Two of the most interesting and impressive forwards of the day were Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik. Both are likely fighting for roster spots. The two were notable for largely the same reason; being willing and able to grab pucks around the crease and either put them in the net, or start them out of the zone. Czarnik in particular put a couple shots in the twine the goalies didn’t even have time to react to.

Rob O’Gara was paired with Kevan Miller during drills, and displayed a consistent ability to take pucks from forwards. Including some jobber named Patrice Bergeron.

Matt Grzlecyk was paired with Adam McQuaid during their session. In that time he showed off something I don’t remember noting in the past; a slick and crafty ability to disrupt shots in and a round the crease and get them moving in the right direction. On a couple of rushes he disrupted he showed off soccer feet effortlessly moving the puck from skate to skate to stick. If you’re looking for a defenseman who is solid in his two way game, and stood out today, look no further.

Paul Postma played beside Torey Krug. Postma is coming off a career high in points and games. He looked respectable. He skates well, passed well, and never looked out of place. Despite his 84 points in 74 games in his final season in the WHL, he’s yet to display much offense in either the NHL or AHL.

Some of the forward groupings (not always by position):

  • Bergeron with Marchand & Bjork
  • Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Ted Purcell
  • Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson -David Backes – Frank Vatrano
  • Sean Kuraly – Zach Senyshyn – Tim Schaller
  • Pastrnak – Krejci – Jake Debrusk
  • Nash – Acciari – Cederic Pare
  • Kenny Agostino – Austin Czarnik – Ryan Fitzgerald

David Backes was in the first session and lead stretches at the post practice stretch. During the first half of the session before ice maintenance he quite frankly did not look good. As practice wore on he stopped tripping, and looked better.

Matt Beleskey looks mechanically more sound than he did at any point after his first injury last year.

Ryan Fitzgerald looked committed to being there, focused and driven, something I couldn’t saw the last time I saw him in a camp.

The four goalies on the ice were Rask, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban, and Anton Khudobin. You could split them into the pairs by the first and last two and argue quality all day. For my money McIntyre was the best goalie today, and Khudobin did not make the top three. Or even cast a shadow on them.

While it’s an outside chance of him making the team, don’t be surprised if Jesse Gabrielle makes the first or second cut.

From what I saw, and talking to other people at camp, I’d say Frank Vatrano is most in danger of losing a roster spot among the forward to play in Boston last year.

Of the three first round picks from 2015, I was unimpressed by Jakob Zboril in just about every way. Jake DeBrusk never looked out of place, and managed to both steal the puck from, and evade Connor Clifton.

More on Two Man ForeCheck which will be recorded in the evening 9/18.

With the diverse origins of the teams former divisions, the central division might as well be the called “the melting pot”. Two former Northwest teams, a former pacific team, three of the former central division’s teams and an alumni of the southeast division just for good measure. While some teams know each other pretty darn well, the intensity of long time rivalries might just be lacking.

Chicago: We know the Blackhawks didn’t have a fire-sale this time. Who knows, they might escape a cup hangover too. Not likely, not as late as the season ran and as many people as they retained. On the plus side, there were no injuries to key players that will shorten the returning roster going into training camp. We know that with cross conference play, the BlackHawks will have to play more good teams next season than last season.

Colorado: We know Patrick Roy has a new job with the Avalanche. We know this is the longest predicted hiring in the history of the NHL. We know they still have nothing that resembles an NHL defense. We know the franchise has yet to put into evidence a viable plan for a return to relevance. We know Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay are the biggest additions to this team. We know its gonna be another ugly season.

Dallas Stars: We know the team believes they’ve addressed their needs at center. We know the team dumped a first round pick defenseman, an All Star quality forward and some b prospects to get a guy who was playing third line wing, and a guy with epic scoring droughts. We know Jamie Benn is still the best player on the team, and that Alex Goligoski is still the most underrated player on the team. We know that Rich Peverley is likely to improve the penalty kill 2-3% all by himself. We know that Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley are a remarkable uptick in foot speed over Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder.

Minnesota: We know that after a run to the playoffs last year with a very, very young and inexperienced crew the team should be better this year. We know that with little in the way of real losses in players team chemistry should be good. We know the team needs to hit the playoffs and win a round to be financially viable. We know they really, really need to find a goalie who can be healthy for a whole season. We know the team is just about a shoe in for a playoff spot in a bottom heavy conference.

Nashville: We know the teams defensive top four is set well into the next collective bargaining agreement. We know Pekka Rinne will play close to seventy games. We know they still need a backup goalie. We know they haven’t done a thing to improve their forward core group in years. We know they will make the playoffs in Rinne, Weber, and Ellis are healthy and productive. We know that without upgrades to complete a viable top six they will eventually be beaten by a playoff team that can score consistently.  We know most people would be shocked to know the Predators were the prey on the penalty kill last year ending up 29th with a 75.5% effectiveness.

St Louis: We know the Blues traded out odd duck David Perron for Magnus Paajarvi who they still haven’t signed. We know they have 14 forwards signed. We know that despite it being as close to the end of their last season as it is to the beginning of the new one, their franchise corner stone Alex Pietrangelo is still not signed. We know they will return two goaltenders to the crease whose inconsistency is the one thing you can count on.

Winnipeg: We know that with their first season playing as a western conference team many of the teams players will have to get used to a different traveling and playing schedule. We know that with eight defenseman signed, UFA’s Mark Stuart and Paul Potsma may not want to renew their magazine subscriptions too soon. We know that Devin Setogouchi isn’t a big enough offensive upgrade, but that Michael Frolik might be the perfect solution to their penalty kill woes. We know Olli Jokinen will continue to baffle and befuddle people across the hockey world.

This feature will run approximately every two weeks each season comparing a well known player to leagues newest crop of rising stars.

Dustin Brown the captain of last years Stanley Cup Champion finds himself on a team that’s mired in 12th place in the Western Conference. The Stanley Cup hangover is in affect. Well off his career points per game pace, “Fall Down Brown” has failed to slip points onto the score sheet in five of his last six games, and only has one multipoint game on the season. 3-3-6 in 14 games and -7.

Goaltenders:

  • Jake Allen of the St Louis Blues jumped into the fire when Halak went down and Elliot went off the rails. His sv% isn’t spectacular at .895, but the fact that he has 3 wins and 1 loss in four starts is. Allen is a QMHJL alumni who has two seasons in the AHL with 915% and 917% across 38 and 47 games.

Forwards:

  • 2012 3rd pick overall Alex Galchenyuk is leading all rookie forwards in +/- at +9, 10 points in his 16 games to date and third in points only gets more impressive when you realize he’s doing it all on just 12:03 of ice time a night.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau is tied for the rookie lead in goals scored with six, his 19.4% is kinda scary.  At 15:40 a night of ice time, there’s still room to get him more involved. While the Florida powerplay is rolling along at 17%, but “Hooby dooby doo” has just two powerplay assists in his 44:07 of PPTOI this season, you just have to wonder what he’ll be doing if he starts clicking on the man advantage.
  • Cory Conacher is the apex predator among rookie forwards right now, 5-9-14 +1, 1ppg, 2 GWG’s and all on a slim 15:15 per night. No one has as many points, and keeping just under a point per game rate this far into the season means the draft leftovers are likely to be the highest priced item on the menu when in a year or two.
  • With six goals and half dozen assists, Valdimir Taresenko has been steadily filling both columns, leaving for him tied for the goalscoring lead and 2nd in scoring overall.
  • Nail Yakupov whose twitter feed and post goal celebrations are reaching legendary status leads all rookies in powerplay goals, he’s fifth overall in scoring, and with so much talent higher up the depth chart any injuries there could see a huge explosion in his ice time and production.

Defense:

  • Third and scoring, first in +/- at +9 is the Penguins Simon Despres. 13:50 of TOI says the energies of the former Saint Johns Sea Dogs blueliner is being carefully deployed. No shorthanded ice time also shows he’s probably not as well rounded as some other young rearguards.
  • The Boston Bruins Dougie Hamilton is the youngest of the top four scoring defenseman, and in is second place with one goal and and five assists. On a TOI per point basis he’s more efficient than the defender in first place, but less so than Despres.
  • Paul Postma of the Winnipeg Jets has blocked more shots than the other gents in the top four scorers, and is playing pretty disciplined hockey with just one penalty in his first 14 games.
  • Justin Schultz leads rookie blueliners in scoring, but of the top three is least productive on a points per minute rate. That said, his forward corp might be the most talented 1-9 in the whole NHL, as he gets used to playing with them, it is unlikely any of the other rookies will keep pace with him.