Tuesday, September 14, 2010

That's Why They Call Them Rookies...

I spent this morning at Iceworks in Syosset watching the Isles rookies practice.  You could tell the difference right away between the guys who have been there before and the new guys.  Return players like Hamonic, Katic, de Haan, DiBenedetto, Rakhshani, and a few others seemed to have less difficulty with the drills while newcomers Niederreiter, Kabanov, Nelson, and Dehart all showed occasional signs of confusion or were out of position.   Coach Gordon's whistle got as much of a workout as the players.  This wasn't a run-of-the-mill practice with skating & passing drills and the usual stuff you see in camp.  They spent the bulk of their time on the ice running 5 on 5 drills in preparation for the 2 scrimmages against the Bruin rookies later this week.  Here are some observations from the practice:
There were only 6 defensemen on the ice.  The defensive pairings were: de Haan and Hamonic (looked like the number one pairing); followed by Klementyev and Katic; and then Syvret and Dehart.  All looked steady but de Haan, Hamonic and Katic looked a step or 2 ahead of the other 3. Their having been here before is largely the reason.

Kabanov seemed lost at times and several drills were stopped because of him being out of position.  Coach Gordon would give him a pep talk (rather loudly) and then the drill would resume.  His being lost might have something to do with his showing up late for his physical yesterday and as punishment for his lateness I heard Gordon wouldn't let him take the ice.  So while today was day 2 for everyone else, the big Russian was only on day 1.  When practice ended, all the players except Kabanov went to the dressing room.  Kabanov was left behind to be tortured by Coach Scott Allen who made him do skating drills.  I had flashbacks to Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle --- "Blow the whistle Craig."  He eventually came off the ice sucking wind and dry heaving a little -- I am pretty sure he'll be on time the rest of camp.

First round pick Nino Niederreiter looked good (meaning, he didn't embarrass himself) and worked well with line mates Rhett Rakhshani and Robin Figren.  Goalie Mikko Koskinen looked like Lerch in net (although he did move a lot quicker).  He is enormous.  He doesn't look as smooth as other goalies - which I think is a function of his size (he stands at 6'-5").  They looked a little rusty, made plenty of mistakes, seemed confused at times, and they were all exhausted by the end of the 2+ hour practice.  But then again, its understandable -- they are rookies.  Putting it in perspective, all-in-all, they looked fine.

One last observation -- these guys all looked pretty small to me (except Koskinen).  Now I am 6'-3", so lots of people look small to me; however, some of these guys will be playing in the NHL this year and they looked like kids.   Calvin de Haan said it best when I interviewed him: "Most of us are 18-19 years old out here trying to skate with grown men."  He is right, most of these guys are not even 20 years old, haven't finished growing, and are just kids.  Speaking of Calvin de Haan, I had the privilege of speaking with him briefly after the practice.  My next blog will contain my interview with this very likable young man.

Anyway, as I sat there contemplating the team's youth and lack of size, there was this sudden but brief period of almost total darkness.  I thought perhaps there was a power surge, or they were dimming the lights to send a message to Coach Gordon that practice was over.  Then I looked up and noticed it was Trevor Gillies standing in front of me.  Holey Moley is he huge.  The Isles website says he is 6'-3" and 215.  I think that's a mistake.  He looks like he is 6'-5" or 6'-6" and pushing 225.  Or maybe some of that is just the mustache.

We'll have a better idea of where the rookies stand after their 2-game scrimmage against Tyler Seguin and the Bruins rookies on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Finally, even though it was rookie camp there some very familiar faces walking around Iceworks.  I saw: Hunter, Schremp, Moulson, Okposo, D.P., Bailey, Hilbert, Martinek, Gillies, Gervais, Jurcina, Parenteau, and a few others.  

Seeing these guys in the orange & blue made me think of one thing --- the season is just around the corner.
Next up: My interview with Isles prospect Calvin de Haan.

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