As promised, I kept my eyes on specific players on my list and those that our readers requested.
Jordan Weal (60), Center
Jordan’s new last name is “Wheels.” This kid can skate. I am not so much referring to top end speed, but the quick first step and acceleration. The scrimmages and break out plays showed me that his is a puck possession game. Jordan stick handles well and once he hits his stride, he keeps those legs moving (no coasting). On one particular play (one that appeared to move him to the outside and away from the goal), he, with a quick and unexpected lateral turn, blew past the defensemen (who seemed as surprised as I) and darted to the front of the net. He nearly stick handled the puck around Jones (goalie) who made a nice stop. Overall, his compete level and ability to make plays impressed. The kid has a bright future if today is any indication of his skill set.
Jake Muzzin (85), Defense
I’m going out on a limb and saying he’s ready for the next step. He is not a top flight defender yet but he was head and shoulders (literally and competitively) above the rest. The highlights were his breakout passes and, during the 5 on 5 play, his strength. He has the body of an NHL defenseman. He all but manhandled those that invaded his airspace. Muzzin’s shot is heavy and fairly accurate. His head was up the entire time (a sign of confidence and comfort with the puck) My only criticism is his skating. He’s not slow but I noticed he was having trouble skating and handling the puck at good speed. Then again, he’s not that “type” of defender. I am not looking at Muzzin to be Doughty, Johnson or players that take the play from the defensive zone forward, but rather the Willie Mitchell type that make that good first pass and are ready with a big shot from the point when necessary. I may have read too much into facial expressions, but Jake strikes me as one who would play dirty when necessary and drop the gloves to put fist to face. He has that “Clifford” scowl down pat.
Brandon Kozun (51), Right Wing
Small. Fast. Accurate shot. Not much else to add as the only time I noticed him was when he was taking a shot on net.
Kyle Clifford (64), Left Wing
Surly has a serious crush on Clifford. It rivals that of Heidi’s for me…yes, she has the hots for me. Today confirmed it. You could just tell by the way she said hi. Kyle is a man among boys. This rookie camp is nearly beneath him. Forgive me for stating it (Surly did) but he reminds me of Ryan Getzlaf. It’s difficult to tell you anything new about Kyle. You already know the player and he was consistent today with what you have seen. A big, strong winger who is powerful on his skates, has good speed for his size, has no fear of opposing players or going to the corners. His offensive instincts surprised me. His shot was accurate. I see Kyle on the Kings’ fourth line, exactly where he belongs at his development. I also would be very surprised if he didn’t make the team.
Jordan Nolan (71), Center
Big. I am not talking about tall and lanky but huge and tanky (defined: built like a tank). He may have been the largest specimen out there. Why do I mention him here? Because I expected a typical enforcer…instead I saw a player who skated hard and drove to the net. I don’t know what he may ultimately become but don’t count this kid out. There is more than one dimension to his game.
Tyler Toffoli (73), Center
His skating is suspect. Several times, he fell behind the play. His shot was outstanding.
Nicolas Deslauriers (80), Defense
I had a mental block with Deslauriers the entire day. I kept looking for him to no avail. I mean that partly in jest because Nicolas didn’t stand out. He can skate and has a nice first step and stride but on defense, he was unsure with the puck. I intend to focus on him tomorrow (Sunday) in day two of the camp.
Martin Jones (65), Goalie
Jones is a slinky, smooth goaltender with size. I have a soft spot for goaltenders (having played the position) and when I see one like him at this level out challenging the shooter and controlling rebounds under control at all times, I get a smile on my face. I expect big (pun intended) things for Martin. He is another one I will watch closer tomorrow.
Thomas Hickey (37), Defense
Hickey was off today…at least I hope he was. He skating was laborious. His facial expressions often told of a player either out of shape or playing hurt. On the positive side, Thomas’ passes are stick to stick and, despite the skating deficiencies, he is an intelligent player. On one play specifically, he kept the puck in the zone, made a nice deke and found an open teammate for a nice shot on net. I am not sure what to make of Hickey’s future. I struggle to see him at this time as anything other than a number 6 or 7, at best.
Johan Fransson (40), Defense
If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all…thus, I will humbly reserve judgment until I see him again tomorrow.
Andrei Loktionov (48), Center
I am reserving judgment on Lokti as well. I want to believe that I again didn’t give him a fair look. I have never been high on him and in fairness, I want to make sure I am being objective before commenting further.
Today was a great time. Tomorrow will be even better.