I had the chance to take in the scrimmage game between Group A and Group B yesterday afternoon for the Flames Prospects Camp. From the events of the past three days I was quite looking forward to see what the kids had to offer.
The first thing that jumped out at me was that the prospects came ready to impress. It wasn’t some half-paced pickup type scrimmage; these kids came with purpose and with something to prove. That being said, it wasn’t a good showing for some, including a few who needed to be showcasing something special if they want to make an impact on an already crowded Flames roster.
After hearing the rave reviews of the Bärtschi – Gaudreau combination, it was interesting to watch the Red squad line up Sven with Mark Jankowski and Eric Robinson.
ERIC ROBINSON – The invited centre from Dartmouth College was one guy who caught my eye right from the get-go, and not because he was lined up with two highlight prospects. Instead he was able to create a bit of a spotlight for himself with some smart puck handling, strong skating and some pretty deft hands. What impressed me the most about Robinson was the fact that he wasn’t the ‘third wheel’ on the line. To the contrary, he was constantly in the mix alongside “The Big Jankowski” and the “SVENsational One”. In the occasions where he wasn’t directly involved in the play at the net, he was creating space for his linemates by moving into the open areas of the ice, drawing players from the white squad with him.
For much of the scrimmage and especially in the second half, he fit right I and the line looked as if they had been playing together a little longer than three days. For that I’ll give him props and so, here’s to you "Mr. Robinson”…
SVEN BÄRTSCHI – It should come as no surprise to anyone that once again Sven was out to not only impress the coaches and the Flames organization, but the fans that packed the Winsport Arena that came out to see him do his thing. And he didn’t disappoint either.
It’s hard to say Bärtschi was ‘noticeable’ today, because it’s hard to go unnoticed when everyone is literally looking for you every shift, but the young Swiss was definitely dominant. He was in on the first three goals for the red squad, scoring one himself, and watching him set up Jankowski on the first goal was impressive to say the least. Some credit has to go to his linemates in that it would be easy to sit back on the play and watch Sven while thinking, “wow, I’m playing with a kid that is actually going to be on the Flames roster this season”, but they didn’t and it seems like they are getting the full experience playing with him right now.
Bärtschi is at the top of the list of guys at the camp showing that they want the puck and they want to play. He is everywhere while on the ice and just sees the play happening and how to shape it his advantage. It’s going to be a lot different for him when he plays on a regular basis in the big’s, but we’ve all gotten a glimpse; I for one, think he’ll cope just fine.
MARK JANKOWSKI – You can see shades of what has Feaster and Weisbrod so excited about drafting this kid when you watch him play, he is a very smooth skater for a kid of his height. Watching him move around to find the open ice, and usually receive a pass from Bärtschi might not be enough to go out and buy a jersey just yet, but his stick handling and ability to rifle off a pretty quick and accurate shot, will certainly bring a smile to your face and breathe a sigh of relief.
James Martin – had a great two halves for the white squad’s defense. His skating and positional play, I thought, was outstanding. Almost every time he had the puck inside his own zone, he would step into the open area and make a nice concise outlet pass up to his forwards.
Max Reinhart didn’t start off the best in the first half, but pulled it together for the second. Two specific plays stood out for me. The first was a pass he took from out of his own zone that wasn’t going to be a success. Instead, Max Power recognized the inefficiency and adjusted his position with a stutter play, allowing the red player to skate past him so he could receive the outlet and quickly dish the puck off. The second was when he came down the left boards without any support. Rather than dump the puck behind the net as he got ridden out of the play, he let loose a laser beam past Brossoit, pinging two posts before going in.
John Gaudreau wasn’t as dynamic as the last scrimmage but nonetheless he was still flying around and making things happen for the white squad. This kid goes from 0 to 60 in less time it took you to read this sentence and he turns on a dime. Listening to Craig Conroy talk about Gaudreau, you can see firsthand why the Flames aren’t too worried about his small size; it’s damn near impossible to hit this kid. Just as a player thinks they have him lined up to take him out of the play, Johnny Goo is long gone and back in the play. It wasn’t the most offensive outing, I’d hoped for, but it was a pleasure to watch the “Mighty Mite” in action.
Some of the kids I was looking forward to seeing, didn’t look too impressive to begin with. Some figured out their way, like Reinhart, while some didn’t grow to impress me, but saved a little face.
Brady Lamb was one that had me shaking my head in the first half. There were some sloppy plays in his own zone, with missed passes and puck turnovers. As the scrimmage moved along, Lamb seemed more at ease and started to play a lot sounder defensively, and was able to move the puck up ice to his forwards. Brady also isn’t too bad at laying the body, with some nice hits in the second half.
Michael Ferland was another one that looked rough in this scrimmage. He didn’t seem very engaged in the play when he was on the ice and stuck mostly to the perimeter, watching the play. He was one guy specifically that I wanted to watch for so I’m reconciled in that at least I got to see him come out with a few good shifts where he was showing a little more gusto. On the whole though, it wasn’t a noticeable effort.
Markus Granlund wasn’t very visible for most of the game. In the second he had a few opportunities where he was sprung for plays that could have shown off his stick work and speed, only to be cut off or stripped of the puck. Like Ferland, he was mostly on the outside while many others ‘mucked’ their way through the middle of the ice to battle for possession. He scored an empty-netter at the end, so that should tell you how the rest of his game went.
I’ll save this last category for one guy in particular, Greg Nemisz; another poor outing for the 22 year old AHL vet. For pretty much both halves this afternoon, Nemo was lost in the desert as he watches his NHL future skate passed him.
It’s been said that Nemisz isn’t putting in a full effort because it’s not in developmental interest to dominate guys five years his junior. That this is not an evaluation camp to make the Flames, rather just a chance for the coaching staff to get a feel for what the kids can do and where they need to develop. That’s true to a certain extent, and even Nemisz is speaking in the same manner when interviewed.
On the radio I heard him say that this is a three month process and that he’s not ramping things up just yet and that by the time September rolls around, he’ll be in full swing to make a run at making the starting roster. I beg to differ Greg. His skating is terrible and his stability is not any better. It wasn’t hard to tell when Greg was on the ice, and that’s not meant as a compliment. Everything that made you notice kids like Bärtschi and Jankowski, it was the exact opposite that led you to notice Nemo. And when you weren’t grimacing at his poor skating, you were shaking your head that he was out of the play, or disrupting the drive.
I know it’s never good to give up on a guy that is only 22, and we have all come to the defense of other struggling youngsters, but the difference I find with Nemisz is that even if you take his skating out of the equation, it’s his sense of the game that seems lacking. His reluctance to play with an edge that should come with his size and whether it’s intentional or not, his inability to dominate kids five years his junior, should be of concern to him because it probably is to the coaches.
ON THAT NOTE…
That’s about it from the afternoon session. As I was unable to attend the morning, check out Ryan Pinder’s piece that included some highlights from the morning.
Also, big thanks to MC Hockey for his contributions with the game notes. I know he had included some other players, but I’ll leave that to the comments where I’m sure he, Ryan and Kent will have some added thoughts from yesterday.