but was effective in the scrimmage. And I also really liked Brady Lamb and Pat Sieloff as a blueline pairing in the scrimmage; both of them had some nice plays and some physicality, but they also looked a bit shaky in their own zone at times. That said, the scrimmage itself didn’t lend itself to much defensive prowess, so a lot of usually stingy defensive players looked porous on this occasion. Other than that, I concur with Kent’s take on things.
As always, anyone else who took in the action is enouraged to share their thoughts in the comments as well.