I had intended to capture some valuable video of Camp but ended up spending most of the time talking to Jen, Sleek and brokenyard. It was a complete accident that I nabbed a couple of highlights for anyone who couldn't make it. I apologize for the audio; I forgot my Canon PowerShot even had a mic. It's Sleek's voice in the video above, then my voice, Sleek's and Jen's in the video at the end.
I have a list of standouts after the jump, but I just wanted to say that this year's Camp was probably one of the best gatherings of prospect talent the Ducks have ever had. It's particularly unique because it combined the picks of former Director of Amateur Scouting Alain Chainey, the picks of current Director of Amateur Scouting Martin Madden and the free agents of Senior VP of Hockey Operations David McNab. Not every player was NHL-bound, but the presence of forwards like Brian Lebler, who has a one-way ticket to the Crunch next year, brought size and confidence to roster spots that might have gone to younger, less-developed players in no position to challenge a wunderkind defender like Cam Fowler. And not every player was third-round or better, but with so many of Martin Madden's homerun picks making a good showing, draft position seemed to have very little influence on the on-ice product.
It shouldn't be assumed that anyone, simply by virtue of not being listed below, had a subpar performance in the public scrimmages. Dan Sexton looked great. Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz didn't stand out to me, but maybe that's because I've been watching them all season. Mark Mitera also didn't stand out, but that's only to say he didn't look better than when I saw him with Bakersfield. Chris Wagner put out solid efforts every shift but wasn't always rewarded for them. Ryan Hegarty came with a strong physical game. The players below are simply the ones I found myself consistently watching.
Jake Newton - Signed as an undrafted free agent
For my money, and the two days I went to Conditioning Camp, the most consistent shift-to-shift player on defense was Newton. I remarked on both days, however, that he just seemed to be more game ready-- and inexplicably so in July --than anyone else. He was less likely to give up on plays, ready to jump in on offense and get back on defense, and competitive one-on-one, but insouciantly so. He was playing as if he was practicing in the middle of a season-- again, very strange in July. He's a calm, confident and smooth-skating defender with a hard, accurate shot and good offensive instincts. I don't know if he'll look this good comparatively as the Ducks make roster cuts in the pre-season, but until Anaheim signs other defenders, he looks like a good option right now.
Scott Valentine - Sixth-round selection in 2009
As a guy who didn't have a full season of big minutes on his Draft day résumé, Valentine was theoretically a homerun pick in the sixth-round last year. Well, that ball looked like it was leaving the park at Conditioning Camp. His hard, low point shot was trouble for the goalies both days, and his hits were trouble for the forwards. There are things I could nitpick, but for a sixth-rounder, he's a pleasant surprise. The Ducks have rarely brought along a late round defender (the list is basically Shane O'Brien), so any value he creates is gravy.
Matt Clark - Second-round selection in 2009
I have to assume Clark was holding back on Tuesday (in fact, I saw him hold back while Etem tried to get around him), but he made sure to absolutely crunch Kyle Palmieri against the boards on Saturday. When he gets the chance to hit non-teammates in the pre-season, we should see a lot more of that.
He was generally a steadying force for his offensive pairing partners, but he also showed off an improved shot from the point, something he gained working the power play for the Battalion last year. I guess the wrist shot could use a little work, but for size and smarts, I still put him ahead of where MItera is now.
Kyle Palmieri - First-round selection in 2009
His 'wow' moment of Saturday was probably a rink-ringing clank off the post that he executed while falling onto his back. If I had to pick the player having the most fun out there this week, it would probably be Palmieri. He's quick, strong and confident around the net. His numbers weren't great last year, but he created scoring chances in every game I saw, so I'm eager to see his sophomore year with the Irish.
Rob Bordson - Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent
He was one of the more consistent forwards offensively. He never really forced anything, but he made the little plays and moved the puck well on the rush. It was no surprise to me when the opportunity for the final goal of the scrimmage came to him and he buried it. He will, no doubt, be valuable in Syracuse this year, both as a playmaker and as a player who has recently recommitted himself to his game. I definitely think last year at UMD was a turning point for him and not a fluke.
Peter Holland - First-round selection in 2009
While I still doubt he'll have any value in the tough areas of the ice, Holland is money in the soft areas. He may need to be surrounded by the right finishers (Smith-Pelly did some great work with him) or the right fellow playmakers (Da Costa found him sitting off to the side of the net a few times), but his numbers with Guelph this past year and the offense he created at Camp certainly paint the picture of a player who can do well under the right circumstances. Moreover, they tend to refute what was a pretty underwhelming performance last preseason. I've never believed that Holland has consistency issues, so if he continues to play well this preseason, I'll just assume he's turned a corner of some kind.
Stephane Da Costa - Free Agent, Not A Duck
I was thoroughly impressed with how well he'd adjusted between Tuesday and Saturday. He was trying to stickhandle a lot earlier in the week, which I'm sure is tempting when you're a smaller player playing against predominantly larger players, but on Saturday, he kept his legs moving, and I really got an eyeful of the passing they've been talking about in Hockey East. We're talking saucers two feet in the air, cross ice (sometimes down ice: see the video below) and tape to tape. I sincerely hope he enjoyed his test drive with the Ducks.