Going into training camp, I had no idea what to expect. I've never attended a camp before.
On Monday morning I arrived in downtown Norfolk early. It was perfect hockey weather, in the 60s and kind of drizzling. Once the Norfolk Scope was open to the public I hurriedly rushed in to try and get my eyes on some hockey action. I was kind of amazed to see Bruce Boudreau on the ice with the first practice squad of the day, and even more surprised to see him sporting a Norfolk Admirals hoodie after his skate.
At the start of the second session the players did some one-on-one drills where the forward would try to get by the d-man and put a shot on net. The second group had a few of the younger players in it, like Devante Smith-Pelly and Hampus Lindholm. Afterward they went to the other end of the rink to practice 5-on-5 drills. The coach stopped them several times during this exercise to make a point of always hustling and playing hard on defense; making sure they skated hard to the pucks and not just glide around.
After that drill most the skaters left the ice and it was time for the goalies to get some work in. They set up a bunch of spray painted triangles over the offensive zone, which I found out was to help with their angles. (Thanks to Clare (@predsnbolts) for the help.) the players taking different shots from around the zone.
Everyone left the ice and returned hours later for the scrimmage. The scrimmage went by really quick. The one thing that stuck out to me is Pat Maroon takes no prisoners - even in practice. He caught Sami Vatanen off guard with an open ice hit. Some of the younger guys would get leaned on a when they try to make hard moves to the net.
The second day was a skating and fitness test day. The players had to skate from goal line to goal line twice and then to the center line approximately five times per group. It showcased the guys who had tremendous stamina and those who got gassed easily. I don't think there is a "winner" for quickest average speed. To put it in perspective, I made a podium finish for a couple of the groups that I got to witness.
Heat #1: Kyle Palmieri and John Kurtz each won twice. Emerson Etem finished third, three times out of five. Kenndal McKardle finished third, three times.
Heat #2: Comprised of Brett Perlini, Chris Wagner, and Vatanen only. The finish was the same every time: Perlini first, Wagner second, and Vatanen third.
Head #3: Pitted Garrett Klotz, Ryan Lasch, Peter Holland, Ryan Hegarty, Matt Kennedy and Nate Guenin against each other. Kennedy won all races, with Holland and Hegarty performing decently.
There was some goalie action following the skating drills and it was fairly entertaining. The players played some sort of game involving rebounds. Five players lined up in a home plate shape. The point player would shoot the puck in and all the sktaers then would try to shoot in the rebound.
The funniest group had coach Marty Wilford, a former Norfolk Admiral, in it and he was playing against Marco Counsineau. The game quickly became personal between these two with verbal jabs and laughter every where. Ryan Lasch was on Wilford's team. He displayed his quick wrister, scoring a couple of easy goals. I think this guy may be a game changer in Norfolk this year.
There was a lot of faceoff work. The center would win the faceoff and then cycled the puck out of the defensive zone into the offensive. The practice was physical, which I didn't really expect. The big thing that stuck out to me was Counsineau wiping out on a breakaway chances. Each time, he got up quickly and kept on trucking.
The scrimmage later in the day was intense, as well. It might have been caused by the newly signed Jay Rosehill, who played in Toronto's system last year. The Toronto Marlies lost to the Norfolk Admirals in the Calder Cup Finals. At one point Rosehill, was going hard into a corner behind a younger player, I think it was DSP, and my life flashed before my eyes. (I didn't think that was how it worked). Rosehill ended up catching the glass beside him and everything was OK.
The only penalty in the scrimmage happened when Smith-Pelly tripped camp tryout Andrew Conboy. DSP had to chase down Conboy on a penalty shot from a knee, no goal was scored. Another thing that kinda scared me is when Peter Holland took an awkward hit into the net, taking out Igor Bobkov and the net. He fell awkwardly into the boards. He got up kinda slow, but seemed to be fine the rest of the scrimmage. The blue team lost and ended up having to do laps after the game.
I took a couple things away from my first ever Admirals training camp:
- Vatanen may get over-powered from time to time
- Etem has very quick hands and shot
- Counsineau is a hilarious guy, and
- DSP is plenty fast, but like Vatanen, may get over-powered at times.
- Palmieri, Maroon, and Luca Caputi all had a good camp
- The players that were released after camp from their tryout contracts were: Andrew Conboy, Chris Auger (who I never saw but was told he was in Norfolk), Jean-Michel Rizk, Brandon Marino and Brett Perlini.
- Ryan Hegarty was loaned to ECHL affiliate Fort Wayne Komets.
If you have any questions feel free to ask and I will try and dive in a little more on what I saw.
The Admirals kick off their preseason tonight at 7:15 PM against the Charlotte Checkers at Norfolk Scope. You can follow the Admirals game feed at @AdsGameUpdates since they won't be broadcasting on the radio. I will be trying to live tweet from the game as much as possible. I can't wait for this season to start!