Panic over whether of not Peter Mueller and Chris Stewart would be re-signed, can be alleviated knowing that the two dynamic players will be in Denver for a few more years. Mueller, a trade from the Phoenix Coyotes, agreed to a 2-year deal, as did breakout candidate Chris Stewart. The exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, but eventually the figures will be updated on the team’s roster. Both players have tremendous value for the organization.
Mueller was drafted as a rookie by Phoenix, but wasn’t able to achieve the level of play he hoped. Perhaps the Rocky Mountains and lack of air helped his focus and influence on the plays at hand. Chris Stewart as a superstar, crept up throughout the season to become a quiet hero in the world of hockey.
The Colorado Avalanche are expected to only turn in a 9th rank in the Western Conference just behind Calgary. The Flames will always be ranked within reach with Jarome Iginla as captain. Though the young Avs fought their way into the playoffs, exiting in the first round at the teeth of the Sharks, they exceeded expectations. Joe Sacco has created a comfortable learning environment for a lively new generation of Avalanche loyals. Gone are veterans Darcy Tucker and Marek Svatos, but Adam Foote remains as the throwback captain from Stanley Cup days.
It’s the first day of Avs Training Camp and I stroll in as usual to face a handful of fans watching the newest additons to the Mile High city. Entry Draftee Joey Hishon and top prospect Kevin Shattenkirk displayed their skills. Ah, the sweet sounds of skates and slapshots hypnotized my thoughts as I followed these two up and down the ice. The kids looked alert and ready to play, but nothing earth shattering on the first day.
Facing difficult cuts, it’s too early to tell how these two newbies will fare warming up for their big stint, most likely ending in Lake Erie. Last year, Ryan Stoa debuted well, but has been up and down taking time to develop. So was the case for Brandon Yip and T.J. Galiardi who broke on through to excellence, particularly Galiardi who was named one of the top rookies last season. Galiardi was poised to be a stand up player, so we’ll see how Hishon and Shattenkirk dazzle over the next week.
Meanwhile, the Avs No. 3 draft pick, Matt Duchene, has performed above expectations just as the Avalanche rose above the naysayers and nudged into the playoffs. Matt took time out to fish and volunteer his time to help others in his first NHL summer, and that’s why the Avs have the reputation of being the nice guys.
But the bad boys of the defense really aren’t that turbulent. Bringing in David Koci last year was uneventful. His performance is average, and he kicks up a few fights here and there, but the Kyles will have to gain some might. On the horizon, Shattenkirk, Cameron Gaunce and Stefan Elliott will head the blueline. Gaunce was a standout last year, as was Elliott, but Elliott isn’t eligible to play in the NHL yet.
Day two of rookie camp reiterated puck skills and scrimmages. Cameron Gaunce stood out today, holding a majority of the ice time. His stance near the crease made him a formidable wall for the offense. Shattenkirk loosened up a bit and took more shots. Overall, the rookies played hard and goofed around on the ice after the early dismissal for the day.
Formal scrimmages took place today in front of a packed house of Avs fans, and will continue through the weekend. It’s nice to see hockey alive and well in the Mile High city. The rink attracting the most attention included Craig Anderson and John Grahame in net. But all I saw was the hustle and energetic body contact Chris Stewart put out on the ice. Stewart was excited and well-rested to get the Avs back
in business. T.J. Galiardi displayed his talents as he did last year in camp,
but this year he stepped up his game and demeanor as an NHL player.
The overall play was swift and paced well. Rookie Shattenkirk hasn’t been
able to get his NHL legs in motion quite yet, playing cautiously and being
shy on the get go. Cameron Gaunce continues to fight for a spot on the Avs,
or the next call-up potential. He stood his ground and scored on assists. The
combination of Galiardi-Stewart-Gaunce ignited some good chemistry.
To end the day, a handful of fans watched as Ryan O’Reilly took shots on the
empty net after the other players had left the ice. Expect Duchene and
O’Reilly to prepare for their skills to be noticed as the Avs start their
On the last day, the Avalanche moved players in and out of scrimmages,and puck drills. The fans marveled at Chris stewart, who looks solid and strong. The fighting unit, Cody McLeod, Kyle Quincey and former Phoenix Coyote, Dave Winnik, who particpated in a few scraps. Hobey Baker winner, Kevin Porter, continues to develop his NHL skills and had more ice time during the scrimmages. Peter Mueller and Matt Duchene ended training camp practicing passing drills as fans left the arena.
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