The second day of camp opened with goalies-only instruction followed by staggered sessions of puck-handling, passing and shooting drills and power-skating for skaters. The schedule was a bit truncated as the Lightning treated all of the camp attendees to the Rays-Yankees game in the afternoon:
Following are some of my takeaways, for those of you who enjoy this sort of thing, from watching the day’s on-ice activities:
- I spent a good chunk of time watching Luke Witkowski. It’s been fun seeing him at each development camp for the past four years and he finally looks as polished as you’d expect a vet prospect, one who’s a pending senior and team-leader on a competitive college squad, to look in comparison to much of the others. Be in skating, passing or shooting (at which he looks much better than I recalled) drills, Witkowski always looks intense and yet thoroughly enjoying himself. Plenty of personality out on the ice and, I’d be willing to bet, in the locker room; he should be highly entertaining to follow once he enters the pro ranks and fun to root for his ascension in the ranks. He also seems to be a lock for the organization’s All-Beard team and, though I could be wrong, looks like he could give the current heavyweights in the beard-growing department, Radko Gudas and Scott Jackson, a run for their money.
- I took a closer look at D Andrej Sjustr, the 6’8″ behemoth invitee whose skating I critiqued in the Day 1 blog, and came away intrigued. The lack of foot speed is a function of his size and, though it might be improved, should always plague him. It’s how Sjustr manages to move when he gets going, though, that’s so impressive. He seems grown into his frame; there isn’t an awkwardness to his mechanics that’s often evident in over-sized project defensemen like this. He executed all of the skater drills efficiently and, I’d go so far to say, with a bit of flair. I’m not saying he skates like Bobby Orr, but after watching Vladimir Mihalik and Matt Smaby in seasons past, Sjustr looks downright proficient in that department. I still don’t have much of a read on his shot; he can whip the puck pretty good but showed a limited shot selection. Of course, the scrimmages will help to gauge him, too.
- I’m not sure what his offensive-upside is–he looked more poised without the puck–but Jake Dotchin moved his 6’2″, 200+ pound frame very well in the drills. He’s definitely more mobile than I anticipated and I ended up making a very off the cuff comparison to Cory Sarich. It’ll be intriguing to see how his positional play will hold up at the elevated pace of a scrimmage and whether or not he’ll display the physical side of his game that he seems to have shown up in juniors.
- As I always try to make very clear, goalies are hard for me to evaluate. Having never played the position and never talked shop with other goalies, I can’t explain exactly why Andrei Vasilevski is so special in technical jargon but watching him the past couple days, what separates him, beyond his size, from the other goalies, for me, is his combination of power and grace. He comes across the crease with what looks like incredible ease but it’s deceptive; he generates incredible speed as he pushes off, his legs taking up what looks like all the space down low. It’s something you probably have to see yourself to fully appreciate but I thought it worth attempting to describe.
- Brendan O’Donnell may not be participating in a limited fashion given he is recovering from a shoulder injury that shortened his season but he’s fun to watch in the power skating drills. He has great control of his body, with and without the puck and looks to have a great burst. Of course, a lot of that has to do with his size; at 6’0″ he’s not small but has a compact, almost slender frame.
Looking ahead to Day 3
The kids are back it tomorrow as early as 8:00 a.m. when the first of four consecutive power skating lessons will begin. There will be a a goalies-only session at 8:45 a.m. and shooting practice by groups of skaters at 9:45 and 11:15 a.m.
As for myself, I will be there in attendance yet again tomorrow live-tweeting thoughts and answering any questions you might have; if you’re there and feeling social, I’d be honored to meet you as it’s always a pleasure to meet and talk hockey with fellow fans. As for a Day 3 recap, I’ll do my best but it may not be up until late Thursday as I have a wedding rehearsal and dinner (not my own) to attend.