First off, it was great of the Sens organization to host the open practice. I can't say how excited I was to go and check out the prospects this year. We arrived with about five minutes to spare and grabbed a spot right behind the goal. It was a pretty crazy spot to be in, with a bunch of pucks clanging off the glass in front of us. But it was an intimate practice with a solid group of fans in attendance. Bryan Murray, Paul MacLean, Pierre Dorion, Mark Reeds and Vaclav Burda all oversaw the practice from a private balcony area. Paul Cameron again ran things on the ice. DaveYoung has already done an excellent write-up of the day's action, so I'll only comment on a few players and post some videos after the jump. I wanted to provide a quick glimpse of day two to everyone's favourite Sens blog, with its informative articles, biting wit and obscure George Costanza references.
And so, without further ado, I give you: the Candy Line-up.
Really deep group of prospects in this year's camp. IT'S ALL TWIX!!!
Ben Blood: Looked nasty. He's got a real mean streak, and was giving Corey Cowick a hard time all day. In the first contact practice, Blood took a hard shot on Cowick, knocking him over. Then Cowick stood up and delivered a hard slash to Blood's stick. It was on after that! During the shooting drills he had a couple of good opportunities created by good hustle and determination.
Fredrick Cleasson: Cleasson liked to hang around his fellow Swedes, and join up with them in team-based drills. He seems to be a great heads up player, with a keen eye for passes and opportunities on open nets. I didn't see any comparisons to Volchenkov really.
Jared Cowen: Looked a little bit unmotivated today in terms of his skating. However, he was playing some gritty defence. He looks like a player that, when motivated, should be very hard to get past.
Mark Borowiecki: Seems determined to make the coaches notice him. He was jumping into rushes well and playing with a physical edge. During the bungee cord drills he impressed me with his initial three or four strides. I did not have him pegged as that great of a skater. I got a quick video of him getting a nice goal, and also delivering a hit on Silfverberg.
David Rundblad: Has great skills on the puck. His stickhandling is great. I agree with DaveYoung in that he looked a little laid back. It might be that he was more concerned with fitting in as a peer than as a player. But I really liked what I saw from him. Here's him doing a ten-foot breakaway drill:
Patrick Wiercioch: Looked comfortable in most situations of the practice. I didn't see him talking much to other players, but he was on the far side of the rink for a good part of the first half. He could use his size a whole lot more seeing as he is 6-4, but kept a level head in some odd man rushes and had an active stick. During a three-on-three scrimmage with the goals facing back to back, Wiercioch got two nice goals from the "point".
Corey Cowick: This guy is huge! Am I making a mistake here, or is this the guy that everyone says is too small to put up NHL points? He was built like a brick shithouse and used his size effectively in every contact drill. Great to watch his spirited matchups with Ben Blood. Decent shooter with a quick release, but most of all I was impressed at his level of competitiveness.
Stephane DaCosta: Looked just fine. His best asset, as far as I can tell, is his shot. He was the one smiling the most amongst the prospects and he was kidding around a few times with the invite goalies.
Jakob Silfverberg: Is going to have multiple 30 goal seasons in the NHL. He had the best shot out of the entire pool today. His acceleration and timing to the puck are also perfect. He looked like someone who could join up on a rush and literally throw anything at the goalie, the most deadly of which would be a hard wrister. I was very disappointed in knowing that we won't be seeing him suit up this year. Here is a video of the Silver Surfer sniping a couple of shots on goal:
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: He is an incredibly fast skater with his best asset being his ability to get around a seemingly stagnant defenceman. He was trying many different moves during today's drills, some that worked and some that didn't, but his approach to deking was always fun to watch.
Mark Stone: Was just as underwhelming as DaveYoung says he was. He has a hard shot but was not the greatest skater and got turned around in a couple of plays. However, there is lots of time for him to improve his game. If he's putting up 106 points or however many then he's gotta be doing something right.
Shane Prince: Steal. Absolute steal. He looked like a big framed forward with great instincts and offensive abilities. He was right at home on the future dream-team line with Zibanejad and Pageau.
Stefan Noesen: This guy screams leader. He was very composed while taking instructions from the coaching staff, but was quick to goof around with players after the whistle, or after a drill was over. He looked like he plays a hard-nosed forward game, with good on-ice vision. He can get nasty when he needs to, and has a great offensive upside when called upon to produce. I completely agree with the Corry Perry comparison.
Mika Zibanejad: I take it all back. This is my official apology. I'm sorry, Mika, I was drunk. Sean Couturier can go play in traffic, and Pierre Dorion is a bright man. I could see zero flaws in his game today, apart from a small room for improvement in the shooting department. He was extremely fast up the ice, and his passes are as crisp as any. Don't believe me? Check out this sweet, sweet goal. Yes it's me asking if the puck went in. VERY impressive.
Mike Hoffman: The Hoff-man looks like he is ready to go this season. He was putting forth a lot of effort in practice, and it was paying off. A stand-out play was when he pulled a move on big J. Cow, and then went far side of the goal with the shot. The puck didn't go in, but it was an impressive maneuver. He looked very focused, and I could definitely see him cracking the lineup with some good games in Bingo.
Matt Puempel: See Nikita Filatov.
Nikita Filatov: I initially thought that this gentleman was not at the practice. Then I went to get a coffee and saw a small crowd outside of another arena. Here it is folks, your sneak peek of Nikita Filatov in Sens colours! This is literally all I saw of him. Enjoy!
This is the second shooting drill of the afternoon.
In all I was quite impresssed, and was very happy to have attended the practice. The level of competitiveness was very high with all the prospects looking extremely motivated. It's a hungry, young group that have the skills to go a long way. Zibanejad, Noesen, Prince and Silfverberg were my stand-outs.