The Colorado Avalanche opened their 2011 training camp to the public, and I was lucky enough to attend the opening scrimmages.
Most of the active training camp roster was present, with G Cedrick Desjardins (shoulder injury) and C Joey Hishon (concussion symptoms) the noticeable absentees. TJ Galiardi and Brandon Yip entered the arena first to applause, led closely by the remainder of the gray and black teams.
In order for every player in camp to receive the proper amount of instruction and scrimmage time, they were separated into three teams; gray, blue, and black. While the first two teams entered the facility and began warmups, the blue team worked on exercises and drills in the secondary rink. Every hour, the teams would rotate until each squad had two scrimmage sessions and one drill session during the three hour morning practice.
I'll focus more on individual players during Day Two, but here are a few players that really stood out during this first day of scrimmages.
TJ Galiardi -- The breakout candidate from the 2009 playoffs versus the San Jose Sharks had a disappointing sophomore season, suffering through multiple injuries and inconsistent play. He was the best player on the ice during scrimmages, dominating with his physical and aggressive play on both ends of the ice. A real game changer, and someone who showed up ready to make a statement to the coaches.
Cody McLeod -- This power forward faces an uncertain season, as his role as enforcer and power forward has become crowded over the offseason with Gabriel Landeskog and Patrick Bordeleau as potential candidates for the Opening Night roster. McLeod was dynamic in scrimmages, scoring the first goal and playing with a chip on his shoulders. He'll need a very strong camp to make the team, and his first day started out with a bang.
Gabriel Landeskog -- The rookie selection showed very strong defensive presence, playing a smart brand of hockey that displayed the smart IQ that we've heard about since before the 2011 Draft. He would become lost occasionally on the offensive end -- carrying the puck along the boards instead of attacking the crease -- but overall, a very strong debut. He's already showing his advanced development, and is well on his way towards making the Opening Night roster.
Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda -- The projected top defensive pairing this season was something to behold, as they were able to physically dominate the ice during their shifts with minimal effort. If you are looking for the biggest improvement over the 2010-2011 Avalanche squad, start with this pair at the blue line.
Shane O'Brien -- This free agent acquisition (formerly of the Nashville Predators) was signed as a back end defenseman with great size, and he used it masterfully during scrimmages. O'Brien was big and physical with the smaller forwards and was the single most impressive player on the defensive end. If he's the fifth or sixth best defenseman on Opening Night, the blue line will be in great shape this season.
Stefan Elliott -- One of the dark horse candidates to make the team, Elliott displayed an incredible offensive skillset. He has excellent speed and vision combined with an incredible shot on the power play. Several times, Elliott carried the puck up the boards and into the zone, using his acceleration to catch the defensemen off guard before blasting a powerful shot on net. The WHL Defenseman of the Year is one of the main reasons Colorado was willing to include Kevin Shattenkirk in the deal for Erik Johnson last spring, and why John-Michael Liles was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason. He will likely start in the AHL at the beginning of the season, but don't be surprised to see Elliott called up during the first half of the year. He's near-ready, and he's going to be extremely good.
Semyon Varlamov -- The centerpiece trade of the offseason, and the young goalie displayed the size and ability that convinced Colorado to pay a heavy price to obtain him from the Washington Capitals. He's enormous (check out his stretches at the end of the first warmup video), he's fast, and he's extremely athletic. Varlamov was calm during traffic, and displayed excellent rebound control at the net during his scrimmage session.
Calvin Pickard -- The Goalie of the Future, Pickard was impressive in his scrimmage. With a very young defense in front of him, Pickard faced more than his fair share of quality shots, but showed an innate gift of seeing through traffic and making the difficult save. He's still very young, and heading back to the WHL this season due to age restrictions, but it's obvious why the Avalanche front office is very high on his ability.
Avalanche Training Camp Day One -- Warmup Drills (via muzia02)
Avalanche Training Camp Day One -- Warmup Drills Part Two (via muzia02)
Avalanche Training Camp Day One -- Scrimmage (via muzia02)
Stay tuned to SB Nation Denver for plenty more coverage of Avalanche training camp, including more video and notes of Day Two.