I can think of a lot of reasons to wish summer lasted a lot longer that it does, however I'm also conflicted because months without hockey seem like eternity in a wasteland. The hockey season is slowly creeping towards us, but can't get here soon enough. In the meantime, let's take a look at some video from the Red Wings Prospect Development Camp.
How about some prospect hockey porn! As I mentioned before, the Red Wings ran their prospect development camp significantly different than they have in past years. This year the organization added drills and instruction that focused on teaching the players how to improve the effectiveness of their net front presence. Tomas Holmstrom was one of the coaches helping to mold these youngsters.
For reference, Here's the full camp roster with more information on each player. The roster is a little more hodgepodge than usual. Typically the camp would have been populated by Griffins players and Red Wings draftees, however because of their long championship winning season, the Griffins players were given the option to not attend camp. Luke Glendening was the only Griffin who attended, which left quite a few open roster stops that the Wings filled with free agent tryouts. Some of the prospects have been to camp before and some had not. Some are familiar with the Red Wings organization, their style, and expectations, and other were not. The purpose of the camp is to assess where each player is right now, expose their weaknesses, and help give them the tools they need to improve.
There are two different net front drills in the following videos. In the Red Wings Development Camp posts, I referred to these drills as the "Homer Drills", for obvious reasons. The first drill consists of one player shooting pucks at the other player who's standing in front of the net attempting to tip, chop, knock, or otherwise get the puck into the net.
The other drill is a little more challenging. Player #1 stands in front of the net guarded by a shooter tutor, while one of the coaches (usually Jiri Fischer) pushes and shoves them. Player #2 shoots pucks towards the net. Player #1 gets out of the way, allowing the puck to hit the shooter tutor and rebound back out. Said player then has to get the rebound, turn around, and put the puck past the shooter tutor (top corners) and into the net.
Let's get to the fun stuff, shall we?
The name at the top of the screen indicates the player on the far side of the ice, and the name at the bottom of the screen indicates the player on the near side.
Far side, tip in drill:
- It goes without saying (I'm going to say it anyway) that the skill sets required to excel at this drill isn't easy to develop, and many players will never be more than adequate. It's fun to watch the different skill levels and techniques with these prospects though and see who's good and who's not.
- While evaluating this drill, I broke the players down into groups. The first group consists of the players who are looser, and have more upper and lower body movement, as well as foot movement. If you watch Phillippe Hudon, Dominik Shine, Martin Frk, and Rasmus Bodin, they're all very mobile in front of the net, and move their bodies more as the puck comes at them. I think this is a great characteristic because the idea is for them to tip the puck into the net, not to have the puck hit them and block the shot.
- The second group consists of the players who aren't quite as mobile with their lower body and feet. Watch Ty Loney, Anthony Mantha, Dean Chelios and Zach Nastasiuk and you can see that they don't move their feet as much and while they still have good mobility and rotation in their upper body, I think they could be quicker and more effective if they use their legs and feet more.
- Ty Loney was a free agent tryout, and I suspect he may be on of the 2 mysterious free agents who were invited to the Prospect Tournament (The Red Wings are the only team that hasn't announced their roster yet).
- Phillippe Hudon was the most mobile player, and seeing him hopping around to get out of the way and not block the puck, really reminded me of watching Tomas Holmstrom do his thing.
- The most noticeable thing when you first see Martin Frk, is that he's hunched over most of the time. It's peculiar because it looks so unnatural and he does it most of the time he's on the ice. It doesn't matter if he's playing, skating, shooting, or resting; it looks like Frk is in pain most of the time. While that behavior is often dangerous (it's difficult to skate with your head up when you're hunched over), for this drill it's actually an asset.
- Rasmus Bodin is a big boy (6'6" 207) but he's surprisingly agile and handled himself very well in these drills.
Near side, rebound drill:
This drill is a bit more challenging. Not only do you need good hand-eye coordination, but you get to have Jiri Fischer pushing and shoving you while you try to grab the rebounds and send them home top shelf.
- Marty Frk successfully assaulted and killed the shooter tutor right off the bat. That no good goalie must have said something about Frk's mother. One of the things I liked about Frk in this drill, was how he stuck with the puck, rather than trying to get it or shoot it once and then move on.
- Rasmus Bodin struggled with this drill a little, as his rebounds seemed to go all over the place and he had a little trouble gathering them up.
- Luke Glendening was the most experienced player with the exception of Helm (who engaged in limited participation). He was pretty mentally and physically exhausted after the long CALDER CUP WINNING SEASON! (Woo!) However he still set a great example for the other prospects. As you can see from this drill, he looks comfortable and competent.
- Marek Tvrdon looks stiff and much more inexperienced and uncomfortable. Luke's whole body was looser which helped him move in more fluid motions. He and Glendening also stood in the center of the net, while the others are on either side.
- Dane Walters was a free agent tryout (who probably received an invitation to the Prospect Tournament) who impressed me in many areas. He, like Glendening is much more relaxed in his posture, and he's bending down, which gets him closer to the puck.
- Tyler Bertuzzi kind of fascinated me because he has such a matter-of-fact style. There's no significant body movement, but his hand-eye coordination seems to be excellent. There's no scrambling in his style, and very little movement, yet just one chop for each puck in a very determined manner.
- I liked free agent tryout Jaimen Yakubowski, his nickname is "Tasmanian Devil" because of his tenacious, energetic, often infuriating style of play. He had great movement, but his ability to hit the puck was less than stellar.
- Andreas Athanasiou was impressive. He has great flexibility and movement as well as excellent hand-eye coordination.
- This drill requires focus, coordination and reflexes and is a role Luke Glendening is not only familiar with, but is darn good at. There's quite a noticeable difference between Glendening's performance and that of much less experienced guys like Tvrdon.
- Watching Jaimen Yakubowski makes me chuckle because he works with a ton of energy and effort, but he's all over the place. Maybe somebody put jumping beans in his skates.
I think these drills are a great addition to the training program, and help teach a skill set we're lacking since Homer retired. By starting this type of training early, by the time these kids get to the AHL and NHL, they'll have some very valuable tools under their belt.
Thoughts, observations, insights, pontifications? Go!