This past Wednesday my oldest son and I were able to make it down to Nationwide Arena to watch the second day of #CBJ development camp, thanks to the 4th of July holiday. We met up with several members of the #CBJ fan community to watch the action. We got there as the goalies were nearing the end of their pre-camp workouts.
After the goalies finished up the Zamboni came out and cleaned up the ice while the rest of the skaters started to file onto the benches to start their stretches. Keeping consistent with the first day, Cam Atkinson made sure to be the first one on the ice once the Zamboni had finished. Players went through their warm-ups and I immediately keyed in on Ryan Johansen. All the talk since he arrived on Monday had been about how he’d bulked up significantly, gaining around 14-16 lbs of muscle over the off-season. It’s always hard to tell a player’s true size when they’re wearing full pads & a loose jersey but with Joey it was definitely easy to tell that he was much stockier than last season. He doesn’t look like a rookie out there anymore. His tall frame and larger size now reminds me of R.J. Umberger (also 6′ 2”).
Once the drills began I started out focusing on Johansen and Atkinson as those two guys were the most likely to make the roster next season and I wanted to get an idea of how their skill compared to the rookies. I managed to snap a picture of the two of them together:
There’s not really a ton to say about Johansen and Atkinson other than it was clear that they were both NHL ready. While Joey may not have found the back of the net as often as Atkinson did during drills, I saw several great setup passes that led to goals by his drill partner. His offensive awareness seems to have improved along with his size.
As I was watching those two guys play, more and more of the prospects started to capture my attention and really wow me. I’ll try to go through most of them with a few thoughts on each below.
Note: I ‘borrowed’ the images below from the #CBJ Development Camp Media Guide. If you’ve got a few minutes, check it out.
Anton Forsberg – Goalie
Thanks to the tweeted monthly recaps from @CBJProspects, I’d heard a lot about Forsberg in his time over in Sweden last season but I’d never actually gotten to see him in action. From what I’d heard he didn’t have the greatest season in Europe last year so I wasn’t expecting a lot from him. What I expected versus what I saw couldn’t have been any more different. Forsberg immediately impressed me. I’m no goalie scout so I’m not going to try and use a lot of technical terms to describe his game. What I saw was what appeared to be the most composed of the goalies (I admittedly didn’t get to see a lot of Dansk since he was on the other side of the ice). He was rarely, if ever, out of position. He was consistently making saves that I wouldn’t expect a prospect goalie to make. At one point he stopped three solid chances on the same flurry of events in a span of about 4 seconds. Everyone I talked to during or after the drills ended said Forsberg looked the most impressive. I’m not sure how realistic it is but I would love to see him in Springfield next season. Edit: As I was proof-reading this, Shawn “smitch” Mitchell of the Dispatch tweeted that Forsberg still has 1 more year on his contract and will be playing in Sweden next season.
Daniel Zaar – Forward
I was on a flight headed to a beach somewhere for vacation when Zaar was drafted so I missed any sort of scouting report tweets following his selection. The only thing I knew about him was that he was drafted in the 6th round and that was about it. One of the first thing to catch my attention about Zaar is that he’s quick. Very quick. There were times that I was trying to find Atkinson on the ice and thought I’d found him (based on the partially obscured jersey number with only the 3 showing) only to realize he was a little too tall to be Cam. They are both fast skaters with quality shots. The moment that really caught my eye was when I saw ‘someone’ catch a pass in the high slot and fire off a laser shot right over the goalie’s shoulder, off the bottom of the cross bar and straight down into the net (a.k.a. “bar down”). I looked to see who shot the puck only to see that it was Zaar impressing me yet again. I immediately sent out a tweet about the shot only to check the feed and see a couple near identical tweets from people at different places in the building who were wow’d by the same shot.
Jake Hansen – Forward
Jake Hansen was another guy that I’d heard a lot about through various prospect updates throughout the season but hadn’t gotten to see play. I didn’t hear a lot of other people talking about Hansen after the camp so I don’t know if it was just sheer coincidence but at least 4 or 5 times when I was watching the action I saw a player get the puck in low, make a couple moves and bury a shot from close range, only to find out that that player was Jake Hansen again and again. I still don’t know much about him but he appeared to be pretty highly skilled and was able to finish chance after chance (something the Jackets seemed to be unable to do through the first half of the last season). I believe he had a breakout year for Minnesota last season and I’d love to see what he can do with a full season in Springfield in 2012-13.
Mike Reilly – Defense
When I was going through the Media Guide before camp started I saw Mike Reilly’s picture and weight and assumed he must be some small/speedy forward. Then I read “Defense” and actually laughed out loud. I thought – there’s no way this 161 lb 18 (19 next week) year old can be any good on defense! Then I looked at his stat line for his last season with the Penticton Vees and my jaw dropped… 24-59-83 in just 51 games played. I thought “yeah, but Penticton had a really good team last season, I’m sure everyone’s numbers are inflated.” I still wasn’t giving this kid a fair shake. I even took a picture of him next to the other players for a size comparison. He’s not short, at 6′ 0” but, he was definitely skinnier than most of the other prospects at camp. Again, I had pretty low expectations for him. Then… then I saw him play. Wow. This kid has legit game. Every time I saw him in 1 on 1 or 2 on 1 drills he played a very smart & athletic game. He’s got a very active stick and I saw him make several great poke-checks in the drills. The moment that really opened my eyes was when he was going up against Ryan Johansen 1 on 1. He did an incredible job maintaining his defensive gap and right when Joey went to make his move Reilly swatted the puck away and off to the boards. If that wasn’t enough, Reilly then got in close on Joey and managed to keep him from making any sort of play at the rebound off the boards. To cap it off he then drove him into the boards and pinned him there for a second. Reilly had a big smile on his face skating back to the line. Afterwards I saw that Johansen & Reilly had spots next to eachother in the half-circle around the coaches. They were chatting and laughing during some down time. Obviously Reilly will need to add some size to make it to the NHL level but I could see him being a younger, better version of Kris Russell (who only weighs 180 lbs) in the next 2-3 years.
Ryan Murray – Defense
Much of the talk coming into prospect camp was around the #CBJ’s 1st round draft pick, Ryan Murray. Unfortunately, because he spent most of the session at the other end of the ice, I really didn’t get to see much of his game. I heard great things about his skating and his shot from others that were a little closer to him. However, there was one moment that did stand out for me. I’d had to run to the bathroom to get a fresh diaper for my kid and on my way back I was near the side of the ice that Murray was playing on. I was walking back to my seat and keeping an eye on the drills when I noticed a really good skater skating out near the blue line. His drill partner fired a shot in and it rebounded out above the faceoff circles. I watched the D-man skate up and fire a rocket of a one-timer right past an un-screened goalie. It was a beauty shot and when the player turned it was, of course, Ryan Murray. I was especially unaware it was him because he, along with Atkinson, had changed jersey colors during the session intermission while the ice was being resurfaced. Shortly after I went back to the side of the ice closest to my seat and didn’t get to see much more of Murray. I’m going to dedicate a significant amount of time at tomorrow’s session to watching his game so I can write a more in-depth report.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m headed back to the rink tomorrow from 2-4 for the final session of camp. It’s supposed to be the ‘scrimmage’ session with players taking part in 3v3 drills to give fans the most game-like view of their 2012-13 prospects. Everyone should come out if they get the chance, it should be a great time.