The first day of on-ice action at Thrashers training camp delivered plenty of excitement as the players kicked things off with two straight scrimmages before working on some drills.
First Group A and Group B battled to a 2-2 tie with Antony Stewart and Chris Thorburn scoring for Group B and Nigel Dawes and Niclas Bergfors light the lamp for Group A to tie it up. It was a hard-hitting affair with Evander Kane being a popular target. Kyle McLaren hit him with an old school hip-check in the corner, Sebastian Owuya lined him up in open ice and Zach Bogosian tagged him along the boards, though Kane dodged the bulk of that impact. Kane had no trouble defending himself though and threw some hits of his own. As Rick Dudley said it was a high-intensity, high-emotion scrimmage.
In the second scrimmage Group A stayed on the ice and took on Group C who skated to a 3-0 win with Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, and Danick Paquette doing the honors. Ladd’s goal came off of a fantastic pass from Rich Peverley. The two looked like they’d been playing together for weeks, and more often than not they had Bryan Little in between them. Keep an eye on that line as it’s one you could see in the regular season.
Enver Lisin was the most frequent target of big hits in the second scrimmage, getting drilled again by Zach Bogosian in the offensive zone and absolutely hammered by Sebastian Owuya at his own blueline.
Overall the players who made an impression or stood out to me other than returning players who are known entities were:
- Kyle McLaren. He was better than I expected for a guy that hasn’t played in a year and has been out of the NHL for two years. He isn’t the fastest dman out there, but he’s usually in position and he’s very patient with the puck. He also hits like a freight train.
- Sebastian Owuya. The rookie handled himself very well and showed why he got the invite to big camp. He threw a few solid hits and skated well.
- Andrew Ladd. If he gets quality ice time (and he will) he’s going to put up some nice numbers. Great hands, great speed, and a tenacious forechecker.
- Fredrik Pettersson. There were questions about whether he could play the same way in the main camp that he did versus the less experienced rookies. It looks like he can. He was everywhere, with and without the puck, and even hit someone while he had the puck. Craig Ramsay singled him out as a player who likes to shoot, and Ramsay loves players who like to shoot.
- Anthony Stewart. He was in the right places at the right times and was rewarded with a goal. He has great wheels for a guy his size and he doesn’t mind getting dirty.
- Nigel Dawes. Another goal-scorer, Dawes saw time with Antropov and Bergfors and looked good with them.
- Akim Aliu. He got better and better as rookie camp progressed and he picked up where he left off today. He might be a darkhorse to make the squad. He has the size and skills. If he listens to his coaches and finds a way to play at a high level consistently he could steal a spot.
Niclas Bergfors left the second scrimmage with an injury but said afterward that he was fine. Rick Dudley said he just got bumped the wrong way.
For his part Craig Ramsay said he thought the players played hard and gave it everything they had. His two reservations were the sheer number of turnovers and a reluctance to shoot. The Thrashers were one of the worst teams in the NHL in shot differential last season and Ramsay expects them to shoot much, much more.
Ramsay also singled out a few players for specific praise.
“I like the way Ron Hainsey played and Oduya moved the puck well. Little Pettersson was shooting the puck… Freddy Modin is a guy I noticed and I’ve had him before. He does a lot of the things I like to see. Stewart was good up front. Thorburn was on the ice for a couple of goals. Overall I think everyone tried hard.”
After the scrimmages Group A hit the gym and Groups B and C stayed out for drills with the coaching staff.
Tomorrow’s practice will follow the same format with two scrimmages followed by drills. Ramsay said that most training camps he has been a part of have started with scrimmages because it’s an easier way to evaluate players than watching drills. It also gives coaches a chance to see who clicks with who and who can be creative without being coached first.
Who did you like at camp today?