Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
Ducks Rookie Camp opened Saturday with practice at Anaheim Ice. The session produced one shoving match (Sbisa took exception to a slash by Sharp, who took exception to a pancake check by Sbisa), one potential injury (Macenauer stepped gingerly for the second half of the day) and a cameo by a convalescing Ryan Getzlaf-- the Sasquatchewan looked strong out there.
There were a handful of tryouts: Dustin Sylvester (Kootenay Ice), Guillaume Goulet (Baie-Comeau), Mike Stuart (Brown University) and Matthew Konan (Medicine Hat). And there were a handful of standouts, namely Luca Sbisa, who flew head and shoulders above most of the rookie squad. But there were more than a handful of disappointments.
Daniel, which player (excluding Sbisa) has the best chance of making the Ducks roster, which player surprised you the most, which player disappointed you the most and what were your general impressions yesterday?
Of all the players we saw yesterday, Deschamps impressed me the most, but I think Bickel has the best shot of making the team. I mean, Deschamps showed some great playmaking ability, buried some good shots, was solid along the boards and he looked like he'd be comfortable setting up Lupul, spreading our scoring around three lines, instead of a ridiculously deadly two. But I think Bickel has the best shot to make the team, simply because he was the best blueliner there not named Sbisa. Signing Eminger, to me, means that our 3 pairings are practically sewn up and that Murray wants to retool the blue line completely. Bickel didn't impress with his skating, but his shot was getting through and he only got turned around once or twice. Mitera, on the other hand, was a mess. So, if something happens,and the Ducks need to plug a blue line hole, then look to Bickel to make his way to the NHL.
The player that surprised me the most was Maxime Macenauer. That kid was picking corners with his shot, even after getting hurt. His skating might not be the strongest, and he made some bad passes, but he can shoot. It was an unexpected joy, and I hope he develops into a strong player for us.
Finally, my biggest disappointment was Peter Holland. He didn't look like a power forward. Sbisa handled him in front of the net, and he was constantly looking for space, rather than fighting his way to the net. He buried a couple of shots, but he missed a lot more. Holland didn't show me anything to make me think he should have been our First Round pick this year.
Overall, I was impressed with our stock of prospects. I was worried that our general lack of an amazing prospect would be a reflection of our entire system. However, having seen the likes of Sexton, Deschamps, Sharp, Bickel, Sbisa and others, I believe Anaheim will have the tools to fill the inevitable gaps next offseason.
I have to agree on Holland. He was having a bad day, and it showed, as he kept coming back to the boards shaking his head. But his performance in the drills had me shaking MY head, particularly when the forwards had to bring the puck out of the corner against a defenseman. Holland came off the boards and couldn't get one stride closer to the goalmouth. In fact, he tried to find space by skating directly away from the net, which Sbisa was perfectly happy to let him do. It was as though Holland didn't understand the exercise. And when the coaches gave him a second chance, he was forced to ignore the puck and just push his body into the slot to prove he wasn't afraid to mix it up. I've accused him of being a perimeter player before, but this was ridiculous. Sylvester and Sexton (both around six inches shorter) outperformed him on that drill.
I was most surprised by Bickel. I had thought Mitera and Clark would force him into the background, but (other than falling down inexplicably in the opening seconds) he looked solid out there. In the skating drills, he still had his nimble choppy steps. On the rush drills, he moved the puck and managed the forwards well. He even threw his body around during the low-contact portion of practice. He just looked comfortable out there.
As far as who I think could make the team, I have to say that MacGregor Sharp will make a bid for the Bottom Six. He was moving to the net effectively, sniffing out the puck and even passing well. I see him leaping over Beleskey for consideration this year, but I'm not sure if either of them will crack the lineup.
Generally, these players stood out to me:
Nicolas Deschamps - He saucered a couple of passes that looked like they were traveling by pneumatic tube.
Matt Clark - He is ALWAYS reading the play. He was even watching puckhandlers while waiting in line for a drill.
Dan Sexton - He moves to the rough areas quickly and had the best breakaway goal of the day, splitting the defenders in the slot before converting a backhand.
Maxime Macenauer - He put a great shot on display, but he was wincing halfway through, shut down before he could really get going.
Mark Mitera - He looked rusty, and he got burned pretty bad after giving Deschamps the boards.
Timo Pielmeier - He couldn't seem to close the hole between his arm and body.
Logan MacMillan - He really seemed to be struggling with his shot and his passing.