Having taken a two-day hiatus from hockey coverage to slap the golf ball around in the Manitoba Mid-Amateur the past few days (a T-30 finish means I really slapped it around), I was once again able to make it down to the MTS Iceplex today to watch Day 4 of the Jets Development Camp. After stopping in on Monday afternoon and also watching todays session, I feel that I've seen enough to make a few early comments on the players taking part.
Below are a few impressions that I was left with after watching the players take part in various drills. I am obviously no expert when it comes to scouting talent, but I like to think I know enough about the game to be able to know skill when I see it. A lot of the drills today involved skating and shooting, though today involved some battle drills in front of the net as well. This is where some of the bigger players (I'm looking WAY UP at you, Cody Sol...) were able to show their talents, as skating and stick handling are rarely where they make their hay.
Player reviews and comments after the jump...
First of all, the star of the show has got to be Mark Scheifele. He has looked very solid in both of my viewings, and his skating stride and confidence appear to have improved greatly from last year. His hands and his wrist-shot are the two most impressive things to me, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a solid NHLer in the very near future. He also appears to some leadership qualities, as he has been taking the lead on things like showing other players how the drills are to be done, and he led the stretch today at the beginning of practice. To me, Scheifele is easily the most talented player on the ice.
Here are a few quotes from St. John's Ice Caps head coach Keith McCambridge, who had Scheifele at his disposal during their AHL playoff run last season. He was asked about how he looked this year compared to last season, after all of the minutes he'd played throughout the year and after taking the summer off to rest:
"When I look at him now on this ice surface here, he looks to be a little more rejuvenated out there, so that's a positive.
"You always hear about 'he's got to get stronger'. It looks like he's making some steps in that direction, and the energy level, as I'd talked about, looks to be at a better level than it was when we saw him."
"I think experience-wise, it was a very top-notch opportunity for him to come into St. John's and see the way playoff hockey is and play against professionals, grown men on the ice."
"Overall, I was really pleased with what I saw with him."
Not to be outdone, fellow Jets' first-round pick Jacob Trouba has also looked impressive. Despite being only one of two players in camp born in 1994 (with Scott Kosmachuk being the other), he has not looked out of place. His skating stride is pure, he can shoot the puck and he looked very strong working against some of the older guys during battle drills. He also spent some extra time speaking with assistant coach Charlie Huddy numerous times, staying on the ice well after his group had finished to talk a bit more with the former Oilers defender. One of the highlights of the day was when Trouba dumped Scheifele during a 1-on-1 drill, which elicited some 'oooohs' and 'aaaaahs' from the crowd.
Moving on from the two first-round picks, the next few guys that jumped out at me were Adam Lowry and Zach Redmond.
Starting with Adam Lowry, the 6'4 winger who played with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL last season can absolutely fly for a big man. His skating stride looked pretty effortless to me, and his hands also look pretty impressive. Coming off of a serious wrist injury last year that caused him to miss the second half of the season, he certainly appears to be putting the injury behind them and has been on of the better players on the ice during both of my viewings.
As for Redmond, the soon-to-be 24-year-old is obviously one of the older guys at this camp, and he appears to have also taken on a leadership role. While he should be one of the stronger players in the camp, as he's six years older then Trouba and Kosmachuk, he is also flashing the skills that show that he may be very close to being NHL-ready. He has been very impressive.
Carl Klingberg is the next guy on my list of guys that put on a show. The big Swede showed numerous power moves during the 1-on-1 drills, and though he routinely hit the goalie in the chest during the shooting drills, he scored lots from in close. The big man can move, and looks very strong along the boards and in front of the net during battle drills.
Scott Kosmachuk, the other player with the '94 birth year, looked very solid as well. Though he is listed as only 5'11, his skills are easy to see and the early impression I get is that he could be a Kris Versteeg-type of player. His skating stride and shot are both really solid.
A few guys that are property of the Jets who looked decent today were John Albert, Lukas Sutter, Brennan Serville, Austen Brassard, Jason Gregoire, Eric O'Dell, Zach Yuen and Cody Sol. They all brought something different to the table, but all did numerous things to stand out. Cody Sol, at 6'6, doesn't have the most beautiful skating stride, but he can get moving for a big man. But his ability to clear the crease is where he will shine. And Albert sure works hard in front of the net, as he and Redmond had a few great battles during the crease-clearing drill.
Some of the "unknown" players going into the week that caught my eye are Joey Leach, Nicholas Bligh, Tanner Lane, Vinny Saponari, and Matt White. Leach has caught my eye the most, as the 6'4 defender moves very well for a big man. With a little bit more weight, he could be a beauty. As for the other guys, they all did something a few times that made me look at the roster sheet and see who made that nice play.
Guys like Blair MacAulay, Jordan Samuel-Thomas, Zack Mitchell, Norm Ezekiel, Danny Dries, Zach O'Brien, Yasin Cisse, Aaron Harstad, Peter Stoykewych and Ben Chiarot haven't done a ton to jump off of the page, but I admit that I wasn't looking for them. I'll try to keep an eye on each of them tomorrow during the last day.
Speaking of the last day, I will also be there tomorrow for the finale, so feel free to follow me at @arby_18 on Twitter as I Live-Tweet from the rink. Both groups will be together for the session at 10:30 CST, so I imagine that a scrimmage might take place. Regardless, I'll try to update from there and will piece together a bigger review tomorrow or on the weekend.