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Thrashers Prospect Camp July 9th

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I headed up to Prospect Camp in Duluth today to check in on the young guys. In the past the rink was always meat-locker-cold but today you could get away with wearing a t-shirt.

I said hello to Wolves GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and asked him about Grant Lewis. He said Lewis had a strong second half for the Wolves before injuries derailed him and when he was healthy again Arturs Kulda was in the lineup and playing well, so he sat out the rest of the playoffs. No decision on a new coach for the Chicago Wolves yet.

I also meet the father of John Albert who had made the drive from Ohio to watch his son play. John Albert was a freshman forward for Ohio State this year and put up 21 points in 41 games as a 18/19 year old. Many college players spend a year or two in junior B leagues like the USHL and don't start their freshmen year until 19 or even 20, so it is a positive sign that Albert averaged half a point per game at that age in the CCHA.

Before I being comments on individual players I want to make two disclaimers for all the many friends and family of camp attendees who will google "Prospect Camp" and end up reading this blog post:

  1. It is simply impossible to see everything that is going on out there on the ice, so whatever I write here is going to impressionistic rather than comprehensive. Just because I don't mention somebody doesn't mean they are having a bad camp. I only have one set of eyes and there many players out there.
  2. Prospect Camp is more important for some players than others. Last year I was worried about Tobias Enstrom's play at Prospect Camp but he had alread signed a contract and he was simply using it to warm up for the NHL camp. This year Riley Holzapfel appears to be taking the Enstrom approach. In contrast, players without contracts have more of an incentive to impress team officials who are watching in the stands.

First Impressions.
The first day of camp it is hard to just sit back and watch all the players. I walked in today with a keen interest in new faces such as the 2008 draft picks and the Europeans who have never come over before like Enlund, Lasu and Lucenius. So here are my impressions.

Zach Bogosian: I expected him to look a bit bigger. This guy has a strong skating stride. His shot is low and hard. In the 4 on 4 scrimmage he aggressively pinched towards the net with the puck. He scored a nice tap-in goal as the finisher on a 2>1 play. Later he carried the puck behind the offensive net and tried a warp around. Then he bulldozed past a forward-turned-defender and drove right to the crease with the puck. On the defensive side of the puck, he just ate up some of the opposing forwards when they tried to carry the puck against him. He looked very good to me.

Enlund: Looked the most confident of the three Europeans. In the shooting drills he was very deliberate about pausing and picking a spot to aim for. I'm not sure if he does this in games but the pause is too long and NHL defensemen and goalies will take advantage of this. Maybe it was just a shooting drill habit--I'll try to watch his release in the next scrimmage.

Esposito: Very flashy stickhandler. At times he dekes his way around defenders. He obviously has a lot of skill but you could see the downside too. Often times he would make a couple of great moves and then waste it all by making a bad pass or a turnover.

Postma: He looked pretty solid in the scrimmage. He picked the puck off of Esposito once. I need to watch him more next time.

Will O'Neil: A couple of times he was almost beaten wide but managed to just barely stay even with the opposing forward. I'm afraid that when he moves up to the next level quicker forwards are going to just walk around him.

Riley Holzapfel: He wasn't nearly as impressive as last camp. Then again he has signed a contract and doesn't need to impress this week but in September when NHL camp opens.

Spencer Mahacek: I like his chances of becoming a 3rd/4th line NHL player. Not flashy at all but determined and competitive. Appears to be willing to go to the slot area on offense.

John Albert: Unleashed two really nice shots that I noticed. Makes me wonder why his college stats were so assist-heavy and goal-lite, he looks like he can fire it.

Rylan Kaip: Getting pretty old as a prospect, but he still has some potential as a 4th line checker. He protected the puck well in traffic and was good along the wall. If he has a future it is as PK guy and defensive specialist.

Vinny Saponari: I didn't watch him much today, but he made two nice offensive plays that got my attention. On one play he made a very tight curl out of the offensive corner for a quality scoring chance.

Arturs Kulda and Grant Lewis: I liked them both last camp and haven't changed my mind. Lewis has a NHL sized frame and smoothe stride. Kulda has the ability to make plays quickly and under pressure. Kulda scored a goal at the end of breakaway drill for Team White and was mobbed by his teammates like he had just won a major victory for them. Not sure what that was about but it was funny to watch.

Zach Redmond: When a guy is picked in the 7th round I keep my expectations low. I wasn't watching for him but Redmond made a couple of nice plays that surprised me. One time he drove hard to the net past a defender and fired for a decent scoring opportunity.

Painchaud: The positive--he was very involved and did a lot of good things out there. The negative--he has the most pro experience of anyone at camp and therefore ought to be a bit more polished.

Matt Siddall: Much like Kaip, if he has a NHL future it will be as a defensive specialist. He made some nice subtle plays, but he's nearly 24 and almost all NHL players make it by age 25-26.