As you have probably heard, the Blackhawks’ Prospect Camp got started today — and I was there tweeting updates the entire time. (Tomorrow and Monday will be covered on Kat’s Twitter; I’ll be back at the helm on Saturday and Sunday.) Camp was different this year, which the Blackhawks addressed in a way that made it clear that the change was necessary. It is also clear that this change will be advantageous for the players, as it will better prepare them to go on to training camp and regular practice — and will give the brass a better idea of who is actually ready. But whatÂ did the change mean to those of us who were watching?
At first, it meant a lot more idle time than usual. The transitions between groups skating and individual drills were pretty smooth, but then we would have large periods of time where nothing was happening while we waited for the next group to take the ice.
That little detail aside, today the change did something that the casual fans may not have appreciated very much: instead of being “exciting” in terms of scrimmage and large group of guys playing together, it was a lot more like watching a practice. That meant that those of us who were looking to see some of the players’ individual skills got to do so.
The exception to this was perhaps with goaltenders, as I have seen a big difference between making stops in a drill (when the shot is pretty clear and more expected) and making stops during a scrimmage (where the pace, number of people, and intensity resembles a ‘real’ playing situation much more closely).
We also got to see how fast the players learned, as the drills were explained to them, sometimes also modeled, and then the players were expected to go our there and get it done. It may have not been the most “entertaining,” but it was wonderfully informative. I feel like I know so much more about these prospects now that I have seen them skate than I did this morning when I showed up with my notes after a week of research. (If you would like to get a primer on the players before you dive in, Cheryl Adams had a great preview post atÂ The Checking Line.)
Overall, there really was no player that I looked at and said, “Wow, you’re not ready.” More than anything else, I was impressed by a lot of the guys I saw at camp last year; the growth was evident and so was their desire. While trying to pick out who stood out from each group, the first thing that came to mind was often, “X really wanted it.” I would say that most of the skills were consistent with what one would be looking for in an AHL player, but there were a couple of players that were solid and really seemed poised to make an impact at the NHL level. Of course, there are still four days of prospect camp to go — and it will be essential to see how they perform in teams and in roles that might be out of their comfort zones.
Let’s take a look at today group by group after the jump.
- Daniel Delisle
- Mac Carruth
- Brandon Saad
- Alex Broadhurst
- Terry Broadhurst
- Justin Holl
- Tim Schaller
- Mat Bodie
- Joe Gleason
I was out of commission during most of this group’s practice, only actually able to tweet/take notes during their individual drills, so there is not a picture for this group. However, Brandon Saad spoke to the press, so you get some video! After some deliberation, a few of us declared Saad and Holl to be the standouts for the day. They were both smooth on their breakaways and great about crashing the net, and Saad looked particularly strong on his skates. Carruth did a steady job in goal, but it will definitely take a performance in a scrimmage for me to have more concrete notes on him.
After the group practice was over, some individuals remained to perform some more drills. Carruth was pretty consistent in his, with a fast reaction time and actual rebound control. It was clear that there is both potential and the will to improve. The other player who stayed was Delisle, and he wasÂ steady on his skates and looked comfortable even as he did some loops and tight turns for the coach. His endurance was also impressive to me, as he did not look remotely winded after the speed skating drill and he had been out there for some fifteen minutes after their practice was over. If anything, I’d say that he was skating a little small for his size–reminiscent of Viktor Stalberg seemingly forgetting how tall he is.
(Special thanks to Kim Wrona for her contributions to my notes on this group!)
- Adam Clendening
- Byron Froese
- Sam Jardine
- Drew LeBlanc
- Klas Dahlbeck
- Rob Flick
- Stevie Moses
- Jack Maclellan
- Johan Mattsson
This group showed more spunk than the first one, and it had a few prospects I was actually quite familiar with. For example, Byron Froese and Rob Flick, whom our very own Hannah had written about when talking about the CHL, and Johan Mattson and Adam Clendening, two of the Blackhawks’ newest acquisitions. I will say that Rob Flick did not disappoint; as a matter of fact, he kind of stole the show during this practice. He had a lot of speed and a rather deadly, accurate shot. He showed good vision, especially when it came to passing smoothly and assessing an on-ice situation very quickly. Froese kind of faded into the background for me even as I was trying to make an effort to pay attention to me — but that might have been because Flick was on fire and Moses was demanding attention, too.
Moses is kind of diminutive; at 5’9″ he is tied with Joe Gleason for smallest player invited, and Gleason has 5 pounds on him. The impressive thing is that Moses did not skate like he was small — he was a smooth, confident skater that really reminded me of Nick Leddy at prospect camp last year (and you know how much I love Nick Leddy, so that’s high praise). Moses was just not afraid to get physical despite his size, and it was great to watch him battle for the puck against guys who had 4 to 5 inches on him with no difficulties.
Maclellan and Clendening looked good on the ice, although I wish I had gotten to see more from Maclellan — I think he can be above average, but I did not see that today. Clendening had a couple of very ‘young’ moments, making rookie mistakes during passing drills especially, but considering that he was just drafted he did well for himself. The final standout from this group was Johan Mattsson, for whom I always have very high hopes and who has not disappointed me yet. He was solid in net, with quick reflexes and deft puck-handling. Definitely excited to watch him in net during scrimmages and hopefully games.
(Special thanks to Crystalynn Bradley for recording footage of this practice as well as taking pictures of subsequent groups’ practices.)
- David Gilbert
- Philippe Paradis
- Ben Youds
- Eriah Hayes
- Philip Danault
- Mike Paliotta
- Andrew Shaw
- Matt Petgrave
- Cal Heeter
This group was an absolute joy to watch: aside from E.Hayes having some issues with consistency and following the continuity of play, there was really not much to say in terms of feedback for the group practice. The stars of this group were definitely Paradis and Gilbert, which I was expecting after having seen them last year (and being very impressed). Paradis was even better this year: solid skating, sharp passes, and a great deal of speed that did not hinder his accuracy. Gilbert shined when battling for the puck, as he was quick with his stick and showed very good instincts. These two were just on another level, legitimately; they were on point and they looked so ready I had to allow myself a fist pump.
However, it is to the credit of the other players in this group that I have notes on all of them — they were fighting to stand out and they really gave their best. Youds was very smooth when it came to skating backwards and receiving passes. So was Petgrave (whose last name is rather unfortunate); he showed a lot of speed and grace on his breakaways and he had a quick, laser-like shot. Danault stopped in front of the net to wait for his own rebound, which I know the Hawks have been emphasizing, and he had very clear skating and maneuvering. The highlight from him was his powerful shot — it hit the glass so hard that I dropped my laptop into my bag, I was so startled. Shaw gave Gilbert a good fight for the puck; he was patient and did not get easily frustrated. Cal Heeter was also remarkably solid despite all of these talented guys shooting pucks at him non-stop for a while there.
And then there’s Paliotta. I was impressed by his clean and fast skating, and he took direction well during group practice. But when it came time for the individual drills afterwards, he stayed behind with Gilbert and Paradis — and things took a turn for the worse. His youth showed when he got really frustrated as the other two picked up the concepts faster, and as the drills went on his performance got sloppier because he was in his own head. He needs to put a little emotional distance when it comes to that kind of situation.
He also could have used some perspective — yeah, his skating was not as clean and fast as theirs, but he doing drills with two of the best players at camp, period. Besides, David Gilbert’s learning curve is so steep it could put the Raging Bull‘s opening drop to shame.Â It was honestly intimidating to see how fast Gilbert picked up the drills, and how well he took and integrated direction in order to improve his performance. A large part of it spoke of his determination to show what he can do — and how willing he is to work on what he cannot. Even when groups four and five were skating, we were still talking about Gilbert.
- Jeremy Welsh
- JimmyÂ Hayes
- Kevin Hayes
- Mark Nemec
- Joe Lavin
- Mirko Hoefflin
- Mark McNeill
- Kent Simpson
Group three left us all with some pretty high expectations, and group for did not disappoint. Despite being a player short, this group was impressive — mostly because the smallest one was Hoefflin at 6’0″; he might be undersized but he sure doesn’t skate like it! I had high hopes for the Hayes brothers and they did not disappoint, even if it was clear that Jimmy is far more ready (and I don’t think it’s just due to the age difference). Jimmy was just much more solid on his feet and purposeful in his movements, yet he moved very gracefully for someone that tall and broad. He did some extra skating drills, skating backwards in tight circles around a glove before adding a loop into the movement, and I was impressed with how he controlled his body as he moved. The press did not disagree, as both brothers were interviewed.
And then McNeill was just a revelation. Nothing I had read prepared me for the fact that this ‘kid’ was going to come in and take no prisoners. He showed a lot of determination when battling Hoefflin for the puck, and even after Hoefflin got the puck away the second time they fought for it, McNeill did not back down. The most vivid image from this group is McNeill turning around just as he shook Hoefflin off with a nice, quick shot that was just unstoppable and went right past Simpson, top shelf. Not bad for a guy who had maybe a second to look before shooting, right? Then again, this is the first-round pick who said he was determined to make the team, and he definitely showed that today — he was downright hungry for it. (He also talked to the press!)
Welsh and Nemec faded into the background for me, to be quite honest, and what I saw of Lavin was not particularly different than what I saw last year (which is not meant as a disservice to him, as I thought he was solid in camp last summer). Kent Simpson had a good showing too, and I am really excited to see him face some shots during scrimmages this weekend.
As a final note for this group, they needed someone to even out their number for passing drills, so Danault was brought back out. After group four was off the ice, he stayed back for a bit, shooting on his own. Again, his shots startled me as they ricocheted off the glass; he has a powerful, quick release but he needs to work on his accuracy, as he kept shooting too high.
- Ludvig Rensfeldt
- Dylan Olsen
- Joakim Nordstrom
- Luke Sandler
- Paul Phillips
- Paul Zanette
- Nick Mattson
- Scott Greenham
- Michael Clemente
Rensfeldt immediately stood out in this group with a very solid overall performance. I was particularly impressed by his smooth passes, his determination when battling for the puck, and the fact that he refused to get frustrated even when he was having problems with the loop drill that J.Hayes and Delisle also performed. Nordstrom was also very stable out there; he looked comfortable and showed clear vision and some passing savvy. He also had a lot of tightly-controlled speed that reminded me of Marcus Kruger during Worlds.
Olsen’s greatest asset was, as usual, his skating — but he definitely needs to bulk up a little bit, he was looking a little too frail in this group.Â Mattson impressed me with his great puck-handling and vision, and he performed his drills with an economy of movement that really heightened his efficiency. And Zanette, whom I had high hopes for, did not disappoint: he moved well, has a good shot, and he was really patient with the puck.
Sadly, having two goalies out there during this practice/drill session meant that I had even less of a chance to gather notes on either of them–but it did make for a great goalie bromance moment after practice was over, when two of them were stretching side by side, deep in conversation.
This group was also uneven, so McNeill was brought back out for the passing and puck-possession drills. He was paired with Olsen, which I feel was a very deliberate choice to test McNeill against the player in this group who had the most professional experience (Olsen played 42 games with the IceHogs last season). The interesting thing about this is that McNeill almost made Olsen look bad! McNeill was just on point, always one step ahead of Olsen was it to receive his pass or protect the puck from him, and it was clear that he has a vast amount of hockey intelligence.
For those of you keeping score at home, groups four and five were uneven because neither Stephen Johns nor Shayne Taker participated today. I was told that Stephen Johns was absent because he was taking summer school, and a tweet from Adam Jahns confirmed this shortly after. As of yet, I have not been able to find any explanation for Shayne Taker’s absence.
Bottom line? There are five names flashing in my head after today: Mark McNeill, Jimmy Hayes, Phillip Paradis, David Gilbert, and Rob Flick.
As soon as the footage is done uploading (thanks, YouTube, you’ve only been trying for three and a half hours now) I will make sure to post links to the four parts. If you want to see more pictures, Cheryl Adams took some amazing shots during her brief visit today. Also, if there is any prospect you want us to pay special attention to or anything you would like to know, please leave us a comment or tweet either Kat or me!