But first a disclaimer:
(1) I always spend at least half of these events trying to figure out who everyone is. It's gotten easier now that about half the bodies (Moller, Campbell, Holloway, Hickey, King, Clifford, Lewis, for example) are familiar faces, but there's still a lot of "who was that?" / [look at roster] / "Oh." (2) Nothing that I say should be taken as a sweeping judgment; I might see player x do something great, but miss five things he did wrong (or vice versa); my attention is not trained on any one player and it may well be that my impression is too narrow and is just plain wrong. (3) I missed the first ten minutes.
Okay, random impressions:
- Derek Forbort is a big (BIG) kid. I didn't see him get burned by Azevedo, which was mentioned on Hammond's blog. He looked fine, skinny, several years and pounds away from readiness, just like everyone thought. Keep in mind, the kid is 6'5"; he's going to be 220-230 pounds probably.
- Players who just look better than everyone else: Kyle Clifford, Jacob Muzzin, Thomas Hickey, Robbie Czarnik, Ray Kaunisto, Bud Holloway. The first three seem like NHL players to me, calmer, smarter, stronger. The second three took over the game in the second half.
- I imagine everyone's going to say Bud Holloway is a possibility to make the team in the fall. I don't know if he is or isn't. He looked good this morning; he's got that scorer's knack, etc.. But the guy I was the most impressed with was Ray Kaunisto, who assisted on at least two of that line's goals.
- Thomas Hickey had a nice little hit on Derek Forbort, not bone-crunching or anything, just one of those solid hits that smaller pros (e.g. Brian Leetch, Sean Avery) seem to be able to do. It's funny to see a big body stopped cold by a small one (of course maybe the fact that they are about the same weight had something to do with it).
- Pretty much every time I had to look up a number to see who that guy was with his nose right in the middle of things, it was Michael Pelech.
- Hickey had a couple of plays where he looked beaten but slipped the puck off the forward's stick with a nifty poke check. I find that Hickey looks beaten frequently when he's not beaten. Doughty is like that, too. Crafty. That's a pro's skill.
- Maxim Kitsyn had a couple of nice Russian puck-possession moments, reminiscent of that other Russian who used to play for the Kings. He, like Forbert, seemed like a big kid, but it's scary to imagine him filling out.
- There were two maybe three times a defenseman stepped up to intercept a pass or cut off a player and each time it was Kevin Gravel.
- Garrett Roe looks better than Justin Azevedo in the little speedy forward sweepstakes. He did last year too. Brandon Kozun didn't dress.
- Neither, by the way, did Brayden Schenn, Tyler Toffoli, or Colten Teubert.
Jordan Nolan is big, slightly awkward and intimidating. He has long hair now, which makes him look like kind of an evil, hulking Matt Moulson. I want to say he's slow, but that might be an illusion. He has some offensive skills, which he flashed a couple of times. I didn't see him hit anybody, but I felt he was physically dominant when he was on the ice. Backed people off. I still think he's a great 4th line candidate for the year after next.
Dwight King seemed to fall down a lot. I didn't see him do anythiing good or bad, play-wise. I was impressed with him in the camps last year, so I assume I just caught him at the wrong time.
- Maturity watch: Nicolas Deslauriers looks thicker this year. So does Oscar Moller. Linden Vey and Michael Pelech don't look like kids so much, either. I wanted to see more of Vey.
- Jordan Weal looked fine. He scored on a penalty shot before I got there.
- I paid no attention to goalies.
- No-one made a bad impression on me. The stand-outs for me, as I kind of already said, were: Clifford, Muzzin, Hickey, Kaunisto, Czarnik, Holloway, Gravel and Pelech.